Right after birth
From the skin-on-skin contact your baby will instinctively look for the breast. If your delivery was performed medically by Caesarean section, forceps or vacuum pump, your baby's instincts may be a little disrupted. You may then need to help your baby to get to the breast.
When your baby is near the breast, it will find the nipple itself and instinctively latch on. This can be accomplished while you are half-seated in bed. The baby lies with its belly against your upper body. Your baby may drink as long as he/she wants to. When you and your baby are ready, you can dress the baby, but this isn’t necessary. If you yourself are not capable of dressing the baby, your partner will probably be willing to do it.
Breastfeeding: the first 24 hours
After the first breastfeeding your baby may sleep long and deep. If the baby is always in your vicinity, he or she will regularly request food. Babies lying in their own bed may have to be woken up for a feeding. If your baby is having trouble drinking at your breast, you can drain a few drops of colostrum by hand and give it to your baby with a spoon.
During the first few days, enough colostrum is available for your baby. Colostrum is the first milk that prepares your baby’s intestines for processing food. Colostrum is rich in protein and antibodies.
Crying after breastfeeding
Each time you put the baby back on the breast because it is crying, it starts sucking a little and then falls asleep again. If you unlatch the baby and put it back in bed, the crying starts again! His or her mouth is looking for the breast again… and YOU! This process seems to continue for hours and hours. Many mothers (and care providers) are convinced that this behavior of the baby is caused by the fact that there is no milk yet. That the baby is starving.
In reality, this is not the case: the baby realizes that his or her most comfortable spot is at his or her mother's breast. It reminds your baby of ‘home’. This behavior is universal for babies worldwide. Lactation experts across the world recognize this behavior.
What to do?
After your baby falls asleep at the breast after a good feeding, carefully break the vacuum and let the nipple slip out of his or her mouth. Don’t move your baby too much, just make sure the head is properly supported on your chest. Your baby also likes being on your belly in between your breasts. Make sure it can continue to breathe properly. Do not let the baby burp and don’t change its diaper. Cuddle with your baby until it falls into a deep sleep and you can move him or her.
A baby first falls into a light sleep (REM sleep) and will then switch between lighter and deeper sleep in cycles of approximately 30 minutes. If your baby goes looking again and shows that it wants to breastfeed again... no problem! This is his or her way of relaxing and seeking comfort. When your baby is in a deep sleep, the breathing of your baby is calm and quiet. No movement is visible under the eyelids.
Milk production: how it works
It is normal that at first, not a lot of milk comes out of the breasts. Your baby has built up a reserve in the belly and its stomach is still small. Your baby doesn’t need a lot of food yet. What he or she does need, is contact with the mother and small amounts of colostrum often. After two to three days you will notice that your breasts are becoming engorged and you are getting more milk: your milk production is starting.
The first few days your baby will lose weight and this is completely normal. If your baby loses more than 7% of its birth weight, you can try to feed it more often and stimulate your milk production by expressing milk.
As a rule, during the maternity week you offer two breasts per time. By keeping your baby with you a lot, it will regularly request a feeding. If your baby continues to lose weight or loses too much weight, it is important to feed it more often (this can be up to 10-12 times in the beginning). Most babies start to grow again from the sixth day and reach their birth weight again within two weeks.
Breastfeeding: when is it enough?
When you are breastfeeding you don’t know how much your baby is drinking. You don’t have to know this. Assume that your baby takes what it needs and that you make what the baby needs. If you do want some more control, then you can look at the weight and diapers.
Crying doesn’t always mean that the baby is hungry. Crying is often also a need for contact with one of the parents. Many newborns feel alone and uncomfortable when they are lying alone in their bed.
Your baby gets enough milk, when
- the baby doesn’t lose more than 10% weight in the first days
- the baby no longer loses weight after day four
- the baby starts to grow starting at day five
- the baby urinates enough: day 1 - urinates once, day 2 - urinates twice, day 3 – urinates three times, etc. until he has a full diaper at every feeding from day six. Your baby poops every day.
Breastfeeding: out of milk?
Around the tenth day, many women experience that their baby is restless. Your baby wants to drink often and your breasts can feel empty. This is normal and does not mean you are out of milk. It is a growth spurt day. Your body has quietly switched to another control system for milk production. This doesn’t always happen without any resistance. What you can do: latch your baby on as often as he or she wants and check whether the drinking is effective. By drinking often your baby will give your body a signal that it needs to continue making milk. After a few days, you will usually notice that your baby sleeps a little longer.
These growth spurt days can also occur around six weeks, around three months and sometimes in between these times. Your milk production is robust and will return.
Breast milk or formula?
Naturally, the choice is up to you whether you choose breast or bottle milk. Breastfeeding is still best, there is no discussion about this. Important elements, such as antibodies and living cells to protect the baby against infections, can simply not be put in formula. In addition, breastfeeding reduces the chance of developing allergies (asthma, eczema). Read more about feeding your child in this article.
Breastfeeding is a natural process that takes practice, especially during the first week. It is important to get the production going and for the baby to learn how to latch on properly. You are supported in this by your obstetrician or care giver. There is also a lactation consultant (breastfeeding expert) who can offer advice if necessary.
Problems with breastfeeding in the first week are generally short-term and are easy to solve.
Sometimes you need some extra support when breastfeeding. You can always contact a lactation consultant, doctor or obstetrician.