First, well done for looking past the labour itself and thinking through how you’ll take care of your baby. Some people (myself included first time around!) are so focused on the labor itself that we forget to prepare for the awesome task of caring for a newborn. Breastfeeding can be more complicated than you ever imagined it could be, and a lot of people give up before they’ve even given it their best shot. As always, my firm belief is that a little extra understanding and mental preparation can make a world of difference in the first place.
When, Where, and How Long
The first few days of feeding, as you may well already know, your newborn receives only a few swallows of colostrum, which is so nutrient rich that it suffices. But let him/her feed as often as they wish: usually they’ll fall asleep on one side, but if they keep going for 20 minutes switch them over to have a go on the other side. Once your milk comes in (you may catch the first little pleasantly surprised eyebrow raise if you’re watchful – so cute!) stay on one side for each feed. It’s only around the age of 3-4 weeks that a baby will start fighting at the breast, getting angry and latching and re latching and grizzling, – those are the signs that the baby has finished the breast and should be switched to the other side. (It may be earlier if your baby is especially big or hitting a growing spurt early.) From now on, even if your child has fallen asleep on the first breast, sit them up, burp them and offer them the second. They may or may not take you up on the offer. Next feed, you’ll always start with with the breast that was only 1/2 emptied the time before, ie the second breast. That one will feel fuller, and have a greater percentage of rich hindmilk built up.
Getting a good latch is of utmost importance in the first weeks. The baby should open very wide, and take a huge mouthful, NOT suck the nipple in like a straw. Brush their nose and cheeks with your breast and the stimulation should help them respond by opening wide. Be patient and wait for that wide mouth. You’ll know when they’ve got enough of a mouthful when you see the little muscle by the temple (near the ear) working away, meaning they’re using their jaw to work milk out and not just sucking on your tender skin. If your baby has not gotten a good latch, break the suction with your little finger and back away, try again. Even if it takes re-latching a dozen times a feed, that’s okay, as long as the feeding takes place with the proper latch, otherwise you will get sore. It takes 6-8 weeks for a newborn and a mother to learn to breastfeed fluently, it is a learning curve for both of you, so set aside the time, be patient. Suddenly you will find that things get easier as you both settle into a groove.
Mostly, think confidently. Get someone who is experienced and positive to come and handle your baby infront of you, so that you can see with your own eyes the variety of ways one can burp and comfort a baby, and what durable little creatures they are. Your baby will feel calmer if you hold him/her securely, without nerves, and your milk will be more abundant and flow freer if you are feeling whole and serene. I know that’s a tall order, but if you’re getting stressed about breastfeeding then remind yourself to stay centered. Let others do the laundry/dishes/carrying groceries, anyone who offers take them up on it! Let them pick your older child up from gan/school, ask them to pick up some fruit and bread at the store. Put your feet up. Rushing around keeping things clean and orderly will deplete your milk-making reserves.
Make a breastfeeding corner in a favorite chair, have a drink (water or juice, nothing caffeinated or fizzy) handy as breastfeeding is thirsty work, and a healthy snack to prevent youself from reaching for the biscuit tin. Eat some apple or cucumber first. The biscuit only comes after the healthy snack. Don’t overdue on one particular food group, anything overindulged will affect your milk and give baby a tummyache. Variety is best.
Those are my general rules of thumb, I hope they give you a good boost starting out this new journey!