Breast milk might actually be the eighth wonder of the world. It’s unbelievable how awesome and powerful breast milk is.
But you probably know that—that’s why you’re here reading this (go you, btw, for wanting to learn more before your baby arrives).
But while breastfeeding is one of the most natural, amazing things we mamas do for our babies, it doesn’t always come naturally at first. I tell you that not to worry you, but in the hopes that if you do have some challenges along the way, you know that it’s not your fault! Breastfeeding can be tricky.
To help things get off to a good start, we’ve put together a few tips for those first (precious) 24 hours of your wee one’s life.
1. Commit to breastfeeding.
We said it, but it’s worth repeating: Breastfeeding can be a little tricky in the beginning.
It’s like two people learning how to dance when neither person has ever danced before. But with practice (and support), you’ll get it, especially if you believe in it strongly.
2. Let everyone on your team know how important breastfeeding is to you.
Having support from your significant other, family, friends and birthing team can be tremendously helpful.
So go ahead and let them know how much you want to breastfeed, and also give them ideas about how to help you: Cooking or cleaning for you, facilitating lots of rest and baby snuggling, and just generally being your cheerleader are all really awesome ways to show they’re on board.
Hint: You can send them these ideas for inspiration.
3. Breastfeed within your baby's first hour of life.
Brand-new babies spend their first hour of life incredibly alert, and are often ready to start eating within about 20 to 45 minutes of being born. During this time, the baby will receive your colostrum (the earliest breastmilk), which is affectionately nicknamed “liquid gold” because of how many wonderful benefits it has for your baby.
Bonus! Every time your baby latches, the hormone oxytocin is released in your body. Oxytocin helps you fall in love with your baby, and it also helps your uterus stop bleeding and start to contract back down to its pre-pregnancy size. So doing this early on in your baby’s life is beneficial for both of you. Well played, mother nature. Well played.
4. Skin-to-skin early on, and a lot of it.
Skin-to-skin (when you hold your naked baby against your bare chest) is not only intoxicatingly delicious, it’s scientifically proven to help with breastfeeding. It also helps regulate baby’s temperature, heart rate, breathing patterns and even blood sugar level!
Ask for your baby to be placed on your chest immediately after birth when possible, and keep this up throughout his or her babyhood.
5. Room-in with your tiny new roommate.
Many hospitals are encouraging new parents to room share (keep their babies in their postpartum rooms) after birth.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing for the baby’s first six to 12 months of life.
One of the many reasons for this is to promote breastfeeding. When your little bundle is right next to you, you’ll be able to respond to their hunger cues faster, and breastfeeding will be easier.
6. Ignore the clock.
This is a big one. We know life is little hectic when a baby arrives, and many moms find themselves craving a predictable schedule.
But research shows that nursing a newborn on demand (whenever they are hungry), as opposed to on a schedule, greatly increases your odds for successful breastfeeding.
Basically, babies are super smart (especially yours) and are good at letting us know when they need something. Breast milk is digested very quickly and their tummies are TINY (the size of a marble at birth), so they need to eat a lot in the beginning. And your body makes more breast milk the more you breastfeed. The more your baby (cutely) demands, the more your body will supply.
The time will come soon when you can have a schedule in place.
For now: Nurse, nurse, nurse (added perk: cuddle, cuddle, cuddle).
7. See a lactation consultant.
We love lactations consultants in a big way.
They are incredibly knowledgeable and can help you overcome many breastfeeding challenges.
Don’t feel like you have to wait for a problem to call one. Go ahead and ask a lactation consultant to stop by (many hospitals and birth centers have them on staff) and ask, “Hey, does this all look okay?” They may be able to share some pointers and make a few adjustments that will help enormously as you move forward.
8. TAKE. CARE. OF. YOU.
You’ve done a great job taking care of yourself during your pregnancy.
But just because the baby is now earth side doesn’t mean your body’s hard work is done—you are still growing a person with your breast milk!
Moms who exclusively breastfeed burn an extra 500 calories a day on average, which is equivalent to walking five miles a day!
It’s vital to continue to treat your body like the amazing life-giving wonder that it is. Eat well (with lots of healthy snacks), stay hydrated, rest and be gentle to yourself.