You've taken the classes, reread the chapter yoga breathing, and packed your bags. You're ready to deliver! Before you do, lactation consultants, those specially trained to assist with breast feeding, have some special advice to help you get through the first few days with your new baby. Read on for instant parental support!
1. Skin–to–skin contact is medically important — and different from snuggling a swaddled baby
Being outside the womb is a big adjustment for babies. At the same time, new parents are just getting to know their little one. The perfect activity for both is skin–to–skin contact. It's not only soothing but it has health benefits:
- Releases hormones that relieve stress and stabilize your baby's temperature, breathing rate, heart rate and blood sugar
- Release hormones that lower mom's stress and promote healing
- Helps your colostrum flow more easily
- Exposure to your normal skin bacteria helps your baby develop their own immunity
Studies show babies who have skin–to–skin contact with their parents also cry less, gain weight faster, and experience brain–building benefits well into childhood. Moms who practice skin–to–skin contact rest more and experience fewer baby blues. Dads who practice it feel more confident.
Make skin–to–skin part of your birth plan for the first 2 hours after delivery, then add it to your routine each day. There's no specific age when skin–to–skin should stop — it continues to provide positive benefits for baby.
2. Breastfeeding takes practice
Breastfeeding might be natural but it doesn't come easy. It typically takes about 6 weeks for mom and baby to work through the learning process and get into a routine. That's longer than most parents think it should take so they often give up. It simply takes practice, patience and the advice of a good lactation consultant to help "coach" your practice and make helpful adjustments.
3. No one tells you how challenging the second night can be – but it's real!
On the second night, babies are fussy and often nurse on and off for hours. Many new parents are caught off guard and assume that their babies are starving – but the reality is they've had a day to rest and are now aware that their world is very different, so they are seeking comfort.
If you've left the hospital, the second night can be an exhausting surprise unless you're prepared for it. Plan to hold your baby skin–to–skin and allow baby to touch, smell and listen to you — without scratch mittens on. If your baby wants to nurse but then falls asleep, you can break the suction without moving him and snuggle until he falls into a deep sleep. Second night challenges can stretch into the early morning hours so plan for an all–nighter.
4. Your body produces enough
It's normal to worry that tiny amounts of colostrum aren't enough for your baby or even that your milk supply isn't adequate. Here's something that may make you feel better: a healthy–term baby's stomach is the size of a marble!
Up to a 10% weight loss in the first week is normal and most babies regain that weight in 10–14 days. The best indicator that your baby is getting enough to eat is… output. By day 5 a health full–term infant should be producing 5+ wet diapers and 3–4+ dirty diapers in a 24–hour period.
5. You can breastfeed during stress or anxiety
Relaxing can help facilitate breastfeeding and let–down of milk. But life isn't perfect and some days you'll nurse when you're tired, stressed, angry, or crying. What then? A recent series of studies showed that postpartum depression or anxiety can affect the amount of immunoglobin A (IgA), which transfers immunity from mother to baby, in breast milk. The research has also shown that cortisol, the hormone released under stress, can enter breast milk too.
Don't let this news — or depression or stress themselves – rush you to formula feed. The same studies also determined that breast milk contains oxytocin which enhances the feeling of intimacy or bonding, and the act of breast feeding (regardless of your state of mind) has real, definable, emotional benefits for your child. Accept that emotions are normal and having your child see you experience and handle yours — even at an early age — is an essential piece of their development.
Join a supportive community of new parents in the area by attending the Big Latch On
This synchronized breastfeeding is a global event happening right here at Reston Hospital Center on Saturday, August 3, 2019 from 9–11 a.m. Get all the details about this free, family–friendly social event and preregister here.