As a parent-to-be, it is easy to focus primarily on the upcoming birth. But childbirth does not mean that you’ve crossed a finish line. In fact, that is when the race actually starts. The second after childbirth marks the start of your new life with your newborn and breastfeeding. The same rules apply as for a marathon. The better prepared you are ahead of the process, the better things will work out. Once you’ve decided you want to nurse exclusively or partially, the next step is to learn how a newborn infant acts immediately after birth, how you best go about bonding with your infant and how to get breastfeeding started and running smoothly.
The three keys to successful breastfeeding
Three keys have proven to be significant for breastfeeding in the long term. If you know about these already during your pregnancy, you improve your chances of successful breastfeeding.
1) Hold your infant constantly skin-to-skin (baby’s airways free) Skin-to-skin contact means that your little one lies like a tiny frog on your belly wearing only diapers, with airways and nose is unobstructed. Your newborn will feel the warmth of your body, hear your heartbeat (as throughout the pregnancy) and smell your scent. Lying in this manner immediately after birth, or as soon as possible, until baby sucks or falls asleep is good for breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact promotes the connection between baby and mother/co-parent according to several studies.
2) Stimulate the breast if baby does not suck A health infant that has gone full term can survive the first day without any breast milk/colostrum. However, to start the supply of breast milk even if your infant does not want to suck/nurse at the moment, you can start to stimulate milk production soon after childbirth. This is when the mother herself stimulates her breasts to produce more milk. It is called breast milk stimulation because it is common for no milk, or just a few drops, to come during the first few sessions. This is normal. If you continue to stimulate, milk production will start faster, and your milk supply will increase.
3) Baby has nine stages in finding the breast. Many healthy babies born at term follow this pattern—which is good to recognize—during the first hours after birth if placed skin-to-skin with the mother:
(1) Baby makes the birth cry, (2) relaxes and rests after birth, (3) awakens, looks, and makes small movements with the head, blinks and opens eyes, (4) makes mouthing and sucking movements, rooting and suck signals, moves the head, grabs hold with hands. (5) Baby then takes a break and rests a little, (6) moves toward the breast by crawling or sliding (often backwards). (7) Baby gets acquainted with the breast, by licking the nipple and massaging the breast. Be patient here and let baby take however much time is needed. After a while, baby will again start moving toward the breast. Baby might lie still, look at the mother and then start (8) to suck the breast and then (9) sleep.
How long it takes for your baby to go through the stages and start to breastfeed varies from infant to infant.