When it comes to preparing for a newborn, it probably feels like a sea of endless information. I personally loved learning and doing the research into everything that pregnancy and birth would entail. However, I found after the birth of my first baby I was painfully unprepared for breastfeeding. No one told me how difficult or uncomfortable it could be! I hope this post helps ease your mind and prepares you for nursing if that is the way you choose to feed your baby!
Steps Of Breastfeeding
When your baby is born (unless there is a medical necessity) your baby will most likely be placed on your chest for what is called the golden hour. The golden hour is so important not only for bonding but for promoting breastfeeding.
One of the first things you’ll want to start to try and observe your little one doing after birth are hungry cues! These are usually pretty obvious if you know what to look for. The first stages of hungry cues are usually rooting (where the baby will be actively moving his head from side to side trying to find the breast). As well as rooting will be lots of the baby bringing his hands up to his mouth and trying to suck on his hands. These tend to be the first cues and especially for the very first nursing session its important to get the baby latched on once you see these first signs of hungry cues. If you are delivering in a hospital there are almost always AMAZING lactation consultants available. These women love what they do so please take advantage of their help as well to start building a solid foundation with nursing. The very LAST hungry cue is usually a very upset ad crying baby. This can make for a very stressful nursing session which is why I am very adament about paying attention to those early hunger cues so you can avoid having to get our baby to calm down enough to latch on.
Latching and the Letdown
When it comes to getting your baby latched on there are lots of good positions to try. The football hold is particularly helpful if you’ve had a C-Section, cradle hold is another good one as well as side lying. Finding what is most comfortable and feels natural for you and your baby is so important! Make sure you are properly supported and comfortable while nursing your little one. As your baby gets bigger and stronger there will be plenty of other positions to try! When it comes to getting your baby latched on, one of the most important things is to be sure that your baby is tummy to tummy with you and that his or her cheeks and chin are both touching your breast. The babies mouth should be covering most of the areola and you want the nipple to be against the back of the roof of their mouth with their tongue under the nipple creating suction.
Once you have gotten your baby latched the babies sucking reflex will kick in and the stimulation will send signals to your brain to produce prolactin as well as oxytocin. These two hormones work together to produce milk (prolactin) and trigger the letdown reflex (oxytocin). The letdown can feel uncomfortable in the beginning and I have heard some people describe it like tiny bee stings, tingling or just plain uncomfortable. If you don’t feel your letdown right away start to pay attention to how your baby is nursing. If you start to see your baby take 2-3 short sucks and then one long draw then you know the milk is flowing. Gulping is also another sign that the letdown as happened and the milk is flowing.
Things to look out for
After your baby is done nursing one helpful trick I was taught is that you don’t want your nipple to be flat like a pancake, you want it to stay as round as possible. Having a flat nipple after a nursing session means something needs to be adjusted. Either the latch itself or there is a possibility of a lip/tongue tie. Lip/tongue ties are fairly common and easy to fix but I HIGHLY recommend finding a reputable pediatric dentist to diagnose the ties. Most pediatricians are not equipped to properly diagnose these ties so be sure to so research and find someone you trust!
Nipple pain is very very common in the first two weeks BUT any kind of cracks or bleeding really need to be evaluated by a certified lactation consultant and/or your OBGYN or midwife. Nipple damage is usually a sign that there is something that needs to be adjusted as well, so please listen to your body and don’t try to just push through the pain.
There are so many things I could talk about when it comes to nursing but I hope this is helpful for anyone planning to breastfeed! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments and subscribe to this blog if you’d like more pregnancy/postpartum content!