Breastfeeding a Newborn: Tips for the First Few Days
Let’s face it – the first hours and days of breastfeeding can be rough. You feel committed to breastfeeding and know it’s the healthiest, best choice for both you and your baby. But you may be exhausted after delivery, and small setbacks can feel overwhelming. I get that. I’ve been there!
The first time I tried to breastfeed my first baby, things didn’t go well. A lactation consultant came to help me get started, and with her there, it seemed so easy – position, latch, suck. Piece of cake (with a side of milk)! After she left, I tried again on my own. My baby just wasn’t interested. So I waited and tried again later but couldn’t get him to latch on. I couldn’t get comfortable or figure out how to hold him the “right” way. I felt like a failure and just sat there crying.
Luckily that wonderful lactation consultant came back! Here’s what she taught me:
- Try to rest when your baby sleeps. Your baby is tired after birth, just like you. They’ll be awake and soon ready to feed very frequently. Most babies go from sleepy and hard to wake on the first day, to wanting to feed all the time on the 2nd or 3rd day (usually at night).
- Hold your baby skin to skin, and they’ll let you know when they’re ready to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is more than food to the baby, it’s comfort and security! Skin-to-skin contact lets them smell, touch, and get to know you.
- Watch for cues they’re ready to try to feed again: lip licking, rooting, putting their hand to their mouth.
- Try to feed every 3 hours. It’s normal for your baby to be sleepy, but don’t stress if they don’t feed well every time. Practicing breastfeeding is important, too!
- Don’t worry if you don’t get much milk volume – just a little bit is enough to satisfy your newborn’s tiny tummy. Your first milk called “colostrum,” comes out in small amounts and is the perfect food for your newborn – it’s exactly what they need in the beginning! Your milk will come in fully by day 3 or 4.
Before I was sent home with my son, my lactation consultant gave me a few more tips.
Breastfeeding gets easier with time. You and your baby are still learning. Every time you nurse, your body gets signals to make more milk.
Try not to worry that you aren’t making enough milk. You and your baby are a team that’s naturally built for success! We expect babies to lose some weight in the first week of life, but they’ll start gaining soon. We’ll let you know if they’re getting enough milk after weighing them at each appointment.
It’s normal for your baby to cry – in fact, newborns may cry for up to 2 hours a day! Crying doesn’t always mean your baby is hungry or that something is wrong.
Use these steps to help calm your crying baby:
- Try to figure out why they’re crying – diaper change, too hot/cold, overstimulated, tired, hungry, uncomfortable.
- Hold your baby close to you skin to skin.
- Repeat the same action over and over – singing or speaking softly, gently rocking/swaying/bouncing, softly massaging back/arms/legs. Be patient; calming your baby takes time.
Cluster feeding, or feeding in spurts, is normal. Frequent nursing is your baby’s way of increasing your milk supply. While this can be tiring, hang in there. It gets easier with time! Aim to feed 10 or more times per 24 hours – but not on any schedule yet. This averages to every 2 to 3 hours, but often occurs in spurts of feeding and then sleep time. Sleep when they sleep!
It’s normal and healthy for babies to wake and feed frequently during the night. Nighttime feedings help increase your milk supply and give your baby more calories and protein. Have your baby sleep in your room in a bassinet or crib next to you. Keeping your baby nearby is safest, makes breastfeeding easier, helps your milk volume increase, and calms your baby.
Keeping your baby safe and well fed starts with taking care of you! Rest, eat, and drink enough fluids to keep your urine clear. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. Try to sit back and let your family take care of you, the housework, and chores – you’re busy growing a baby and healing!
Remember, there’s a learning curve for you and your baby – it’ll get easier! And when it doesn’t feel easy at all or you have questions, know that it’s normal to need support for breastfeeding.
At Kaiser Permanente, we have lactation consultants to help you:
- In the hospital after giving birth
- By phone 24/7 at our Appointment and Advice Call Center at 1-866-454-8855
- At most of our pediatric offices
We feel so strongly that every mom should have those resources that we’ve integrated them into pediatric care. We’re here to help.
Resources for breastfeeding mothers include:
- My Doctor Online App. Download our app and use it to email your doctor and your baby’s pediatrician.
- My Doctor Online. Visit our website for breastfeeding information and advice.
- Appointment and Advice Call Center at 1-866-454-8855. You can call us anytime, day or night, if you have pain with latching on, questions, or need other help.
This article was originally published on March 21, 2019.
Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.