Some babies are very sleepy during the first few days after birth. Others are more wakeful, demanding, need to be nurtured by you and fed more frequently. As there is only colostrum in the breast for the first two to three days after delivery, putting baby to the breast for short periods of time, 5-10 minutes every two to three hours, or as often as you feel is necessary, can be a comfort and a natural bonding period for you both.
By the time you leave the hospital you hopefully will have been advised and helped to latch your baby onto the breast and will have fed him on several occasions, throughout the days and nights you were there.
The midwife caring for you will assist you with latching your baby on to your breast, as it is very important during this time in hospital that your baby learns to suckle. This will enable you to be more confident when you leave and more knowledgeable about positioning and feeding your little one.
Every baby is an individual, unique and special. A newborn is a baby in their first month of life. After the first month a baby becomes an infant until they are around twelve months old.
One of the key concerns for many new parents is when to feed their newborn and how often, after they arrive home.
Initially, feeding on-demand is recommended to establish the breastfeeding relationship, especially in evenings when prolactin is highest. Once you feel comfortable with breastfeeding your newborn, feeding every three hours in the first few weeks helps to establish a good milk supply which, in most circumstances, eventually leads to a satisfied, well-nourished and contented baby. The three hour period is timed from the start of the time when you last fed your newborn (e.g.if that was 7am, the next feed would be 10am and so on through the day until the last feed at approximately 11pm).
You can then settle your newborn in bed for the night and leave him to waken naturally, so you at least can get some well-earned sleep before the next feed. This could be in two hours, three hours or if you are lucky in four hours’ time. If you carry out this practice in the first few weeks, feeding every three hours from the time your baby wakes for their first early-morning feed until you retire at night, by the time your infant reaches the age of six weeks they could be sleeping for periods of four to five hours at night and at least, two hours between feeds during the day (discussed further in the Breastfeeding topic).
A good book to by as a first-time mother who wants to breastfeed is What To Expect When You’re Breast Feeding… And What if You Can’t by Clare Byam-Cook, well in advance of having her baby.
This book explains in very clear detail what to expect and how to deal with any situation to do with breastfeeding that may arise. Reading it in advance will give you considerable confidence and help overcome any doubts you may have. It is a wonderful reference book for any first-time mother.
Another book well worth reading is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International, it was one of the only breastfeeding books available in the 1960s.
The importance of responding sensitively and in a consistent manner to your baby’s needs during the first year of his life helps significantly in achieving a secure attachment for the infant in later life. If a caregiver responds quickly to the needs of a crying baby in the early months of the first year, this will reduce the amount of crying by the infant in later months of that year, as a bond of trust, understanding and confidence will have built up between baby and carer.
Key Points To Take Away
- Some newborns are sleepy during their first few days and some are more awake and demanding
- The hospital midwifes will help teach you how to breastfeed your baby and how they latch on to the breast
- Most mothers are concerned about when to feed their baby and how often
- Feed your newborn every 3 hours from the start of when you last fed them and leave the baby to wake up naturally at night
- 2 informative books to read are
What to Expect when you’re Beast Feeding… and What if you Can’t
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
- Responding sensitively and with a consistent manner to baby’s need in the first few months helps achieve a secure attachment
- Responding quickly to the needs of a crying baby in the early months of the first year helps reduce crying later on as the baby will build trust and confidence
NOTE: A newborn is a baby in their first month of life. After the first month a baby becomes an infant until they are twelve months old.