If you are planning to breastfeed, the first few weeks of your baby’s life can be the most challenging.
Even if this is your first child, you’ve probably heard stories from other moms discussing the trials, tribulations and triumphs of breastfeeding. At Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, NC, our pediatricians and our lactation consultant are here for you every step of the way to make breastfeeding more successful for you and your baby.
Latching Takes Time
The chances of a successful latch increase if you are able to attempt nursing in the first hour or so after a baby is born. Babies tend to be alert and readier to breastfeed during this first hour – afterward, they (and their exhausted parents) often fall asleep for the better part of the next 8-12 hours. Although it’s still important to wake babies to breastfeed during this time, it tends to be more challenging than during that first hour.
Remember that your milk does not come in for about 3 to 4 days after your baby is born – so when they are breastfeeding, they are getting only small amounts of colostrum (early milk) for those first few days.
During this time, it’s less important how much a baby gets, and more important that they develop a deep latch – with the baby’s mouth wide open, their lips flanged apart, and the nipple in the back of their mouth – not between their gums. Support your baby’s head close to the breast – I often tell new moms that if you aren’t worried that the breast will suffocate your baby (no worries, it won’t!), then your baby probably is not close enough to your breast. If they back up, they will slip off and bite down on your nipple with their gums. Not only is this painful, it’s just not an effective way for your baby to express milk.
Breastfeeding Happens Around the Clock
Babies should be breastfeeding about every 2 to 2 ½ hours – or more often if they are asking for it – for the first few weeks. That time is measured from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next – so, unfortunately, your break between feedings is usually even shorter than this.
At first, they may only nurse for 5 or 10 minutes. That’s fine on the first day, but your baby should start to feed longer on the second and third day. Eventually, they may latch for 20-30 minutes on the first side, and a few minutes on the second. Once your milk comes in, your breast should soften with the feeding – and it’s always a good idea to empty the first side before switching. The last part of the milk feeding (the hindmilk) is higher in fat and calories, so it’s important to empty the first breast before offering a baby the second side.
Babies can lose up to 7 to 10% of their birth weight before your milk comes in. Once your milk comes in, your baby should gain close to an ounce a day. They should also be more content after nursing; their stools should change from dark to light yellow and loose - sometimes 8 to 12 stools a day or more (you’ll never look at mustard the same way again!).
Remember that at Carolina Kids we have a lactation consultant, Jerrianne Webb, working in our office. She is happy to meet with patients for in-depth lactation consults – or just answer your questions by phone. If you are having trouble breastfeeding at any point don’t hesitate to talk to our pediatricians or our lactation consultant at Carolina Kids in Raleigh. Remember, successful breastfeeding takes all kinds of support - roadblocks can and do happen but we are here to help.
If you are looking for resources online, check out www.kellymom.com. You’ll find a wide range of information on breastfeeding, from the basics to more unique topics (like how to get through surgery or jury duty while breast feeding).
Do you have questions about breastfeeding? Whatever you need, Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, NC, is here to help. Call us today at (919) 881-9009 to schedule an appointment or to address your breastfeeding concerns with us.