The first two weeks of breastfeeding can be a trying experience. Mom is getting to know her new baby, and the baby is getting to know mom in its new world. Every baby is different, so routines will vary from one person to another. But there are some solid, helpful guidelines and cues that are universal.
Baptist Health South Florida offers prenatal classes that can help new moms prepare for life at home with baby. While you are in the hospital, your maternity nurse or lactation consultant will help you get started breastfeeding. They will also offer tips that can help you get through the first two weeks after you get home.
“When a mother breastfeeds she provides love, warmth, comfort, and security to her infant,” says, Grisel Gigato, R.N., a lactation specialist at South Miami Hospital‘s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Mother Baby Unit. “Her breastmilk provides her infant with nutrition and protection against infection and illnesses. All of these are benefits that will last her infant/child a lifetime.”
Tips for the First Two Weeks of Breastfeeding
- Frequency: Your baby needs to be breastfed at least every two to three hours, or eight to 12 times per day, at the beginning. Feed your baby on demand whenever he or she is showing signs of hunger. It’s important to catch signs of hunger early (before they start to cry) because it can be difficult to calm your baby down to nurse. If your baby is over 7 pounds, he or she can fast up to five hours, including one time at night.
- Wake your baby for feeding and keep them awake: Babies may not wake on their own when it’s time to eat. You need to keep them on track. Some ways to wake your baby are to remove the blanket, rub their back, check the diaper, sit your baby up, start talking or try skin-to-skin contact. Your baby may also start to doze while nursing, and you’ll need to keep him or her awake to be sure he or she eats enough.
- Watch for cues: A baby’s arm, or fist, will tighten up when they are hungry. As they nurse, the arm/fist will loosen and they will pull off the breast and look relaxed when done. If your baby falls asleep and the arm is still tight, then they haven’t gotten enough to eat.
- Feed frequently when your breasts get full: Overly full breasts slow milk production if not corrected. If your baby is unable to soften your breasts with frequent feedings, use a breast pump or hand express to empty the breasts and soften them.
- Is your baby getting enough? Your baby was born with a stomach the size of a cherry so frequency is critical. Diapers will tell you if your baby is getting enough milk from you. On day one, you can expect one wet diaper. Day two: two wet. Day three: three wet – and so on. After six days, expect six to eight wet diapers per day. Expect three to four yellowish diapers per day from six days on.
- Relieving sore nipples: To avoid sore nipples, it’s most important to be sure you squeeze your breast like a sandwich to provide the most contact between your breast and your baby. To relieve pain, hand-express some colostrum/milk and let it air dry on the nipple. Also, try moist healing. Apply lanolin and use gel-soothing pads.
- Sleep when baby sleeps: Babies eat more at night. Adjust your sleeping schedule to match that of your baby, or you will never get the rest you need to function.
- Rest as you breastfeed: Try side-lying. The bed does the work of holding your baby instead of carrying the full weight in your arms. Be careful not to fall asleep.
- Establish day and night routines: Keep everything dark and quiet at night. During the day, make it bright, busy and loud. Eventually, you’ll shift your baby to a routine that reflects yours.
- Diaper changes at night: If it’s time for your baby to eat and the diaper is just a little wet, you don’t need to change it.
- Get into your own groove with your baby: As you and your baby develop your own unique routine, everything should get easier.
Your baby will let you know what they need, and their cues will become more obvious the more you get to know each other. The initial stress will wear away as you both develop your routines.
HealthyChildren.org is a valuable source for questions that may come up along the way. The topics cover all ages and stages through childhood.
Baptist Health South Florida can help. Lactation services offered include private consultations, support groups and breast pump rentals. Call 786-596-2671 for more information about breastfeeding services.