The First Days of Breastfeeding
Some ladies love the idea of breastfeeding whilst others can’t imagine the idea of breastfeeding.
Some babies latch on easily, others don’t. Some don’t latch on at all.
Some babies breastfeed for a year or longer, others only for a few weeks or months.
Every mother is different. Every baby is different. The whats and hows are completely your own individual choice or situation. Do not feel pressured by what others may think or say.
Breastfeeding is a special bonding time for mother and baby
If you do choose to breastfeed, getting baby to latch on is one of the first things a mother can do after giving birth. Breastfeeding is a natural instinct and your baby should know what to do.
In some cases the sucking process may not work properly. It is important to get good advice from a lactation consultant about which methods to try out. It could be due to many different factors, such as the shape of your nipples or problems with baby’s tongue.
Remember that it will really depend on your birthing experience how mother and baby are feeling.
Breast Milk Production
It is a common mistake to think that milk suddenly appears after birth. It does not magically appear overnight. Your postpartum hormones firstly need to kick in and tell your body that it’s time to start producing milk.
There are two stages to milk production:
The first stage is colostrum. Your body started producing colostrum in pregnancy.
This milk has a thick, yellow coloured substance and is full of nutrients and antibodies for your baby. See Breasts.
Although it comes out in small quantities, it is exactly what your baby needs shortly after postpartum. It is common for your baby to sleep for several hours after birth. It has been a stressful journey to get this far and baby needs to rest and therefore only small amounts of milk.
Main milk supply
About 3-4 days after giving birth your milk should really properly “come in”. The postpartum hormones in your body trigger the signal for your main milk supply to be produced. At this point your breasts will grow hugely in a short space of time. They may get huge, veiny and hard, literally overnight. This sudden growth can be quite sore and painful.
I wasn’t prepared for the enormous change with my breasts with my first child. It literally happened overnight. I woke up in the morning with what seemed like 3 sizes bigger. It hurt when I breastfed my son but I knew instinctively that he needed to feed.
Are you breasts leaking? It could come at a time when your milk supply is at its peak or may get triggered when you hear your (or another) baby cry, or if you think about baby.
All of these are stimuli. Your brain sends the message to trigger milk production.
Watch out during sex – the same hormone (oxytocin) which is triggered in orgasm, is also the same hormone for triggering breast milk.
I always had a towel at hand next to my bed or sometimes simply slept with a towel over my breasts because of leaky milk during the night.
Tips For the Early Days of Breastfeeding
- Take care of your breasts by cooling them down and getting baby to drink.
- Gently massage your breasts, stroking them from the edges, towards the nipple to encourage the milk to flow.
- It will all settle down after a week or so, as long as baby is feeding properly by emptying out each breast.
- If you haven’t had any breastfeeding advice, then make sure you do. With my second son, I had a fantastic midwife who was very experienced with lactation. I was very thankful for her experience and knowledge. I learnt how important it is to breastfeed from several different positions and also to gently massage my breasts to encourage the correct flow of milk.
- Knowing how to breastfeed properly ensures that baby gets the right amount of milk and that your breasts get properly emptied. Not emptying the milk ducts can lead to painful mastitis. See Mastitis for more information.
- If you breastfeed you may feel constantly thirsty due to your body’s need to replace fluids. I often felt like I had a dry throat and needed to drink regularly. Sitting down to breastfeed and finding yourself fixed to the chair for the next 20 minutes (or sometimes much, much longer) whilst not having a drink next to you is a mistake.
- Keep a bottle of water handy at all times. I find a closed bottle better because then you can take it anywhere with you.
- Keep yourself entertained. The time required for breastfeeding can sometimes be really drawn out and you may find yourself staring into space if you haven’t got any form of entertainment to keep you busy.
- Make a favourite playlist of music / films / podcasts / short videos on your phone, laptop or tablet.