Congratulations on your baby! You have chosen to breastfeed because you know that breast milk provides all the nutrients and antibodies that a newborn needs to grow, develop and build a strong immune system. You’ve received breastfeeding instruction and support during your hospital stay. Now what?
It is very common to feel unsure of yourself during the first few weeks home with your baby. You may be asking yourself: “How do I know I am making enough milk?”; “How often does my baby need to nurse?”; or “When do I sleep?” The questions are endless and can cause you to lose confidence. Successful breastfeeding is a combination of 10 percent making milk and 90 percent confidence.
Your first weeks home with your baby are a time to get acquainted with each other and recover from delivery. After delivery, making milk is dependent upon stimulation of the breasts from your baby’s suckling and/or expression of your breast milk by hand or with a pump. The first two weeks are the period when your milk supply becomes regulated by allowing the infant to remain close to you, especially skin to skin. Breastfeed around the clock as your baby demands so the baby gets eight or more feedings in each 24 hour period. By breastfeeding frequently, your milk supply will get off to a great start.
Watch your baby for signs of hunger through feeding cues they show you. Feeding cues are subtle mouth movements, tongue thrusting and hand sucking. These signs are the optimal time to bring your infant skin to skin and begin breastfeeding. Know that when an infant cries from hunger, this is a late sign of hunger and that the baby is frustrated. A crying infant is unorganized and needs to be soothed and consoled before bringing him to breast. It is important to obtain a deep latch for effective milk transfer to your baby. Realize that bruising or skin break down to the nipples are not normal and signs of an improper latch.
You will know that your baby is feeding well by evaluating the baby’s diapers and weight gain. A baby who is nursing well will produce one wet diaper for each day of life and two to three stools until day six. For example, three wet diapers at three days old, four on day four and so on. After day six, continue with six wet diapers and two to three stools daily. More is fine but if you are not getting these minimums, call your pediatrician or a lactation consultant for an evaluation and advice. Keep a breastfeeding log to record the time you breastfed and when the baby passes urine and stool. This is a tool used to evaluate what’s been going on and is a good record to bring to well visits for the pediatrician to review.
You will have your first pediatric well baby appointment within the first two days after discharge from the hospital. At this appointment the baby will be weighed and the weight plotted on a growth chart. Weight checks will continue at each well baby visit where the pediatrician will evaluate and communicate to you your infant’s growth progress.
Newborns are active and awake at night and sleep more during the daytime. Around the clock feedings are tiring to manage. You can maximize your sleep by napping when your baby does. Accustom yourself to naps to help you feel refreshed. Even if you do not fall into a deep sleep, simply closing your eyes will give you an energy boost so that you are ready to care for your baby.
At nighttime feedings, do as little as possible. Keep the baby in a bassinet or crib in the same room you are sleeping in so that you can tend to your baby as soon as you notice they are awake so to minimize work and activity. Don’t turn on bright lights that will arouse your baby. Change the diaper only if it is heavily soiled or if the baby has a diaper rash. Breastfeed the baby with little stimulation then go back to sleep immediately after the feeding. Your partner can take over skin-to-skin time for soothing or change the baby while you remain in bed.
Accept help from friends and relatives when they visit but do not act as their hostess. Allow them to come in and bring you a meal or do day-to-day chores. You are recovering from delivery plus your body needs time to acclimate to your new schedule. Communicate when you are tired and need to rest as well as when it’s time to interrupt the visit because the baby is showing you signs that it is time to breast feed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. You will find as your baby gets older, your baby’s behavior changes along with changes to family dynamic such as returning to work. Seek support throughout your breastfeeding journey.
Good Samaritan University Hospital offers a free breastfeeding support group called the Breastfeeding Café every Wednesday from 1:00 p.m.-2:30pm. Meetings are held in-person at our office in Babylon as well as virtually. There is no need register or commit to classes. It is run by a Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Mothers are encouraged to come with their infant. It is a great way to exchange information, gain knowledge, and meet other new moms who are breastfeeding. The Lactation Department at Good Samaritan University Hospital also offers a breastfeeding help line for answers to your questions or community referrals for your breastfeeding needs.
Call 631-376-3901 for any of your breastfeeding concerns or questions.