The first 48 hours of breastfeeding your newborn can be pretty intense. Having a general idea of expectations during this time can not only help reduce stress and anxiety, but also help you have a longer more successful breastfeeding journey.
The Golden Hour
Immediately after the birth the best place for your baby to be is skin to skin with mom. If for some reason mom can not be skin to skin, being skin to skin with dad or your partner is crucial. Allowing for skin to skin not only helps transition your baby from being in utero to the outside world, but also helps regulate heartbeat, temperature, and breathing. The more skin to skin the better as prolactin and oxytocin is released which are both needed for lactation. The first hour of skin to skin is a great time to have your first breastfeeding session. The first hour your baby is more alert and will show signs of wanting to nurse including poking the tongue out, rooting, bobbing the head to find the breast, and using their hands to explore the breast as well. Some babies will latch right away with no issues other will take the whole hour having short breaks in between, but both are normal.
Keeping baby calm and warm skin to skin with a blanket over the top of both of you will help encourage this first breastfeed. Avoiding visitors during this time is also important for the golden hour. It is important to remember that the first stage of your milk, colostrum, is what the baby will take in and with the size of your baby’s stomach this will be about 5ml, a teaspoon. After this first feed baby will fall into a deep sleep known as hibernation sleep to recover from the stress of being born. This is a great time for mom and partner to get rest as well and avoid visitors as this will be the longest stretch you get for a while.
The First 24 hours
During this time it is common for babies to be fairly content. They will usually eat then settle down very easily and sleep. During this time visitors will usually comment, your little one is such a good baby. Unfortunately it then sets this expectation that anything apart from this is not a good baby and when the next 24 hours hit you will wonder what is wrong with my baby he/she was so great the first day. You begin to question yourself and your milk supply thinking your baby doesn’t want me or does not want to nurse or I am not making enough, usually all of these not being true, but rather the normal day 2 breastfeeding journey.
The biggest thing in the first 24 hours is just keep watching for their hunger cues and constantly offer the breast. Staying skin to skin during most of this time will also help your baby to continue to regulate, transition, and seek out the breast. Newborn feeding cues include sucking on hands, fingers, and mouth, moving hands and arms towards the mouth, searching for the nipple known as rooting, making sounds, rapid eye movement, and restlessness when sleeping. Crying is a much later hunger cue and you want to try to avoid it as attachment to the breast during late stages can pose many challenges.
The Second 24 hours
Day 2, 24-48 hours, sometimes even into day 3, the part that most moms are not warned about. Sometime during the second day your baby will wake up and realize they are no longer in utero, but rather the cold big outside world. The switch turns off, they no longer have 24 hour room service, and now they have to figure things out on their own. They have to regulate their own temperature, experience hunger for the first time, go poop for the first time, smell all kinds of new smells, wear clothes for the first time, and all the other things we as adults are use to. For newborns this can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, and make them very grumpy. Now your baby that just yesterday everyone said is such a good baby has changed and something must be wrong. Thankfully it is just all the overwhelmingness of the above new world issues. Baby will also protest being put down in the bassinet as just 24 hours ago they only knew being safe and sound inside of you.
Your baby is also born with reserve energy that balances out the small teaspoon of colostrum they receive at first. As they creep into the hours ahead that begins to run out and they will require being at the breast more frequently. This is known as cluster feeding and is so important to help your milk transition to more mature milk for your baby. These next couple days can be very tiring and challenging, but do know it does not last forever. One way to know if your baby is getting enough in these first 48 hours is your baby will have 2-3 wet diapers. This will increase to 6 diapers by 6 days old.
There are some things you can do to have the smoothest transition possible. Responding early to baby’s hunger cues, limit visitors holding too much as this makes babies more restless, go with the flow as much as possible, keep baby skin to skin as much as possible, and if you have any issues or pain in these early stages seek out lactation support right away to get on track. Click here to book an appointment with one of our lactation providers.
Having a newborn baby is one of the most special times, but all new parents will encounter challenges. While breastfeeding is a natural process it does not always come natura and may take some time to learn. As a new parent when you understand what to expect and prepare for this it can help make a smooth transition in the early days for both mom and baby. If any challenges arise that are out of the normal first 48 hour adjustment we offer lactation appointments covered by your insurance and would love to help reassure you and address any challenges.