More than 75% of new mothers say the very first feeding was the hardest. After all, it’s not just the mother’s first time, it’s the baby’s first time too.
There are a few things you can do to make your first feeding session go smoothly. Without further ado, here they are:
Feed your little newbie as soon as you can, within minutes of birth if possible. There’s a sweet spot of time after your baby is born where he’ll be more alert. But he’ll start getting sleepy soon, and it’s going to be much more difficult to feed a sleepy baby.
Also, fresh-out-of-the-belly babies have an instinct to seek out mom and nurse. If a new baby is laid on mom’s belly, he will begin to scoot up and snuffle around until he finds the breast. It’s called the breast crawl, and it’s incredible!
Given their instinct to feed upon birth, and the sleepiness that will soon overtake them, it’s so very important to get them started just as quickly as you can. And make sure your health care team is aware of this intention so they can plan accordingly.
Have support available
If you gave birth in the hospital, this will probably be the nursing staff or the hospital’s lactation consultant. And they can be an invaluable source of support and advice.
While if you plan to birth at home, you should have a doula or midwife who can help you.
Also, you can get help from your mother or a trusted friend with breastfeeding experience. Just don’t try to go this alone.
Don’t be the girl who says “I got this, back away.” It’s not as easy as you think, and you weren’t born with as many hands as you’ll probably need those first few feedings.
Sit or lay in bed, with plenty of pillows around for support. If you’re in a chair, then at least get your feet up.
Don’t worry about keeping your gown from falling off your shoulder, or making sure that the nurse you don’t really know can’t see your nipples. This isn’t the time to be thinking of modesty or posture or looking good.
This is you and your baby, and you should be doing whatever gets you the most comfortable so you can focus on getting milk in baby’s mouth.
So what if you’re slouching? If it’s comfortable and baby is safe, go for it.
I personally suggest going topless because that’s one less layer of frustration, and skin to skin contact is A-MAZ-ING for baby.
Relax and be patient
You’re going to be nervous. It’s alright. It’s normal to want baby to just drink already. Be patient and remember baby has never done this before.
Just keep trying to get him latched and prepare your mind ahead of time that it may take several tries.
And by several I mean a lot. By a lot I mean it’s gonna feel like an eternity of trying and trying. It won’t be that long, it’ll just feel that way.
Unless your baby does that magical breast crawl and latches himself – in which case you’re the breastfeeding lottery winner!
Remember that any amount is great
This is one of the few times in life when you get points for trying. Did you get some on the inside of his lip? Congratulations, you did it!
Baby has never been hungry before. He has no clue what it means to eat, and his tummy is brand new. This very first day, he can probably only handle a few drops at a time. Fortunately, your body is well equipped to feed him.
Have you tried to express any milk? Did you notice there isn’t any? It looks like melted butter coming out, right? That’s colostrum, and your incredible body is giving the exact right amount for your new eater.
It’s extremely nutrient dense, sometimes referred to as “liquid gold,” and so the few drops he’s getting pack a wallop of nutrition for him.
Baby’s stomach doesn’t stretch on the first day of life and is approximately the size of a small marble, and his tummy won’t begin to stretch until around day three of life. Coincidentally, this is around the time your milk comes in. Hmmmm…..coincidence?
So if you can’t seem to make this work, just squirt colostrum on your finger and rub it on his tongue several times. You’re getting nutrition to your baby. Just keep working at it.
La Leche League offers this amazing advice and graphic on their site:
Stomach capacity of the newborn
When mothers hear that colostrum is measurable in teaspoons rather than ounces, they often wonder if that can really be enough for their babies. The short answer is that colostrum is the only food healthy, full-term babies need. The following is an explanation:
A 1 day old baby’s stomach capacity is about 5-7 ml, or about the size of a marble. Interestingly, researchers have found that the day-old newborn’s stomach does not stretch to hold more. Since the walls of the newborn’s stomach stays firm, extra milk is most often expelled (spit up). Your colostrum is just the right amount for your baby’s first feedings!
By day 3, the newborn’s stomach capacity has grown to about 0.75-1 oz, or about the size of a “shooter” marble. Small, frequent feedings assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs.
Around day 7, the newborn’s stomach capacity is now about 1.5-2 oz, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. Continued frequent feeding will assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs, and your milk production meets his demands.
Infant Stomach Capacity-Citation: La Leche League International, What is colostrum? How does it benefit my baby?
Feed very small amounts, very often
Since baby can’t eat much at a time, he’s going to need to feed often. The first few days he’s going to need to eat about 12 times every 24 hours.
So try to feed him every hour and a half to two hours.
Yeah, you read that right.
Log and track feedings
Keep track of all your efforts, successes, and attempts. Write down the time each feeding started and the time it stopped.
Also it’s a good idea to make notes about details such as whether latching easier or more difficult, did you use a different nursing position, did you have a hard time burping, did he spit up a lot afterward, etc.
This is going to show trends over the course of several feedings and may highlight a problem or show what works and what doesn’t. Also, it helps give you the confidence that you’re doing this well and baby is getting enough.
Of course, wet and dirty diaper logs help immensely too. Don’t overlook them!
Wake your sleepy baby
It took a lot of work for little one to put in his appearance. So expect that the first few days or even weeks, he’s going to be a sleepy baby. This is totally normal. Therefore you’re going to need a small arsenal of tactics to keep him awake during feeding time.
Here are just a few ways to wake a sleepy baby:
- change his diaper
- undress him
- blow his hair
- tickle him
- wipe his face with a wet wash cloth
- talk or sing
- also, anything gentle that may irritate you if you’re trying to sleep
Don’t forget to burp
At first I thought the only way to burp a baby is to lay him on my chest with his head on my shoulder and pat his back. While that’s ONE way to do it, I didn’t have a lot of luck.
My husband could burp him. And my best friend could burp him. I couldn’t.
If you could use some help getting a burp out, here are some other ways to burp a baby.
There’s no law stating the baby has to burp. So if a few minutes go by and you still can’t get a burp out of him, he simply may not need to burp. And that’s okay.
We all know these first few days are nerve wrecking.
You’ve never met your little baby, and suddenly you’re responsible for every aspect of his care. It can be overwhelming.
Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. And give yourself a little grace when it doesn’t come naturally. Most importantly, love your little one like only YOU can!
Have you already been through the first newborn feeding? Please comment and tell me what challenges you had and how you coped with them!