Once you have your baby, your life will be consumed by two factors: healing physically from childbirth, and learning how to breastfeed. You have probably heard a hundred times, “Sleep now while you can.” People tell you this because in the first six to eight weeks of your baby’s life, she will wake you up every few hours to nurse. Yet this labor of love will provide a wonderful platform for helping you to bond with your baby.
The First Week of Breastfeeding Your Newborn Baby
Breastfeeding a newborn baby tends to overwhelm mothers at first. Having a helper around the house to do dishes, run errands and make meals will allow you to focus completely on nursing and bonding.
For the first two to five days after you give birth, your breasts will be full of colostrum. Rich in antibodies, this fluid will build your baby’s immune system. You want your baby to drink as much colostrum as possible.
After two to five days, your milk will “come in,” causing your breasts to become very full and even engorged. Engorgement refers to an uncomfortably hard and swollen feeling. Cope with engorgement in the following ways:
- Massage your breasts in the shower.
- Use ice packs on your breasts prior to feeding.
- Massage the breast while your baby nurses. This encourages milk to let down and flow more quickly into her mouth.
- Pump some of the excess milk. Just try to limit pumping, as it will increase milk production.
You will know if your baby is getting enough milk by monitoring how many wet and dirty diapers she has each day. Your baby should have approximately one dirty diaper the first day, two the second day, three the third day, and three to four each day after that. She should have six-eight wet diapers a day.
Just as babies struggle to learn how to breastfeed, they may also have a hard time burping at first. Try burping your baby on your shoulder or laid down with her chin over your knee. You can either pat her back or rub gently from the base to the top of her spine. You should burp your baby after each feeding to minimize gas, which tends to overwhelm newborns.
Pain While Breastfeeding
Not only will you feel enormously exhausted in the first few postpartum weeks, but you will have to cope with some pain while breastfeeding. Take comfort in the fact that these challenging aspects will be mixed together with joy and elation as you get to know your new baby.
Have you ever been told that you shouldn’t stretch or exercise to the point of pain? While breastfeeding, your body uses the sensation of pain to tell you that your baby hasn’t latched onto your breast correctly. If you feel strong, sharp pain while your baby nurses, take her off the breast, and try again. Some women still haven’t gotten this part down until after they leave the hospital.
Your nipples will feel very tender while your baby nurses.