One of the important decisions you will make during your pregnancy is how you will feed your baby. Due to the researched benefits of giving your baby milk, many families choose to breastfeed their newborns.
The Island Hospital Birth Center staff, doctors, midwives, and the Lactation Department are here to support you along your feeding journey. After most babies are born, they are immediately placed skin-to-skin and will latch within the first hour, and everything goes smoothly until you both are ready to wean. However, there may be challenges like a very sleepy baby, jaundice, painful latch or concern about low supply. If this is the case, rest assured there is a team at Island, ready to provide support, tools and knowledge to get you through any feeding issue.
What are the top 6 tips to help you get off to a great start?
Nurse within the first hour
Whether your baby is born vaginally or by cesarean, it is important that the baby is placed skin-to-skin and supported to feed. If there is a complication and the baby does not latch, it is beneficial to “move milk.” Ask your nurse to show you how to hand express and provide you with a spoon to catch the “liquid gold” early milk called colostrum. They will show you how to give it to your baby when the baby is ready.
Skin-to-skin helps with nursing too
Don’t limit your skin-to-skin time to just the early hours. Your baby benefits throughout the newborn period by being skin-to-skin. So save that cute outfit for the ride home. Babies held skin-to-skin eat more frequently, and the benefits of skin-to-skin contact range from bonding to stabilizing body temperature and reducing crying.
Don’t watch the clock; feed frequently
Babies are born with no concept of time. Watch your baby for feeding cues. The goal is to feed them 10 – 12 times in a 24-hour period. That may be every hour and then not for a couple of hours. If it has been longer than two hours, bring them skin-to-skin, and hopefully, they will wake up easily by being near the “restaurant.”
If it hurts, ask for help
Both you and the baby are learning this new skill. If it hurts, ask for help on how to get a deeper latch. Don’t just tolerate the pain. A slight change in positioning or latch may take the pain away. Tender is normal- pain is not.
Be confident, avoid the “I don’t think they are getting anything” worry
The postpartum nurses at Island Hospital frequently hear from new parents that they are convinced their baby isn’t getting anything. Unfortunately, there is no visible way or fancy gauge to see how much of the valuable colostrum your baby is getting. Your body starts to make colostrum in the last trimester, so it is there for the baby at birth. The change to mature milk starts as soon as the placenta is gone, and the transition takes two to five days. If your baby is full-term, they are equipped with a special “brown fat” they burn for calories while learning to eat. Of course, all babies lose weight which adds to the parents’ worries, but it is expected. Your baby has lived in water for nine months, and weight loss can be impacted by the amount of IV fluids you received in labor. It is normal for babies to lose up to eight to 10 percent of birth weight.
Avoid using a pacifier in the early days
Babies are born with a strong sucking reflex, and you may have even caught a glimpse of your little one sucking their thumb during one of your routine ultrasounds. Rather than using a pacifier in the early days to soothe your baby, put them to breast to satisfy their sucking reflex and to help increase your milk supply. Pacifiers are known to cause gas or train for a shallower latch when they are feeding, which can negatively impact breastfeeding. However, once feeding is well established, introducing a pacifier to comfort your baby is a personal choice. Bear in mind that your baby may be fussy or crying for many reasons. Crying is the final hunger cue, so try to feed them before they reach that point. If your baby is not interested in feeding, the lights may be too bright for their sensitive eyes, they might be too hot or cold, or they need a diaper change. Rather than using a pacifier in the early days, practice soothing techniques such as “sushing,” swaying, singing, or skin-to-skin contact with your partner.
Support from Island Hospital’s Primary Care Clinics
- During your prenatal appointments, many of your questions and concerns can be answered. For some conditions like Gestational Diabetes, providers and staff will help you learn how to start hand expressing the final weeks of your pregnancy to have a ready-to-feed supplement of your milk for your baby. It’s also a great time to explore your options for a breast pump. Your provider can write a prescription, if needed and covered by insurance, for a breast pump. You can also schedule a Lactation appointment while you’re pregnant to have a personal session to answer all your questions and concerns.
- Your nurses are happy to share tips and tricks to get feeding off to a great start during your hospital stay. On most days, you will also meet the Lactation Consultant who is another member of your team as you and your baby learn how to feed.
- Once you go home, you can also schedule a lactation appointment. It’s highly recommended to put your mind at ease—to see how much your baby is transferring or to figure out what is going with the latch that may be causing you pain or to give you a boost in your confidence that “you’ve got this.” Lactation appointments are available Monday, Wednesday and Friday by calling (360)293-3101.
Support from Dr. Katrina Gardner at Island Family Physicians
There are some things that feel so much easier at home and breastfeeding a newborn is one of them. When I began my practice as a family physician 10 years ago, I wanted to see my littlest patients in their most comfortable setting, home. I wanted to allow their mothers to focus on learning how to feed their babies without the pressure of a start or stop time. It was my initial intention to have the visit be a lactation consultation, but without the constraints of getting right down to business, it was also a way to check in about all of the questions that surface during the first few nights at home and recognize and celebrate the community of support around the mother and baby at that time.
Along with Island Hospital’s outstanding lactation services through the Birth Center and Lactation Clinic, I am pleased to offer home lactation consultations through my new practice site at Island Family Physicians. Family practice has a long tradition of providing care at home, and I am thrilled to continue in that manner of service. It is truly the best part of what I do as a doctor. I love leaving a home quietly after a hungry baby has figured out how to latch and a tired momma knows all that she is capable of doing.
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