Breastfeeding During The First Week looks at the basics of getting started with breastfeeding, what to expect and what to look out for.
Signs of hunger
It can be useful to respond to your baby’s cues rather than waiting for them to cry – it’s not always possible but it is helpful to be guided by your baby as much as possible.
Early indications of needing a feed:
an open mouth, especially if also sticking tongue out
smacking or licking lips
Ready for a feed:
fidgeting and squirming
trying to get into position for a feed
I really need a feed NOW:
frantic head movements
Breastfeeding During The First Week
For many new families this can be tough, with the chaos a new baby can bring and trying to learn and understand the new world of breastfeeding. At its most basics – keep it simple and try not to overthink it, just feed and get support if it is painful.
Feed as often as possible – about 12 times a day – this will help to boost your milk supply and it will help prevent engorgement as your milk comes in.
Skin-to-skin cuddles – have as many as possible. It can be helpful to wear as little as possible and allow your new baby to live on you in these early days. Let your baby have as much access to the breast as possible, rather than timing feeds.
Initial weightloss – it is normal for breastfed babies to lose between 5-7% of their birthweight, any more than that could be a sign that feeding needs to be looked at.
Breastfeeding During The First Week: signs your baby is getting enough milk
Poo – By day 4, when your milk has probably come in, babies will have 3-4 poos a day, although some will poo with each feed. After day 4 poos should be mustard-yellow in colour, with no signs of meconium, which is black and tar like.
Wee – 1 a day is normal until around day 4 when babies can have about 6 wet nappies a day After day 4, wee should be pale/clear.
Breastfeeding During The First Week: sleepy baby?
Some babies can be very sleepy as they recover from birth and any drugs that were involved. A baby needs to feed often so guidance states to wake babies every 2 hours during the day and about every 3-4 hours at night.
What’s going on with your boobs?
Your colostrum will change to milk on about days 3-5. feed often to reduce engorgement, let your baby have a good feed one breast at a time. If you are engorged it can be useful to express a little for comfort and to allow your baby to latch.
As your milk comes in, your boobs may feel heavy and full which may be sore – feeding as much as possible can relieve the pressure. You may also want to express.
Your boobs may start to leak, especially when you are feeding – have plenty of muslins and breastpads to hand and you can also use a silicon breastpump to save the milk.
Breastfeeding During The First Week: Look out for signs that your baby is not latched on correctly…
*feeding is painful for you
*your baby’s cheeks are drawn in
*your baby’s sucks can be short and they may make a
*your baby can’t settle and keeps coming off the breast
Breastfeeding During The First Week: Positioning Tips
*Babies need to feel comfortable to have a good feed, especially in those early days when you are both learning and trying to get feeding established. Your baby needs to have his tummy snuggled in to yours and babies also feel more secure if their feet are able to plant on a cushion rather than just dangling.
*You also need to comfortable – because you could be sitting there for a while and because your discomfort could affect your milk flow.
*The cushion is king – behind your back and a v pillow on your lap for your baby to lie on – that way the cushion can support the weight of your baby and you can relax your shoulders and your arms.
*Sitting upright can help a lot, rather than leaning too far forward or back. This can enable your baby to latch better.
*Before you settle down to feed your baby go to the loo and gather everything you might need: pillows. water, snacks, phone, tv remote..
The La Leche League uses CHINS to help with comfortable breastfeeding:
C = Close: Have your baby as close to you as possible
H = Head: Baby’s head is supported but not held so it is free to move
I = In Line: Your baby’s body is in a line from head to shoulders and hips so the neck is not twisted
N= Nose to nipple: touch your baby’s nose to your nipple so your baby has to reach to attach themselves to your breast
S = Your position is Sustainable and you are comfortable
Breastfeeding During The First Week: please remember…
- breastfeeding can be really tough, a lot tougher than you ever imagined
- no two days are the same and in the early weeks you may have to take it one feed at a time
- get support if it is agony, if your nipples are becoming damaged because this is not right – see a breastfeeding specialist for help with your baby’s latch and to see if there is a tongue-tie
- it can take weeks for breastfeeding to click into place
Seek help and support if…
- you are concerned about your baby’s weight-gain
- your baby isn’t having as many wet nappies as you would expect
- you are giving yourself a hard time and breastfeeding is harder than you expected
- you are sore/in pain
- you are not sure if you can/want to continue breastfeeding
What you need to know about breastfeeding during the first week
Opinions, support and advice around breastfeeding can be very conflicting – if your baby has lost weight or you are very sore from feeding, you need to speak to a breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible. Ask if there is a breastfeeding specialist at the hospital and contact the La Leche League for more specialist support.
Breastfeeding often doesn’t come naturally, it is a skill to be learnt and it is ever changing so good support can be crucial. You are not doing anything wrong if it doesn’t feel natural and if it is harder than you ever imagined.
“Ask for help. Try different positions. Support your own back when feeding. Drink lots. Invest in Lansinoh HPA Lanolin cream, I swear it has magic powers. Be aware the first few days it hurts!”
“Don’t clock watch -once I stopped looking at the clock everything became a bit easier.”
“Eat and drink plenty.”
“Take each day as it comes and don’t be scared to ask for help.”
Janine Smith | A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting