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Your very first feeds—How to breastfeed your newborn in the hospital after birth

There is going to be so much excitement and anticipation when you arrive at the hospital to give birth to your baby—your heart will be pounding in your chest and all the things you read about or learned in a class beforehand will be circling in your brain.


So you may need some extra tips to help you get through the first 2-4 days of your baby’s life, when you are still surrounded by hospital staff telling you what to do. I want you to remember that this little teeny tiny slimy kid placed on your chest, is YOUR baby. Ask questions about protocols if you don't agree or understand. Advocate for yourself and your little one.

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Get ALL the help and support you need while you have it surrounding you.

Here are 10 tips to help you rock this breastfeeding game starting right from the moment you meet your child earth-side—

1. The golden hour

This is the amazingly important 60 minute period right after birth where mama and baby gaze into each others eyes. As soon as your baby is placed in your arms (and as long as there is no medical indication that they need to take the baby to run tests immediately), you should remain with them naked on your skin, uninterrupted for 1 entire beautiful hour. This is the ultimate start to making (more) milk, to begin your deep bonding love, and to help long-term breastfeeding success. During this hour, your changes and elevations in hormones help you want to nurture and bond with your LO while the baby’s initial suckling attempts help make it easier for suckling later on. You and your baby will have heightened awareness, quiet alertness and calmness. And, this hour will help boost your mommy confidence.

2. All the skin-to-skin

During this first hour (and if possible and desired, several hours, days, and even weeks following birth), your baby should be naked against your skin with a blanket placed on top to trap in all that warm delicious body heat. This skin contact helps regulate their body temperature, regulates and slows their heart beat and their breathing, and helps maintain a healthy glucose level. Usually within 15 minutes of skin to skin, they are ready to start searching for your breast. You can let them self-attach or you can help give them gentle assistance to the breast to latch effectively.

3. No visitors + delay procedures

Unless medically necessary, almost all procedures can and SHOULD be delayed for at least the first hour of your baby’s life. Do not be afraid to ask for the delay so you can gaze + love + connect to your baby without disturbance. Ask all your visitors not to come into the room until 1 hour has passed. If they are angry, send them to me!

4. Feed on demand

After your baby’s first 24 hours of sleepiness, they reach the “cluster feeding” stage. It may seem super overwhelming that your baby wants to nurse SO much, and it may cause you to feel like you “don’t have enough milk”. YOU DO, and cluster feeding means that you have a super healthy hungry babe. Feeding your baby on demand helps your milk come in quicker, keeps the baby happy and less stressed, and helps prevent baby weight loss. And IF for some reason (which, there are actually very few), you are not producing enough colostrum or milk, the hospital will be totally on top of it. They keep track of your baby’s weight loss daily (expect a healthy weight loss of less than 10% of their birth weight). So try not to fret, trust your babe’s cues, NURSE, and let the hospital worry for you.

5. Hand expressing

To avoid a weight loss and worried hospital staff, hand expression can be very useful in the beginning with a super sleepy kiddo. To hand express, you will hold your fingers by your areola and pull back into your chest wall, and then out toward the nipple. Back and forth. Check out this video from Stanford University on hand expression. You can cup feed or pull the colostrum up into a needless syringe.

6. 24 hour rooming-in

Studies have shown that mothers do not sleep longer or better when their infants are returned to the nursery during the night. Rooming-in will help you begin to establish your routine so you have more confidence for when you are discharged home. You will be able to pick up on your infants early feeding cues, so you can start to get them close to you long before they are crying, and this will help reduce the risk of weight loss.

7. No pacifier, bottles, formula or pumping (unless medically indicated)

To get breastfeeding off to the very best start from the first feeds, you should not introduce any other shapes or flows to the baby besides your breasts until at least 2 weeks postpartum. No plastic nipple is your nipple, no flow is your breasts flow, and all baby bottle nipples are much easier to get the milk out than your breasts—the baby may learn to prefer the easier method.

8. A bath is not necessary

There is actually no reason to give your baby a bath while in the hospital. By NOT giving the bath, you avoid separation, avoid losing the golden hour, keep the vernix on the baby’s skin (the white slimy human-made moisturizer), avoid washing off all the good bacteria coating their bodies from their mamas body, and avoid washing off the amniotic fluid from their hands and arms (which assists them with locating the breasts later). You can save their first bath for when you are all at home together where you can make it peaceful and relaxing.

9. Bring pillows

Bring your Brest Friend pillow (I cant rave about this pillow enough as its the best at bringing your baby to the necessary height of your breast) to the hospital or ask for more pillows as soon as you arrive in your postpartum unit. You need arm + back support for successful positioning, latch, and comfort!

10. Ask for help

The most important step for successful breastfeeding is to get the support you need and know you can and should advocate for yourself and your baby. Ask questions, request the help of your nurses, and ask to see a lactation consultant before you go home. If you don’t want your baby to be separated from you for routine procedures, request that they are done by your bedside. Know that you are allowed to ask for what you think is best for you and your baby and that the staff should be on board because your the mama.

I hope when you leave the hospital on discharge day, you feel confident, filled with yummy breastfeeding endorphins, and you know you got breastfeeding off to the best possible start.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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