Here is what you need to learn to know what to expect when nursing your newborn. These nursing tips and tricks will make breastfeeding a success.
We have all heard the old saying ‘breast is best’ and there is some truth to it. Nursing a baby is the best way to soothe an overtired infant and is a strong bonding moment for mothers and newborns. Many research papers prove the benefits of nursing babies on demand for their health, well-being, emotional, and cognitive development. Nevertheless, that does not mean it always comes naturally or easily to first-time mothers. Some babies need a loving, helping hand to latch on. In addition, to know how to breastfeed successfully, as a mother, you need to know what to expect when nursing your newborn.
Nursing your baby has its share of ups and downs. It can be an intensely loving, bonding experience, or it can be painful and tiring when it doesn’t go quite as planned. Luckily, being prepared for what to expect when nursing your newborn, wins half the battle. Here’s what you need to know about breastfeeding your newborn.
What you need to know about nursing your newborn
Whether you give birth naturally or via cesarean section, putting your baby on the breast in the first few hours after birth is imperative. For most mothers, their milk still hasn’t come in yet but frequent stimulation will speed this up. In the first days after birth, newborns need very little food and the mother’s body responds by producing colostrum. This is a yellowy substance, which provides babies with nutrients and antibodies they need to fight infections in the early days. Newborns only need a few teaspoons at a time, which might be all you’re producing.
In the first weeks after birth, frequent and/or long feedings are normal. The baby and mom are getting used to one another and you can expect varying nursing patterns in your newborn. If you are unsure what to expect with newborn night feedings, remember that babies are different and some will wake up every 2 hours to nurse while others can go 4 or 6 hours without a feed.
Because breast milk comes in three stages, it will change by the week and each formulation is designed to meet your newborn’s nursing needs. Three to five days after birth is when colostrum is replaced with transitional milk. Transitional milk looks like a mixture of orange juice and milk and is produced between colostrum and mature breast milk.
Between the tenth day and the second week is when mature milk finally comes in. It’s white and slightly thinner than transitional milk. It resembles watery skim milk and can appear bluish at first.
It can be discouraging if nursing your newborn doesn’t go as planned. Frequent challenges with breastfeeding a baby include sore nipples, insufficient milk supply, fussy babies, pain during latching and problems with lactation, to name a few. However, there are plenty of ways to stimulate lactation, help the baby latch on, treat sore nipples and increase milk supply.
Image of a mother nursing her baby in bed
Whether you choose the nursing on demand approach or prefer to pump and bottle-feed, there are several breastfeeding to bottle-feeding basics to make this process a success.
Things to Know About Nursing Your Newborn
We already mentioned that frequent nursing in the early weeks is important to establish a good milk supply. Most newborns need to nurse 8 – 12+ times per day and you can’t go wrong with breastfeeding whenever your baby needs it.
If you want to know how to successfully nurse your newborn, start by feeding your baby at the first signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth). Don’t wait until the baby is crying as it will be harder to soothe a fussy baby. Allow the baby unlimited time on the breast when sucking actively, then offer the second breast. Remember the benefits of nursing – it is about more than nourishment for babies. They nurse when they’re hungry or thirsty but also when they want to be reassured, comforted, held and feel loved, protected and cared for.
As long as baby is gaining well just by nursing, then milk supply is good. In addition to regular weight checks, monitor the number of wet and dirty diapers to see if your baby is getting enough milk. Everything you eat or drink ends up in your milk, so be mindful of your diet. A well-fed mother means a well-fed baby. You are what you eat, and a healthy postpartum diet is key to breastfeeding success.
Nursing your newborn can be an emotional roller coaster in the beginning, but with a little time and patience, you will get the hang of it. Be patient and kind to yourself. Breastfeeding is a precious way to nourish and bond with your baby and well worth the effort.