So you have had your baby and the birth is over – now what?
Well, the best thing you can do is rest and breastfeed, sounds easy doesn’t it? That is because it is if you give yourself a chance.
This blog is about the fir
st 24 hours after birth. I will go through the changes in the woman and what is happening within your baby’s first day.
First, just a little on what your baby has coped with. Your baby’s whole life has changed, he or she is no longer in a dim envionment where everything is slow moving and cramped. Your baby now has bright lights, space, noise, clothes, nappies, wraps, different people, different smells and the biggest thing is that your baby is now breathing through his/her lungs and no longer receiving nutrients through the cord.
WOW – what a change! Understanding this is the key to a happy baby. Just keep everything simple, keep your baby close to you 24 hours a day so you are able to attent to his/her needs immediately. A crying baby is a late cue, it is great to be near your baby so you can watch for his/her cues and respond early. Usually all you baby will want is you and your breasts…..Easy!
You will be coping with either pain from a cesarean section or a sore bottom from a vaginal birth. You will have a heavy blood loss and may have crapmps in your tummy. But all your physical pains will be pushed by the wayside as you gaze at your beautiful baby. Just remember to take regular pain relief if needed. Don’t "try" to go without as the pain will only get worse and this will affect your time with your baby.
Your breasts will be soft and you will be able to express a few drops of colosturm. You have a small amount of colostrum so as to match the needs of your small baby. Your baby only needs up to 5 mls per feed, having said that, even 0.1ml will sustain him/her for an hour. Your baby’s tummy is about the size of a marble, remember this when you think your baby is hungry. Your baby will fill their tummy quickly then empty it quickly so your baby may want to feed every 1 to 2 hours.
As a midwife and a Lactation Consultant, the biggest problem I am faced with is expectation, here is an example:
A mother is taken to her room with a cot and a bed. Society tells them that their baby should feed for a short time then sleep nicely wrapped and in their cot for 4 hours. But, this never happens! This will eventuate over time but not when you have just given birth. Your baby will not like being put down at all because it is so unfamiliar to them. Think about it, it is common sense to just be with your baby, so make time and space for this.
Your basic plan should be:
- Breastfeed your baby whenever he or she starts to poke his/her tounge out or looks ready for a feed. Don’t wait for crying otherwise it will be harder to attach.
- Get help with attachment and follow the next few steps
- Hold your baby really close to your body so his/her chest, bum and legs are wedged up against you almost under your breast. Leaving no gap between his chest and your chest. This will allow his head to tilt back and his chin to come into contact with the breast first. Don’t use pillows to rest your baby on, use pillows when your baby is latched but use them to support you while you are supporting your baby. This will keep your baby nice and close to you and he/she will maintain a good latch. Your baby is strong enough to suck but not to hold your breast in position while he/she sucks so you must support your breast as well. This will prevent your baby from slipping and causing your damage to your nipple.
- Then put your thumb fairly close to your nipple at the 3 position on a clock or 9 if you are on the other breast. Then pull back towards your armpit, this will point the nipple away from your baby and allow him or her to attach to the area on the side of your breast well below your nipple.
- As you are attach your baby, watch his/her chin the whole time, not your nipple, when he/she has a big wide mouth shove him/her to the breast without allowing the chin to slip toward the nipple. This will allow your baby to take more breast in his/her mouth at the bottom rather than above the nipple.
- When your baby’s chin is jammed into the breast reach his/her mouth over the nipple using your thumb to push it under the top lip. It will fall into the right spot if the chin stays well below the nipple.
You may encounter a common occurance of a "sleepy baby" for about 48hours. This can be because of drugs in labour or just that your baby is getting over the birth. A "sleepy baby" may be concerning for you as they may latch well straight after birth then not latch again until the third day. Just don’t worry, this is normal. You cannot force your baby to take the breast you must wait for your baby to wake and feed. This is hard to do as you will worry that your baby will never breastfeed. Have faith and do the following steps to turn this time into wonderful time with your baby.
- Keep your baby skin-to-skin as this will bring out his/her natural instincst to feed. Just keep your baby at your chest and allow him/her to lick and nuzzle into your breasts, it is such a beautiful feeling.
- Your main job in this time is to help bring your milk in so when your baby does wake up, and he/she will, you have milk there ready.
- Try to latch your baby at least every 3 hours during the day and 4 hours at night, if your baby doesn’t latch then hand express your colostrum and give whatever you get to your baby. You may get 1 ml or your may get 10mls, it doesn’t matter, whatever you have will be enough because you are doing it regulaly. You can collect the colostrum in a syringe then squirt it into your baby’s mouth. Get some help from your midwife as hand expressing is a learning skill, you won’t get it straight away.
- The aim is to get as much into your baby as you can because the more your baby gets the earlier he/she will wake and feed. It is like if you or I didn’t eat for a long period of time we would get tired due to the lack of calories, babies do the same, they get really tired and will just sleep. The mistake you can make is that you don’t give your baby any expressed milk and he/she may become too tired and develop jaundice or low blood sugar. So keep on top of it and you will see that by around the end of the second 48 hours your baby will wake and play catch ups or what we call "cluster feeding".
By breatfeeding or expressing for your baby whenever he/she wants it or at least every three hours then your milk will come in quicker and you will establish a great supply. The more you breastfeed in the early days the more prolactin receptors you will lay down in your breasts and the better supply you will have in the long term. You will also get heaps of practice to get attachment right!
Remember it takes a good couple of weeks to get the feeding right and your nipples comfortable with feeding. Don’t rush yourself, just go at your pace and seek help that works for you.
Just before I go I have another great tip for you. Your baby only knows you and your partner so keep your baby close to you at all times. Have your baby skin-to-skin as much as you can, in some hospitals you can sleep with your baby, if not then make sure you have the cot as close to you as possible so you can hear and touch your baby easily.
One last point is that your baby does not know how to get to sleep. Your baby will either breastfeed to sleep or will like to be rocked, patted or just held until he/she goes to sleep. This will NOT spoil your baby it is actually meeting their needs. If you meet your baby’s needs without restriction you will have a happy contented baby that will grow up secure in the fact that their parents will always be ther for them.
Just remember to answer your baby’s needs as they arise and lay down a wondererful positive relationship which they have complete trust in. This will then allow your baby to be separted from you much easily when your baby is older as he/she will have complete faith that you will return as you have created an environment where all your baby’s needs are met….Beautiful!
My next post is all about the next 24hours or day 2 of your little baby’s life. If you have anymore specific questions then drop me a line, I am happy to answer any questions you have.