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Breastfeeding 101: Newborn

Make your hospital stay a whole lot easier with this breastfeeding cheatsheet from certified lactation consultant Freda Rosenfeld.

Breastfeeding 101: Newborn

Before baby arrives, we have this beautiful image of what those few hours post-birth will be like: there’s some crying (by you and Daddy), some cooing (by new baby -- oh, and grandparents) and some truly magical mommy/baby bonding as the little wee one wraps her perfect little lips around your perfect little nipple...immediately. In reality, while the crying and cooing are definitely true, breastfeeding can be difficult for many women. Which is why there is an entire profession -- certified lactation consultants -- devoted to easing baby onto boob.

Still, you may not want to wait until you start having trouble to call in the big guns. You can set yourself up for nursing success with a little pre-birth preparation and some fast facts to reference while you’re still in the hospital. Here, Freda Rosenfeld, one of the smartest certified lactation consultants we know, shares some of her breastfeeding tips for those first few days of baby’s life.

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What do I need to bring to the hospital to help me start breastfeeding? Is there anything I can do to prepare?

There probably won’t be a nursing pillow in the hospital, so you may want to bring that. There’s no shame in using a nursing pillow, particularly if you have a bad back or trouble with your wrists. I also recommend hydrating your nipples with olive oil. Just like you would use hand cream to protect your hands, the more supple your nipple, the less likely they are to crack and bleed. You may even want to start applying it the last week or two of pregnancy, after you get out of the shower.

How soon after baby is born can I try nursing?

As soon as possible. Unless there’s a medical issue, nobody should touch that baby before the mother.

How do I know if my baby is eating enough?

In the first three days of life, your baby loses weight, and can’t eat a lot because his gut is the size of walnut. In those first few days, your baby can nurse as much as 12 times a day. Since he’s not taking much in, he doesn’t need as much time on the breast -- eight to 10 minutes per breast is probably enough. On Day 3, when your milk comes in, the baby’s liver starts to function, and he’s able to handle more food so can spend more time on the breast.

How often do I nurse my newborn in those first few days?

Every 1.5 to 2.5 hours during the first three days of life. The more the baby nurses, the more the baby learns. The first three days is the time for you and baby to hone your skills.

How long should I nurse on each side?

In those first three days, baby should be doing eight to 10 minutes on each side. Once Mom’s milk comes in (around Day 2 to 4), it should be 10-15 minutes on both sides, and one or two times a day, 10-20 minutes each breast. Babies should be able to drain a breast in an appropriate period of time. If you feel like he’s on there forever, your baby may not be doing a good job and you may need help. But keep in mind that nursing isn’t always about calories, sometimes it’s about bonding, so some feeds will be longer than others.

How do I know if my baby is latched properly?

1-Your nipple goes deep in the mouth and comes out of the mouth round. 2. You have minimal to no discomfort. 3. You should see your baby’s TMJ muscle moving while baby is sucking. Latching is not just the mother’s responsibility; it is also the baby’s responsibility. The baby has to open wide enough to get the areola all the way to the back of his mouth. You know your baby is getting enough food if your breast feels softer after feeding. You should also count diapers: for the first three days, I’m happy with three wet diapers a day, then once milk comes in, we’re looking for six dirty diapers a day.

Any reason I should pump during those first few days?

If your baby is nursing well, don’t pump. Milk is supply and demand. If you pump too early, you might overproduce. Unless baby isn’t latching, you should try not to pump until around 10 days or two weeks. But if you’re having trouble nursing, you should pump to stimulate your milk.

What’s your best tip for leaving the hospital and continuing with successful nursing?

Make sure you have help at home, so you have nothing to do the first few days but get into a groove with your baby. A nursing station isn’t a bad idea either – a place where you’ll have olive oil, a cup of water (to drink), and a receiving blanket. And take a nap every day, so when your baby wakes up during the night, you’re not exhausted.

Any tips you can pass along from your first three days with baby?

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

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