It’s finally here! Your baby will be in your arms very soon, and it’s so hard to wait. There are a few things you should keep in mind about breast-feeding when you head to the hospital to meet your new arrival. Make your intent to breast-feed clear when you check in to Labor and Delivery. Staff will make sure your breast-feeding goals are met. Ask that when your baby is born, if everyone is medically stable, that the baby be put directly on your chest for skin-to-skin time during the first hour of life. Babies who are allowed to remain in contact with the mom’s bare chest for the first hour of life, clothed only in a diaper, are more successful breast-feeders. Even moms who do not intend to breast-feed should consider skin-to-skin bonding; it is a wonderful time for the new family.
Try to keep your baby with you at all times during your hospital stay. Practice 24-hour rooming-in. This has been shown to increase breast-feeding success, as well as help you get to know your baby and learn his or her feeding cues. Nurse your baby frequently and whenever he or she is hungry. Babies tell us they are hungry by opening and closing their eyes, clenching their fists, bringing their hands to their mouths and rooting. Crying is a late sign of hunger. Learn to watch the baby, not the clock. A newborn will nurse a whole lot – approximately 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Try to avoid pacifiers and bottles in the first two weeks of life. Getting milk from your breast requires totally different mouth/tongue movements then sucking on a pacifier or a bottle nipple. This can make it difficult for the infant to learn to latch on to the breast.
Avoid formula supplements if not medically necessary. Ask questions and speak to your pediatrician if someone tells you your baby needs formula. Practice skin-to-skin contact as often as possible. The hospital encourages a “quiet time” every afternoon during which interruptions are minimized and mom and baby can spend some quality time in close contact with one another.
Remember that before your milk comes in, usually on day two to five after your baby is born, you will be producing colostrum, or “liquid gold.” This is a very concentrated, high-protein substance with lots of antibodies (natural immunizations). You can think of it as an immune-boosting energy drink for your newborn. He or she doesn’t need a whole lot of it, in fact, most women only make 2 to 20 ml/day of colostrum. It also acts as a laxative to help clear your baby’s bowels of meconium.
When it is time to go home, make sure you see your pediatrician within one to two days of discharge from the hospital. Also be sure that you leave with a list of numbers and resources you can access for breast-feeding help.