While I have successfully breastfed all three of my babies, I had two very different experiences between my first baby and my subsequent babies.
Nursing a newborn baby is not always easy, and a lot of support will be needed to get off to a good start.
If you are having trouble with low supply or latch please meet with a lactation consultant. It can make all the difference in your success.
Nursing my first baby
When my daughter was born I did not attempt to nurse her right away. I remember my husband telling me I should, but the nurse said I could wait a few hours.
By the time I tried my baby was too sleepy and would not latch on at all. That night she was taken to the NICU after having a choking incident. She had swallowed some fluid during delivery and needed to be monitored.
Since she was in the NICU, I had to walk over every two hours and attempt to nurse. It was very hard to get her to latch and she was being given formula to supplement right away.
I really didn't know what I was doing. The hospital lactation consultant got me set up pumping so my milk supply would not suffer. She also gave me a nipple shield to use because my daughter would not latch.
Once home we did get the hang of nursing and dropped the formula after the first night but it was a rough and slow start. I wanted to quit more than anything but something kept me going.
I would tell myself just to take it one week at a time and then my goal was to make it to six weeks, then three months, then six months and eventually over a year.
Nursing my second baby
My son on the other hand was a much better start. I was experienced so I am sure that helped. I nursed him minutes after birth and continued to put him to the breast every hour pretty much the entire time in the hospital.
He didn't have to go the NICU and I slept with him attached to me in the hospital bed. We had tons of skin to skin time.
I did still meet with a lactation consultant to get a few tips but it went so much better. I still had my periods of doubt and wondering if he was getting enough milk but overall it was much less stressful.
My tips for nursing a newborn
It's hard, really really hard. If this is your first baby it will feel like all you do is nurse and you cannot have a bit of your body to yourself or rest for yourself.
This was really hard for me the first time around. I didn't understand cluster feeding and I just wanted more time between feedings.
In the first few days you will not see much milk while baby is only getting colostrum. This is enough for them even though it may not seem like it.
Your baby will need to eat every 2-3 hours. I always found it was the shorter end of this. This is from the beginning of the last feeding. That means if your baby nurses for an hour and is ready to eat two hours after that then you will only have an hour break.
You will need to wake up every couple of hours at night to feed your baby. Newborns need to eat 8-12 times in 24 hours. I found this to be on the high end as well for the first several weeks.
You will probably want to record feedings during this time. I used an iPhone app and a piece of paper to record feedings and which side they last fed on.
Try to embrace the break and spend this time with your baby attached to your breast as much as possible. Sit on the couch or in bed with your baby.
Grab your phone or tablet and watch a series marathon on TV. Have your partner bring you food and drinks. Drink tons of water.
If you can remember it's temporary and set yourself up with some good entertainment it really helps. This was hard for me the first time around. I wanted to get stuff done, clean up around the house. If my baby was asleep I wanted to do things for myself.
Eventually I figured out the cluster feeding and even enjoyed the downtime (aka sitting on the couch while baby nursed for hours) but it took a long time.
The second time around I was all ready for that break and to relax while nursing but now I had a toddler too so it wasn't as easy.
Even so, it was better the second time because I knew it was temporary and change was right around the corner. I was able to enjoy it more and not stress as much. It was still exhausting but I wasn't as worried about it all which was nice.
The first six weeks are pretty much like nursing boot camp to me. You nurse round the clock for very long periods of time. It can take the baby 15 minutes per breast or more.
You are sleep deprived and probably feel overwhelmed. It does get easier! Once you get past six weeks it calms down a bit. Once you get to three months you probably will really have the hang of it.
Some products to help while breastfeeding during the newborn phase:
- Your phone, a life saver of connection to the outside world.
- Boppy Pillow.
- An app to track feedings, I use Baby Connect.
- I also like the milk bands bracelets for helping track which side you are on. If you are obsessive like me you can use an app, a bracelet and a piece of paper :).
- Nursing sleep bras or nursing tanks.
- Lanolin or something to soothe the nipples, nursing pads or gel pads.
- A comfortable place to sit. I have used gliders and nursing stools as well as reclining couches and chairs. They are all very comfortable while breastfeeding.
- A sling or wrap to wear your baby. This is so helpful. It allows you to get things done around the house and you can even nurse in some of them. I have used a Boba Wrap, a Sakura Bloom Ring Sling and an Ergo once baby is a little bigger.
- You may need a pump if you are having supply or latch issues. Renting a hospital one for the very early days may be helpful.
Try to embrace this short period of your baby's life
It may feel like forever but in the grand scheme of your baby's life it is a very short period of time.
It is a huge adjustment and change but you will make it. Set small goals of a day, week or month and you will get there! Please let me know if you have any questions about this period of time.
And if you need more help with nursing a newborn baby and surviving cluster feeding, check out my post about cluster feeding which covers it all!