After the baby is born - aaaah, such beautiful memories. It can be a bit odd though. You've been pregnant for 9 months or so and suddenly you're not and there's a baby to care for. It's almost like that old saying of the stork delivering a baby to you!
That first hour after I gave birth I was in that amazing post-birth high of hormones, but I was also ridiculously tired after 48 hours not sleeping from a long pre labour.
In all the reading I'd done, I'd noticed that the first hour after the baby is born is the perfect time to establish your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. It is at this time that the baby first begins to use the reflexes involved in suckling.
Rushing, confusing or missing this first breastfeed is a common reason for new mothers to have difficulty with breastfeeding over the longer term.
Anyway, as you can see in this video, breast crawl is this awesomely inspiring thing that shows you just how innate breastfeeding can be. Unfortunately for me I was so tired (and I'm sure my bubba was too) that I just couldn't quite get him in the right spot and he couldn't quite get himself co-ordinated.
If my husband had been able to help me, that first month after birth may have been easier!
Somewhere between 15-75 minutes after the baby is born, you will see your newborns first signs that they are ready to initiate breastfeeding:
Seeing these signs means you know your baby is ready to attach and suckle for the first time. These motions of bobbing and licking and sticking their tongue out are important reflexes to allow to establish a good sucking motion for the latch, rather than one which just rubs your nipple across the roof of their mouth.
There is a tremendous hormonal rush after birth which helps the bonding process for both mother and baby. To make the most of this:
During this first hour after the baby is born, your baby will psychologically imprint your smell and what you look like. Even if the birth has not been an easy one all new mothers should be given this first hour at least to have skin to skin contact with their newborn unless there is a medical reason which prevents this. This will give the baby the opportunity to initiate their suckling reflexes, and breast crawl and baby led latch can occur.
I was really fortunate to work in health care for 6 years before having my first child and had heard lots of sad stories. One of the most common ones was a baby who was refusing to breastfeed.
A common mistake for mothers after the baby is born is to push the newborn's head to the breast, sometimes well before the baby has shown any sign of opening their mouth wide enough or protruding their tongue.
Doing this will create a poor latch and can cause problems later on. Being patient is the key. Wait for your baby's reflexes to be primed before initiating that first feed.
Sometimes the first breastfeed may be initiated too early by someone else such as a midwife pushing the baby's head onto the mother's breast. This can be traumatic for all involved and if this has happened to you, you may wish to seek help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. If you are willing to try to amend this by yourself first you can try baby led latching on your own.
For proper attachment to occur, the baby's head must be free to move backwards a little. This allows them to open their mouth wider and stick out their tongue further.
Many mothers also have their baby positioned too far across and this means the nipple either goes straight towards the baby's mouth or the baby has to tilt their head down to get to it.
Once you know about this, you'll see it really frequently. At work I notice it all the time. These poor "fussy babies" who "won't stay latched on" or"get really upset whilst breastfeeding" are often just poorly positioned. Sure there are things like reflux or neck pains from birth traumas, but the vast majority I see are just poor positioning.
Good positioning for an asymmetric latch means that your baby's upper lip is in line with your nipple so they have to tilt their head back a little to latch on, thus opening their mouth wider. This way they will have more of the areola in their lower lip than they do in their upper lip so their tongue is stimulating the areola and not the nipple.
The support your arms offer should be for their upper back and shoulders, allowing their head to rest on your arm but not pushing it forward yourself. If you are using the cross cradle hold make sure the hand that supports your baby's head is just supporting their face and not moving their head around. Allow your baby to position their own head. If you have them in the right spot they will naturally tilt their head back a little.
Now I know that I can say all this and you can think, okay, I'll make sure to try and get good positioning, but it doesn't really make sense unless you see it. The video below shows it really well. The twin on the left is attached well and feeding well, whereas the twin on the right is uncomfortable and not getting a good feed:
Some newborns attach and breastfeed really well after birth. For the ones that don't you may need to maintain your milk supply by breast pumping or hand expressing. Studies show that expressing by hand is the best option at this point, rather than using a breast pump.
After the baby is born, once you have established your breastfeeding relationship with your baby you are unlikely to have a period for some months, however, you may be fertile. As soon as you have a break between feeds after the baby is born that is longer than 5 hours (what some experts term as sleeping through, although most mothers don't really feel like they are getting the sleep they need at this point!) which will most likely happen somewhere between 4-16 weeks after birth. It helps to know your signs of ovulation so you can monitor your fertility status.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that baby blues can be a problem for many women. If you're still pregnant or if you are worried about postpartum depressionbecoming an issue for you check out the Postpartum Living website. Dedicated to women suffering from postpartum depression, this site contains a wealth of information, resources and articles. Includes symptoms, screening, personal stories, and options for holistic and alternative methods for treating postpartum depression.
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