The Breastfeeding Diaries Part 2: First Days

January 23, 2013

First, thank you for all of your sweet comments and emails about my first Breastfeeding Diaries post. I think it's important for moms to support each other through this baby raising business. It's tough work and sometimes we just need to hear that we are not alone. If you have questions or are struggling, please do not hesitate to email me at ANY time.
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So last week I talked about the supplies you need to get started with breastfeeding but now let's get down to the really good part. What was it really like those first few days? Please see my previous post about this being a judgment free zone. Remember, this is about what I did to start breastfeeding....I am not an expert, this is just what worked for me.

First, create a birth plan. I totally rolled my eyes at my doctor when he suggested I do this. My "plan" was to go to the hospital, get an epidural, and get the baby out as quickly as possible. HA. That totally didn't happen. I was thrown for a loop when we discovered that Hudson was breach. So, I started doing my research....which basically meant I called my mom. You see, my mom is a Clinical Nurse Specialist and just so happens to specialize in Mother-Baby care. That means she has a masters degree in this stuff and is super smart. Lucky me. She is my go-to person for all things pregnancy, baby, and breastfeeding (and like a zillion other things only moms do best too). Here are a few important things I learned:

During the first hour of your baby's life he or she is the most calm and alert, which means it is prime time for your first breastfeeding session. Here are two important things you'll want to do during that first hour:

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1. Skin-to-skin contact. This means that you'll want to make sure your doctor and nurses know you want to hold your baby skin-to-skin as soon as he is born. Like right when he comes out you'll want that baby snuggled up on your bare skin. There is TONS of research on why this is best but the basics are: your skin temperature will rise to naturally warm your baby, it helps baby regulate his heart rate, and it promotes breastfeeding. My mom told me there are even studies where a newborn baby is placed on the mother's chest and without any prompting that baby will find it's way to the breast and start feeding ALL ON IT'S OWN. God knew what he was doing.

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Now....if you have to have a c-section, like I did, you can still do skin-to-skin! You'll most likely have two nurses: one for you and one for your baby. Make sure you tell both of them your wishes before hand. Don't ever be afraid to speak up and ask for things. My nurse worked with my mom and was totally prepared for me to ask for skin-to-skin. I, however, did not do skin-to-skin with Hudson right away. They offered him to me while I was being stitched up but I was feeling sort of out of it at the time. But they did wrap him to my chest when they wheeled me to the recovery room!

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2. Ask to delay the vitamin K shot and eye antibiotics. Most hospitals administer a vitamin k shot and eye drops to your baby within the first hour of life. Both are important to your baby's health, but neither need to be done until after you've had your first attempt at breastfeeding. Shots and goop in a baby's eyes make him MAD....so why not wait until after you've tried to breastfeed to do them? Remember, you want to take advantage of that calm and alert state...it's the best time to start breastfeeding. Usually the only reason for doing the shot right away is because it is convenient for the nurse. So...speak up! You may be asked to sign something stating you didn't want these performed until after breastfeeding.

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So....now it's time to breastfeed. If you are anything like me you have built this moment up in your mind to be awkward and scary. It's not....well maybe it is, a little. After all you've been through (birth!) this is the easy part....bonding with your baby. Have your nurse show you what to do. Stick that baby on the boob and let him take the lead. As you can see I was almost flat on my back during my first attempt (because I just got out of surgery) so my husband had to help me. Luckily Hudson was awesome and went to town right away. I'm not gonna lie...it felt a little....strange. But it wasn't totally awful. 
If you've done your research and attended a breastfeeding class you'll know how tiny a newborn baby's stomach is. Those first few days before your milk comes in you'll be feeding your baby colostrum. So although it may seem like nothing is coming out when you feed him...there is. Trust me. Plus baby doesn't need a ton of milk right away because his stomach is super tiny. The most important thing that is happening during this time is that you are bonding with your baby and you are practicing breastfeeding.

Tips for successful breastfeeding in the hospital:

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Make sure your nurses know you have a breastfed baby. That means: 
No Pacifiers
No Formula Supplements
Tell them these things! The hospital where I delivered Hudson had a form for me to sign where I checked a box next to the things I didn't want him to have (pacifiers etc.). Don't worry...as long as your baby is healthy, he does not need these things.  

