**This post is sponsored by Earth Mama Angel Baby**
I can’t believe it — my sweet baby is nearly 7 weeks old already. Time sure does fly!
This is our second post in “The Natural Baby” series, which is running throughout my son’s first year of life. We’re sharing what it’s like for us, as experienced natural parents of five, to walk through all the normal infant stuff. Join us on the 1st and 15th of each month to hear our adventures!
Today we’re talking breastfeeding!
Breastfeeding a Newborn — The First Time
I know that the prevailing thought about breastfeeding out there is — it’s natural, you’ll figure it out, it shouldn’t ever hurt — but that’s not entirely true.
When my first baby was born, I didn’t know how to hold her properly to breastfeed or how to make sure she was latched well. As a result, when she was 4 days old, I tried to nurse her every time she fussed, but she never seemed to take much and didn’t seem interested. Being a brand-new mom, I figured if she was hungry, she would eat.
She grew increasingly fussy throughout the day, and wouldn’t sleep. I kept trying to nurse and it kept not working. I called her doctor to ask what to do. The on call doctor told me to feed her something, anything — pump if I could, give formula if I couldn’t. I had some formula samples so I made a bottle and gave it to her. She sucked it down and finally fell asleep. I set her in her swing and cried. How could I have not figured it out sooner?
I bought a pump the next day and we eventually figured out latching properly and got breastfeeding to work for us.
Every one of my babies was a bit different. Some took to nursing immediately; some needed some help. Some needed more help than others. But I’ve learned a lot about the pitfalls associated with breastfeeding a newborn, now that *I* know what I am doing, even if baby doesn’t!
Teaching a Newborn to Breastfeed
Here’s the thing: newborns have instincts that help them to breastfeed effectively. But, moms have to know how to encourage those instincts, and they still may need some time to practice before they consistently get it right. There are some important things you should know!
The Breast Crawl
Every baby is born with the instincts to do what they call “the breast crawl.” This is where a brand-new baby is placed on mother’s abdomen, and slowly “crawls” up until they find the breast, then they latch on by themselves and start suckling. Babies who are separated from their mothers in the hour after birth do not always do this when reunited (especially if bathed — the amniotic fluid on their hands smells like mom’s nipple and it’s part of how they find it), and also may not if mom had a medicated birth. Unmedicated, non-separated babies who are healthy will always do it within an hour.
Newer research shows that the positions we’ve taught moms to use to breastfeed are wrong — in the sense that they’re not the easiest ones for mom or baby when learning. Instead, mom should recline in bed and place the baby on her abdomen with baby’s head near her breast. The baby should be tummy-to-tummy with mom and able to use his/her arms and legs to aid positioning. (You know how babies sometimes get their hands in the way of the breast while they’re squirming and trying to latch on? That’s because they’re trying to help but aren’t positioned so they can.) When baby is upright like this, they have to latch properly.
You can see in the photo above that Caleb is positioned kind of like this. He’s lying down my body, not across like a cradle hold. He’s almost tummy-to-tummy (he wouldn’t let me turn him all the way — he’d unlatch and get mad, lol). He’s not brand new in this picture, he’s 7 weeks, so he has his own ideas about the way he wants to lie! But, you get the idea.
With some babies, I found side-lying to be a good position as well. We were tummy-to-tummy and relaxed. Some moms find this position harder. Try different ones until you find one that really works for you and baby. (Once baby learns to breastfeed consistently, any position you both like will work. Older babies may even try to nurse standing upside down!)
Give it Time
In my experience, most babies need 4 – 7 days to figure out breastfeeding. They may latch on properly sometimes, but not other times — when they’re sleepy it’s harder. Many newborns won’t open their mouths wide enough and end up with a shallow latch. You’ll know if this is an issue if you feel ongoing pain as baby is suckling. If you feel pain basically every time baby’s mouth “closes” on your breast, the latch isn’t right. Try sticking your finger into baby’s mouth to break the latch and then remove baby (if you just pull baby off you’ll hurt yourself). Re-position baby and try again. Don’t be afraid to keep trying, and keep re-positioning until you find what works. And don’t give up if you are sore and it is difficult that first week — that’s pretty normal, and it’s happened to me with every baby.
Those first several days can be painful. There are plenty of ways to help mitigate the soreness while you and baby are learning to breastfeed. First, a quality nipple butter can make your nipples feel better, especially if they are actually cracked and bleeding (see a lactation consultant if that’s the case!). Earth Mama Angel Baby makes one that’s safe for you and baby — you don’t even need to wash it off before feeding again (and no lanolin, which I prefer). Get some before baby arrives, if possible, to have on hand.
Try keeping your shirt off as much as possible, because clothing putting pressure or rubbing against your nipples will increase soreness. Taking warm baths and putting your breasts in the water will help. If there are any sore spots (clogged ducts), be sure to massage them and keep nursing on the affected side. You can also take a hot shower and run the water over the sore spot.
Nourish Yourself Well
It’s easy to forget about yourself when you’re caring for a brand new baby, but you must not. You are important and your health is what ensures your baby’s health! At this point, baby is taking around 700 calories a day from you — plus you need extra to actually make the milk, heal from birth, and keep your energy for taking care of baby! Eating healthy food and plenty of it will help.
I found that in the early weeks, that just nourishing food wasn’t quite enough. I liked an herbal tea blend designed for breastfeeding moms, too. I often make my own, but Earth Mama Angel Baby also makes a tea called Milkmaid Tea. Nursing teas can sometimes help boost supply, but also are just good for you and support health postpartum and while breastfeeding. Theirs is even organic!
When It’s Going Well
You will know that your baby is getting enough milk when:
- Your baby has lots of wet and dirty diapers (1 – 3 per day in the first few days; 6 – 8 per day after that)
- Your baby seems satisfied and not fussy after eating
- Your baby is growing steadily and meeting milestones
If you have a concern, see a lactation consultant or another breastfeeding expert. If you are in pain, your baby is not latching well, etc. then you may need help. Later, we’ll talk about gut health and allergies and what to do if your breastfeeding baby seems to be getting enough, but is still unsettled!
A Note on Safe Products
When I have a newborn, Earth Mama Angel Baby is one of the companies I trust the most to make safe products. I’ve used their pregnancy teas, nursing tea, baby wash, and more. I actually was washing Caleb with my shampoo until I got some baby wash from them, because I didn’t have any soap safe enough! (The soap we grown-ups usually use has peppermint EO in it, which is a no-no for young babies.)
Everything Earth Mama Angel Baby makes is organic and really clean. They have a lot of awesome pregnancy, postpartum, and baby products that I love. Safe products are always important to me, but even more so when I have a tiny one. I’m comfortable with very little on brand new ones, and Earth Mama’s products are ones that I do trust.
Next time, we’ll be talking about gut health and when your breastfed baby is unsettled (food allergies and intolerances).
Psst! My brand-new book, “Natural Remedies for Kids,” is coming out in August! When you pre-order it, you get up to 25% off — plus, some amazing bonus offers (details coming soon). It’s the best book for learning to use simple, natural remedies with your family (the one I wish I’d had when I was just getting started). Get the details on the book here, and pre-order your book here.
What’s your best newborn breastfeeding advice?
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