After your baby is delivered, there is a small window – perhaps just an hour – when your baby is very alert. This is your chance to give your newborn her first chance at feeding from your breast.
‘Lay her on your tummy and she’ll draw herself up to your chest and initiate feeding herself,’ says Tommy’s midwife Emma Johnston.
Ask a midwife for help if you’re unsure whether your baby is in the right place or whether she’s latched on preoprly.
Asking for help is the key to getting breastfeeding right. While you’re in hospital, don’t be afraid to seek help and advice from the midwives who are on duty.
If you still have concerns, find out the name of the hospital’s breastfeeding advisor and ask for her to come to your bedside. It is worth doing some research even before the baby is born so you know the name of the advisor and can ask for her direct.
While you’re recovering from the birth, get your husband, partner or birthing partner to track her down and ensure she is summoned.
She will be able to observe your early attempts at breastfeeding, advise on techniques and help you find a way that suits you and your baby.
Immediately after the birth, you will produce colostrum, your baby’s first milk, which is usually thick and yellowish.
‘It’s full of calories and antibodies and helps to build your baby’s immune system,’ says Emma.
‘It’s not produced in big quantities, but your baby’s tummy is only about the size of a walnut, so can’t hold much milk at any one time.’
Your proper milk supply should come in around day three. ‘Your breasts may feel warm and hard because they’re really full,’ says Emma. This should settle down once feeding is established.
If your breasts feel sore, have a warm bath or cool shower and breastfeed frequently. Use a super soft towel after bathing to avoid irritation to this tender area. Savoy cabbage leaves cooled in the fridge and tucked inside your bra can help too.
Breast is best for your baby, even if you only manage it for a few days, but if you choose to bottlefeed, check what you need to take into hospital with you.
‘You may need cartons of formula because there might not be facilities for sterilising,’ says midwife Emma. ‘But hospitals usually provide disposable sterilised bottles.’
Don’t rush things and hold your baby close while she gets used to the bottle. You’ll experience discomfort as your breasts will remain full for a few days until they stop producing milk.