Practice makes perfect. You will want to breastfeed your baby, on demand, every two to three hours. Your nurse will most likely give you a chart to record each attempt you have at breastfeeding, but if she doesn't you can make your own or use an app on your phone (I used the baby nursing/baby breastfeeding app). You should have at least 10-12 attempts every 24 hours. You'll want to record what side your nursed on and for how long. This was hard for me...sometimes I would just finish feeding Hudson and I couldn't even remember what side it was on! Recording this information is a great job for your husband. Guys like charts.

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 All this practice at breastfeeding also means that your baby should "room-in" with you and not be sent to the nursery. Your nurse may offer to take your baby to the nursery so that you can get some sleep. Don't let her take your baby (obviously unless you are alone and need to shower or can't get out of bed etc.). You won't sleep regardless of where your baby is!!! Trust me on this one! I had nurses, doctors, nurse's assistants, residents, lactation consultants, hospital photographers, food service folks, cleaning staff, visitors, and you name it interrupting me every hour or so. (Can you tell I wasn't a big fan of being in the hospital?) So keep your little one with you. This will also help you learn your new baby's feeding cues.

Now, with all that said, remember that the things mentioned above are all meant to promote breastfeeding. Birth can be unpredictable so if something happens and you are not able to do these things it does not mean that you can't breastfeed your baby. They are meant to be ideal situations for starting breastfeeding.

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Be prepared to freak out over your baby loosing weight in the hospital. 
Crazy hormones + no sleep + feeling overwhelmed + baby weight loss = Mom has a breakdown
I cried. I freaked out. Breastfeeding was hard and even though I knew Hudson was fine I was still worried I wasn't doing it right. I knew going in to this that all babies loose weight in the hospital. But nothing prepared me to actually see those numbers on the baby scale go down. I knew it was supposed to happen. But that didn't keep me from freaking out and thinking he wasn't getting enough to eat.

There is no way to avoid this freak-out other than to surround yourself with rational people who will support you and remind you that THIS IS NORMAL. Make sure your mom, husband, friends....someone knows something about breastfeeding so that they can reassure you when you feel this way. Also, this is an excellent time to request a visit from a lactation consultant. They will come to your room, help you with your latch, watch you feed the baby, and answer your questions. Please please please take advantage of this service ladies!!!!

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It takes a few days for your milk to come in. So don't freak out. I had Hudson on a Wednesday and my milk didn't fully come in until Saturday. That's 3 days!!! And that is totally normal. Once I saw that milk I cried because I was so relieved! So trust me....it will work. Sometimes it felt like I had Hudson on the boob all the time....but putting your baby to your breast is what tells your body to start making milk. So, when in doubt, try again. And again. Eventually you and your baby will get it. The important part is that you keep attempting breastfeeding. Try not to worry about your latch and how much your baby is eating and instead focus on bonding with your new little one. It is the most precious experience of my life.

Breastfeeding a newborn baby is hard...but it gets easier! If you are struggling please see a lactation consultant asap.

Thanks for reading! Next week in part 3 of this series I'll discuss getting breastfeeding well established and part 4 will be about pumping and going back to work.  So stay tuned!

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21 Comments »

21 Responses to “The Breastfeeding Diaries Part 2: First Days”

  1. Another amazing post! I feel like I had pretty much every problem you can have when it comes to breastfeeding & have been trying to get a post together about it...I'll definitely be linking back to these posts because they're awesome!

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  2. i'm loving this series! thank you so much for sharing such good information!

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  3. Love this series! I am due in mid March and reading these posts are helping to calm my nerves! :)

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  4. Such great tips. I also had a c-section and couldn't really even lift the baby up by myself to feed. The lactation consultant was great at teaching me the football hold so I didn't have to hold him across my stomach which hurt like heck. I also freaked out in the hospital and cried when I was told Max was loosing a lot of weight. I did learn that he had a very mild case of jaundice and was dehydrated. I think they freaked me out too much or it was my hormones. We did use a little formula to supplement to make sure he was getting enough to poop more (you can get rid of jaundice that way) so it's not the end of the world if you use some formula. I still breastfed (still am). My milk also didn't come in till day 5 so you can work around obstacles.

