Breastfeeding After Birth

Breastfeeding is beneficial for you and your baby. Breast milk is packed with essential nutrients, is easy to digest, and contains certain antibodies that protect your baby from illnesses. At the same time, breastfeeding is good for the mother because it promotes contraction of uterus, lowers the risk of breast cancer, and helps reduce weight. While infants have a suckling reflex, some babies may take some time to understand the process. Just do not panic if breastfeeding does not come naturally at first. It is completely normal, but you and your baby should keep practicing until both of you understand the mechanics of breastfeeding. Let's find out more about it.

When to Start Breastfeeding After Birth

You should start breastfeeding immediately after birth because your baby is eager and ready to breastfeed at this moment. This suckling reflex is usually strongest during the first 45 minutes to 2 hours of birth, which is why the first several feedings will really provide your baby with a satisfying experience. Things will become easier if you place your newborn skin-to-skin during the first few days after delivery. Newborns usually display different suckling behaviors, such as rooting, licking, suckling, and nuzzling the nipple.

After initial eagerness and alertness, your baby will get into deep sleep. But about 24 hours after birth, your baby will be more active and interested in nursing. Most babies want to feed often at this stage and may even alternate between quiet wakefulness and light sleep. Healthy newborns usually require feeding every hour or even more than once in one hour. Be sure to understand and respond to your baby's needs for feedings. If you have a cesarean birth, the discomfort and fatigue may bring challenge to your first breastfeeding. But make sure that you will breastfeed your baby as soon as possible.

How to Breastfeed After Birth

Understanding the mechanics of breastfeeding after birth may take some time, so be patient. You should not feel frustrated if your baby finds it difficult to latch on properly. Baby-led breastfeeding is one good approach which means that you allow your baby to follow his/her instincts to learn how to suck. The following steps can help your baby have a good latch.

  • Be relaxed and breastfeed in a calm environment. Recline on some pillows or another comfortable area before you start.
  • Hold your baby against your bare chest – make sure your baby is only in a diaper. You can hold your baby against your breasts for some time without even trying to breastfeed him/her.
  • Let your baby lead. If your baby stays curled up against your breasts, this means he/she is not hungry. Your baby may be hungry if he/she bobs the head against your chest or simply squirm around.
  • Encourage your baby to latch on to your breast but do not force him/her. Just support his/her shoulders and head and let him/her do the search.
  • Let your breast hang naturally because it will touch your baby's chin and the firm pressure encourages him/her to reach over the nipple. Your baby will get a deep latch once he/she finds the nipple and presses the chin into it.

If your baby is still having problems latching on after using the baby-led approach, you can try the following tips:

  • Tickle your baby's lips with your nipple to make him/her open mouth.
  • Move your baby's lower jaw and chin in to your breast.
  • Keep your baby's lower lip far from the base of your nipple to encourage him/her to take a large mouthful of breast.

It is important to ensure that the baby has a proper latch. Here are some points to keep in mind.

  • Make sure the latch does not feel uncomfortable.
  • Keep your baby's chest against your body for support.
  • Ensure that you do not see any part of your areola while your baby is feeding.
  • Make sure the tongue of your baby is cupped right under the breast.
  • Listen closely or see your baby swallow.
  • Make sure you see the ears of your baby wiggle slightly.
  • The chin of your baby should be touching your breast.
  • Your baby's lips should turn outward like fish lips.

More Tips for Breastfeeding After Birth

When teaching your baby how to latch, you may also have other questions in your mind. For instance:

1. How Long and How Often Should You Feed Your baby?

It depends on your baby's unique schedule. However, expect most babies to feed at least 8-12 times a day during the first few weeks of their lives. Many newborns breastfeed for no longer than 10-15 minutes on each breast, but some may require longer feeding times, up to 60-120 minutes at a time. Some babies feed very frequently, somewhere around once every half an hour. You should offer the other breast to your baby once he is done feeding from one breast. If he is hungry, he will start. Otherwise, start from the other breast in the next feeding session.

2. Is There a Way to Tell If Your Baby Is Hungry?

Babies look more alert when they are hungry. They may also close their fists, bend their arms, and bring their fingers to their mouths. When you notice these signs, immediately offer your breast. Waiting for long will make your baby cry, and an unhappy baby is less likely to latch properly. When the babies are full, they will close their eyes and relax their arms and legs.

3. When to Avoid Breastfeeding

There are certain situations when your healthcare provider may advise you against breastfeeding after birth. For instance, you should avoid breastfeeding if:

  • You are on anxiety medications or are taking certain migraine medications.
  • You have specific illnesses, such as active tuberculosis or HIV.
  • You are undergoing radiation therapy.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about starting breastfeeding if you have a certain illness. Most medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy are safe to take while breastfeeding. Still, it is a good idea to confirm with your doctor first.

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