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5 Things You Need To Know About Nursing Your Newborn The First Week
You’ve survived the swollen ankles, wonky cravings, wretched morning sickness, and the pain of labor. Now you’re holding your precious new babe and it’s time to breastfeed.
So now what?
Here are 5 things you need to know about nursing your newborn the first week postpartum.
Keep in mind that there’s no “one size fits all” rule when it comes to anything pregnancy, birth, or parenting related at all. We’re all unique, and our babies aren’t cookie cutter babies. However, there are some basic facts that I wish I had known the first time around and I bet you’ll appreciate knowing them as well.
But remember this while you are nursing your newborn the first week and things are a little challenging: You and your baby are just meeting for the first time. It’s only natural that it might take a moment to sort things out. Give it time. Give yourself grace.
Related: The Hands Down Best Labor Advice Ever
Related: How I’m Getting Over Debilitating Morning Sickness
Now, remember, I’m not a doctor. This post isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure anything. I’m just sharing what I wish I had known before having my first baby and some things I’ve tried along the way. Happy nursing!
Relax. It’ll probably take some trial and error to get a good latch.
We expect to be pros at this thing out of the gate – after all, it’s “natural”…
But getting a good latch can be hard; so don’t be afraid to ask for a lactation consultant to help (or check out the article linked below).
If your new babe can’t latch on well at all – even with some practice, ask your pediatrician if perhaps they have a tongue tie. (This was our problem – and they didn’t catch it at the hospital. It took us a full month before we finally had squish’s tongue tie fixed, and it made everything so much better.)
Remember that breastfeeding is a team sport; you and your babe have to work together. Sometimes switching the way you’re holding baby can help; some babies have a favorite side to lay on and they’ll let you know if you’re watching for cues. My baby seemed to prefer the football hold for a while.
Nurse often in that first week to get off to a great start! (I know that can be easier said than done because you’re exhausted and your boobs hurt, but really – it DOES help!)
It’s okay to work on getting a good, deep latch because that will prevent sore nipples for you and help your baby get a better milk supply (which will also help boost your milk production).
A good latch will most likely mean baby’s nose and chin are touching your breast, and her little lips curl out (like a good pucker). The little nursing sounds should be deeper sounding, absent of any smacking or clicking noises. Don’t be afraid to have her release and re-position to get this perfect fit for you both. (Stick your little finger in the corner of her mouth to break the latch – don’t just yank babe off – that’ll hurt!)
The great news is that while it can be a challenge nursing your newborn the first week, once you both figure this thing out it just gets so. much. easier. Really!
Related: How To Breastfeed: Getting A Deep Latch
Related: 9 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions
Skin to skin is the best way to go, whenever possible.
In this article on Kangaroo Care, there are some truly impressive benefits to nursing baby skin-to-skin listed. Everything from calming baby to better sleep for your wee one to better let down of your milk to better hormone balance in you.
Consider taking time to nurse skin-to-skin a few times a day; it’s absolutely going to benefit you both – I LOVED it, it’s such precious time with your itty bitty! (And daddy’s can do skin to skin time too, FYI.)
While you might not be able to pull it off in public, if you can curl up at home and do it when you wake up, at bedtime, and maybe once in between you’ll really begin to appreciate the benefits.
One of my personal favorite benefits is the stress reduction factor. In addition to reducing cortisol in your precious newborn after just ten minutes, it will also release hormones in you that will calm you down. (Oxytocin for the win!)
Not only do babies frequently nurse themselves to sleep thanks to these soothing reactions, they sometimes nurse their mothers to sleep for the same reason. (And I need all the help falling asleep I can get!) Skin to skin amplifies that process. Any time you breastfeed, skin to skin is beneficial, but especially when you are nursing your newborn the first week together.
Related: 9 Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact
Your breasts are going to get really full in a couple of days.
And it’ll probably hurt. They’ll get tender, swollen, and possibly hard as a rock. Don’t worry; there’s lots of things you can do to make it easier!
One thing I’ll be sure to do with my next baby is wear a supportive bra, even to bed, while I’m waiting for my milk to come in (this can happen anytime the first week, but most commonly it happens around day 2 or 3 and usually in the middle of the night).
A supportive nursing bra isn’t going to stop you from getting those tender breasts, but it will minimize your discomfort. (One like this is perfect – and cheap!) I suggest buying at least 2 because a soggy bra is a real thing those first weeks.
You’ll find relief when you start your next round of nursing but don’t be afraid to use an ice pack if you need to. Some old wives tales have you using a cabbage leaf to help the milk let down, and it’s worked for me. But I’ve been warned that doing this often can actually reduce your milk supply, so save this for when you really need it.
It’s also normal to leak milk at the beginning. My personal experience is that this happens at the most inopportune times and having breast pads (like these) in your bra is the way to go (trust me here, very little is more awkward than walking around the grocery store or into church with huge wet spots on the front of your shirt. Or anywhere. It’s actually never awesome.)
You can still nurse, even if you have a low milk supply.
Obviously you don’t want your babe to starve, but if nursing is important to you, there’s no need to abandon it completely just because you aren’t producing enough milk (I really struggled with production, and my friend Jennifer has some great pearls of wisdom to share from her own experience successfully breastfeeding with a low milk supply.
It’s totally possible (in most cases) to boost your milk supply. A lot of moms don’t know that, or they don’t realize there are other options (such as supplementing or pumping) to help with the issue.
Skin to skin contact will actually help with this, and so will nursing more frequently.
Be sure you’re drinking lots of water, too! And, of course, don’t be afraid to reach out to a lactation support group or specialist.
Check out this tea that has been known to help increase supply.
Related: Breastfeeding With A Low Milk Supply
Related: 10 Tips To Increase Your Milk Supply
And the most important thing you need to know about nursing your newborn the first week home is…
Savor these moments, mommy.
Sometimes the lack of sleep can feel like too much and the fussing baby that you can’t seem to comfort can make you want to cry. (Or really cry.) I get it – I’ve been there.
Even though the days (and nights) are long, the newborn season is really short. I wish I had known the first time around that I’d long for the days of snuggling up and nursing and running out of time to do the less important tasks (like shower!).
Pretty soon the nursings will space out and the sleep hours will increase. Your little love will be sitting up and reaching for puffed snacks or bites of fruit instead of for you.. Cherish these moments.
Sit back, memorize his face – make eye contact, and cherish the time you get together, just you and tiny baby. It’s over before you know it.