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  5. Thanks soo much !!! I've been trying to prepare myself for the birth of my little baby girl who's also due in March. just downloaded an app on my phone to track my breast feeding moment.
    I definitely did NOT know babies had such tiny tummies !!!!!

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  6. Gosh, this post just reminded me of all the things that went "wrong" when E was born. Since the cord was wrapped around his neck, he was whisked to the nicu {after a brief period of placing him on my chest, but he just wasn't breathing correctly}. He stayied the nursery that night which was heartbreaking, but we were able to get a little sleep, which was needed. Oh and they gave him a pacifier too. All of these things and we didn't get to hold him and try to nurse until the next morning...and he still did just fine. All the worry for nothing. It wasn't ideal, but it still worked out!

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  7. Are you going to pump? Good luck! It's hard because it gets boring fast and takes so much time out of your day, like double than breastfeeding!

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  8. I'm so glad you shared this and even happier that you've pointed out that everyone's experience is different.

    I think SO many moms compare themselves to others and just get down on them self for not living up to what "The Joneses" are doing.

    I love this series!

    www.colleenandkeith.com

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  9. Love this series and know it's taking SO much time for you to write it!! Loved reading your experience and what you got out of the hospital, etc. I remember being SO thankful that Emery latched on right away as I had heard horror stories too!

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  10. Still loving all the great tips! I booked my spot for a breastfeeding class at the hospital today...Great advice. Thanks!
    Corina
    thirty-birds.com

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  11. i nursed both of my kids and sure wish i had some of this info then. i love reading about other people's experiences.

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  12. Great posts Jules! I'm sure you're helping lots of new moms. :)

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  13. I love your blog. The fact that you're a working mom makes it very relatable. Everyone mom isn't fortunate enough to stay home. You have a beautiful family.

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  14. As a new mom to be in a matter of days(!!), I love this series! It is so wonderful to hear your experience and get some advice. Thanks so much for taking the time to put it all together! All the best to your beautiful family.

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  15. I'm clearly nowhere near being a mother but I absolutely love this post!! You do such a great job laying it all out, so amazing!

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  16. Oh how I wish I had read something like this before I had my little girl! I will NEVER forget the hormonal freakout when I found out she had lost weight! And I know exactly what you mean about wanting to cry when your milk came in. It all felt like a joke until that point…then it was like, okay this really going to work! :)

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  17. Love love love this SO much! Thank you for sharing!!

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  18. I did so much to try and breast feed my son...some of which is listed on my blog. Anyway I had to supplement bc he had no wet diapers (blah), and I stayed an extra day in the hospital JUST to keep working with the lactation consultant. The day my milk came in I got mastitis and then my milk dried up no matter how much I fed, pumped, or drank mothers milk tea. My ob, ped, and lactation consultant all said that my two weeks of trying EVERYTHING were a heroic effort and sometimes (and some pregnancies) the stars just don't align. I still cry when I see posts like this bc I feel like I failed in some way, but it is important for me to remember that what happened to me is rare and next time I may be luckier. Seeing other women with posts like this gives me hope, and I will be looking back at it when I try again with #2. The best thing it to always support each other in our unique situations bc this is a tough job! :)

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  19. i know i just wrote this in a comment like 5 min ago, but I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE DOING THESE POSTS!!!

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  20. I have to admit I always skipped this read when you posted in this series because I wasn't a mom and it didn't apply to me. But now I sit here, new mom to a one week old and plan on pouring through all of these posts.
    Breast feeding has been PAINFUL and I'm really hoping I can get through it still sane. I have cried 5 out of 7 days (today we still have chance!) due to the sheer pain when my baby latches and unlatches over and over again. Hopefully I will gain some strength in reading thought the Breastfeeding diary archives!

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  21. I'm so happy to have found your blog and these helpful diaries!!! I am currently 21 weeks pregnant and plan to nurse, my husband and I went to a breastfeeding class last weekend, so we are off to a good start! :)
    I do have one question - when you say put your baby skin-to-skin immediately. Is there any cons to having them be cleaned up first and then being put on your chest for skin to skin??? I didn't know if it made a huge difference.

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