Breastfeeding: The first two weeks

Bonding with your baby is an incredible process that starts with hearing their heartbeat, feeling those first kicks and meeting them for the very first time. Every moment becomes a milestone and if you’re a nursing mother, that first latch can be the beginning of an incredible breastfeeding journey. Nursing your newborn can be both rewarding and challenging in those first few weeks. While every mother and every baby are different, these tips can help answer some common questions you might have when navigating this new relationship and routine.

How do I know if baby is hungry?
When they aren’t sleeping, newborn babies seem to eat almost constantly. This is completely normal. In the first few days after birth, babies need to remain in close contact with your breasts. This not only provides easier access for frequent feedings, but also helps stimulate your milk supply. Current recommendations are to ensure newborns have access to meals around the clock and should average out to be at least eight feedings in a 24-hour period.

What if baby is sleeping?
In the early days, it is common to need to wake a drowsy baby so they know it’s mealtime. Sleepy babies don’t tend to eat for long, so try to wake your little one by removing an article of clothing or changing their diaper. Gently rub the tummy or feet and place baby skin to skin, all while talking to, and encouraging them to leave their dreamy state.

How do I keep baby awake during feedings?
Sometimes babies become so relaxed during feedings they drift off to sleep, even if they’ve only been eating for a few minutes. If this happens, gently play with their feet, rub their cheeks, talk to your little one, or gently blow on their arms. With extra sleepy babies it can be helpful to gently rub a wet washcloth on them to help remind them it’s time to eat. Signs of a good feed are active suckling at the breast with occasional audible swallows.

What is reclined latching?
Reclined latching, also known as “baby led latching,” can be a wonderful breastfeeding position. If you have a chair that reclines, sit in it and gently recline the head back so you are in a comfortable position. Place baby parallel to your chest so that baby has access to your breast. Allow them to bob and move their head around, and eventually they will reach the bullseye and latch on. This position is great for giving baby a deeper latch. If you notice nipple pain, gently detach the baby from the breast and try again.

How should I handle nighttime feedings?
During night feedings, try to keep mealtimes as quiet and boring as possible. Dim the lights and avoid changing a diaper if you don’t have to. Once baby wakes up fully they tend to be up and ready for playtime, despite it being 3:30 in the morning.

Where can I find support?
Leaning on friends and family who are nursing or who have breastfed can make a world of difference during the early days of your journey. You can also find professional support. Do not hesitate to seek the guidance of a lactation consultant. They are professionals who went through additional training all with the desire to help during this learning process.

Remember to breathe — you will find your routine. The first few weeks of the newborn stage can be exhausting; there is no doubt about it. This is a learning experience for both of you. Remember baby is trying to figure out this whole breastfeeding thing just as much as you are. Sleep when baby is sleeping. Dirty laundry and dishes can wait just a little while longer. Be patient with yourself, and eventually the family will settle into a routine. It does get easier!

Author

Ginny Bowers is a Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at Chesapeake Women’s Health in Easton.
Breastfeeding Resources

Breastfeeding Basics Class: Learn how to prepare for breastfeeding, how to hold your baby, how often and how long to feed, how to avoid common problems and much more.

Breastfeeding Warm Line: Anne Arundel Medical Center’s lactation staff is available to answer any questions you might have about breastfeeding. You can reach our consultants seven days a week via our Warm Line at 443-481-6977. Simply leave a message and they’ll return your call between 9 am and 4 pm the same day. You can also e-mail our lactation staff anytime at lactationdept@aahs.org.

Breastfeeding Support Group: Breastfeeding mothers are welcome to this gathering on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. The group is led by Kim Knight, a board-certified lactation consultant. The group is very informal and welcoming to breastfeeding mothers regardless of experience or degree of commitment. Bring your baby!

Find a Lactation Consultant: A board-certified lactation consultant can help address your breastfeeding concerns or challenges. You can find one in your area through the United States Lactation Consultant Association directory.

Breastfeeding and the Working Mother: Learn the secrets to maintaining a good milk supply, the proper use of your breast pump and proper feeding of baby while away from mom.

Back to Work and Breastfeeding Support Group: Discuss questions and concerns common to nursing moms who returned to work. Share your experiences and hear new ideas on how to continue to work and breastfeed successfully. This group meets the first Friday of every month at the Big Vanilla in Pasadena.

AAMC Smart Parents: Join our Facebook community focused on the journey of parenthood. This is a safe, non-judgmental group to ask questions and get answers from local moms and dads, and AAMC experts.