I have always believed that life is not fulfilled until you give birth to a child and feeding infants has always been something I've looked forward to. After a long pre labour and a 13 hour established labour our little man finally arrives in the world: screaming, pink and slippery. The smell of him is amazing, and his little cry melts my heart.
I have watched some videos (Breast Crawl in a One Hour Old is an excellent one) about feeding newborns and the first feed and really you just don't realize that time is passing while you're actually watching your little person figure out what to do. We waited for him to show some feeding cues like licking his lips and bobbing about. I had really wanted to let him self attach and find his way, but my midwife encouraged me to position him a little more actively (I later found out that it had taken over an hour in what seemed like five minutes for me and she was worried that the placenta hadn't yet been delivered). Besides it didn't feel right to have him just lying in the center of my chest as he was screaming so loudly for a newborn, so I had him more in the cradle hold.
Latching on for the first time was really awkward for me, Just holding such a slippery little baby was amazing and I was exhausted from 38 hours without sleep. His little lips, though wide open when screaming, was so close together that he didn't really make enough room for the nipple. I tried a few times to just let him get on himself, but when it became obvious that he wasn't going to do it on his own very quickly my midwife (who was also a lactation consultant) encouraged me to "shape up" the nipple by gently squeezing either side of it to make a longer, skinnier shape that would more easily fit in his mouth (check out this video for how to shape your nipple). This was so awkward to coordinate with his random bobbing and mouth opening, feeding infants is certainly challenging!
Eventually we got him on, and though it didn't last long, it was pretty amazing. The very fact that a newborn can just know what to do with their mouth is pretty impressive.
That night, time passed both slowly and quickly at the same time. He was born at 9:20 and by the time I was finished being stitched up it was 1:30 am, so I was getting close to 48 hours without sleep and was completely overtired and overstimulated. My beautiful little man had another few tries of latching on overnight and slept on my chest with me only getting about an hours sleep a bit later on when my husband took him for me.
My top tips for feeding newborns on that amazing first day:
- Watch a few breastfeeding videos first to get an idea of what you'll need to do
- Discuss with your care team (obstetricians, midwives, husbands/partner) your plans for breastfeeding to get an idea of whether they will be supportive of you and whether they can offer any advice prior to the birth. Consider changing your team members (ie finding a new obstetrician) if they are unlikely to be supportive.
- Try for skin to skin contact for an hour after the birth - this is the best time to establish your bond with your baby and can make breastfeeding easier later.
- Be ready for it to be awkward. Although feeding infants is the most natural thing in the world, it is still a learning experience for both you and your newborn. Even second and third time mothers comment that it takes a while to establish a breastfeeding relationship with subsequent newborns.
- Check out the After the Baby is Born page for other tips to make your first experiences as good as possible
- Try to avoid letting any well meaning midwives forcing your baby's head onto your breast - in my experience this is the most common cause of babies refusing to breastfeed
My First Baby
Feeding Infants - My Son's Birthday
My Second Baby