The day of your baby’s birth is a unique experience, whether you are a first time parent or you’re doing it all over again. For as your baby is born, so are you as a parent, this particular mother-baby dyad is as unique as your newborn.
Although over the years to come on your child’s birthday you will hopefully look back on the day you finally met your child and became their parent as the wonderful and transformative experience it was, in the moment it can be quite overwhelming. You are probably in a haze of exhaustion and euphoria, having overcome the physical strain of labour and delivery or Caesarean birth to finally marvel at your first glimpse of your newborn.
After all that the thought of trying to breastfeed for the first time can be daunting. This is normal. Try not to worry or overthink things at this stage. Your body has grown a whole new person, it is amazing! Breastfeeding is the biologically normal next step of this process and most mothers are physically able to do it. Unlike pregnancy however, it is a learned skill, and most mothers need support to hone that skill. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance and support from your family and the healthcare professionals around you, even if you just need them to pass you a glass of water!
When your baby is brand new, don’t put pressure on yourself, hold your baby close to you, skin to skin, this will help to relax both of you and regulate baby’s heart rate and breathing. Take this time to calm yourself, and breathe. Get to know your baby’s scent, and try to decide who she looks like. Your baby will show you when she is ready to feed with feeding cues such as opening her eyes, smacking her lips, bringing her hands to her mouth, and turning her head and opening her mouth when you touch her cheek. Crying is a late sign of hunger- if your baby is crying, it will be easier for both of you if you settle her first before trying to feed.
When you feel ready, bring your baby to your breast and try feeding. You may want to try this by yourself or ask your midwife to help you. When starting off, try to stay in the moment. Focus on the first feed and take things one feed at a time. The first milk your breasts produce is called colostrum and is rich in protein and antibodies to help protect your baby from infections. It also seeds your baby’s gut with helpful bacteria and has a laxative effect. As baby’s stomach is very small in the early days it is very concentrated and a little goes a long way. Giving your baby the first feed will give her the benefits of colostrum and her stimulating your breast will cause the release of oxytocin in your body which helps your womb to contract and help to reduce your risk of post partum haemorrhage. It is normal for babies to feed very often in the early days of breastfeeding as they build up your milk supply. This is a part of normal breastfeeding and not a sign that they need more milk. Positioning of your baby and latching on is a key skill for feeding. To find out more about this, see our web page on breastfeeding positions and latching.
It is important to believe in yourself and be confident in your own ability to breastfeed. With the right support you are highly likely to be successful in your breastfeeding journey. Your own positive mindset is key to achieving your goals, whether they are to breastfeed until natural term weaning or just for that first feed, be proud of yourself.
Have you a story about your first feed? Or any advice for new parents? Share it below