#44 | Breastfeeding Mini: The First Week of Breastfeeding and Why it Matters Most

August 24, 2020

Hi everyone! Today Trisha continues providing breastfeeding information for those of you who want to know what to expect in that first week of forming a breastfeeding relationship with your newborn. Trisha gives tips as to what makes this process easier and also describes how your investment in this first week will payoff in the long run with an easier breastfeeding experience overall. Thanks for listening, and message us on IG or email us if you have any follow-up questions for our next monthly Q&A episode!

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

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View Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, it's Trisha. And I am back this week with another breastfeeding minisode. This week I want to talk about the first week of breastfeeding. And the reason I want to talk about the first week is because the first week of breastfeeding looks very different than what subsequent weeks look like. And it's often during this first week that mothers get discouraged or have nipple pain or feel overwhelmed and think that maybe breastfeeding just isn't for them. So what I want you to understand is that the first week of breastfeeding while it is more effort and work in the beginning, it becomes much less effort and work the longer you do it. In comparison to bottle feeding, the effort that goes into bottle feeding is the same each and every time you bottle feed, you have to prep the bottle by the formula. Make the mix clean the bottles, and that is always going to be the same for the entire duration of time that you feed your baby in a bottle. Breastfeeding starts off a little bit. You know, in some cases, it can be a little bit complicated, a little bit tricky. There are some challenges to overcome. But once you get past that initial first week or first few weeks of getting to know each other and figuring everything out, breastfeeding becomes far easier and far less effort than bottle feeding. So last time, we talked a little bit about what happens in the first 24 to 48 hours and how baby led breastfeeding in the beginning is the best way to get started and the right brain mother baby connection. And this week, I want to kind of talk about the details of what the first week looks like. But before we get into it, I want to make sure I dispel the myth that your nipples need to be prepped or prepared to breastfeed or that your nipples need to toughen up in the first few weeks of feeding. That is definitely not true. While it is not uncommon for women to experience Some nipple discomfort in the first few days, maybe even up to the end of the first week. It is not normal for a woman to experience very painful nipples anytime, or nipple pain that persists past that first week. Any amount of nipple pain that makes you curl your toes when it's time to breastfeed or any cracking or bleeding, or inability to touch your nipples really does need to be addressed. We will do a specific episode on the causes of nipple pain and the treatments later. But for today, I just want it to be known that while some discomfort is normal in the first week, it really should resolve after that. But more importantly, this is about the investment that goes into breastfeeding in that first week and how it pays you later. So what is the first week look like? babies in the first week of life will feed anywhere from eight to 14 times in 24 hours, and the intervals between feedings will range from 30 minutes to three hours. Many babies will take one four to five hour stretch and a 24 hour period without feeding. But other than that the interval between feeds can be all over the board. So it's really important to focus more on how many times your baby's feeding in 24 hours as opposed to watching a clock and following a schedule and trying to make sure that they feed on a consistent program. Let's remember that newborn babies are making an adjustment to extra uterine life in your belly, they were pretty consistently fed a steady stream of glucose via the placenta and they never felt hunger or had to alert you to any hunger cues as they make this adjustment to the extrauterine world. They're learning about what hunger means. And they're learning how to show their their feeding cues and they shouldn't be expected. feed on a regular schedule. A newborn baby has a very small stomach. It's only about the size of a marble for the first few days, and our bodies are designed perfectly to feed small amounts of colostrum and very frequently to help the newborn baby not only regulate their blood sugar, but to accommodate this very small stomach as they grow and as your milk comes in around the third or fourth day, their stomach will begin to stretch and they'll be able to take larger volumes of milk per feeding, which means that feedings over time will begin to stretch out to anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours between feeds. But as always, nature knows best. And part of the reason that babies need to feed very frequently in the beginning is not just because of their small stomach size, but it's also to stimulate your breast and your oxytocin and your milk production.

So the general rule of thumb for breastfeeding is that the more you feed in the first week, the more effort you put in the first week, the more often your baby is at your breast, the more milk you will have later on. So because women are often told that they should be feeding their baby on a schedule or that they shouldn't feed their baby too often, or that feeding their baby too often might create bad habits, it can be really hard to trust ourselves and to trust our baby's feeding cues and to know when is the right time to feed them. But I can't emphasize enough that your baby is the best indicator of when you should feed. No clock is going to give you better information about when your baby is hungry than your baby will. So let's talk about feeding cues. Much of the time we think that we don't have to feed our baby until they're alerting us by crying but crying is actually a late feeding cue. As you learn your baby's behavior, you'll start to see that they will give you many signs and indications that they are interested in eating before they get to that stage of crying. Now some babies that are zero to 60 babies and they will go from One cue to the next so fast and then suddenly they're crying and, and you're having to feed a crying baby. So in order to catch these feeding cues, it's really important that we are in close proximity to our babies. So this is particularly important for women who are giving birth in the hospital, and means that your baby should be rooming in with you at all times, it's impossible to catch their feeding cues if your baby is out of the room or in the nursery, but if they are with you, you will start to pick up on all these signs. In particular, if you're spending a lot of time skin to skin, you can't miss the feeding cues, your baby will be actually starting to do the breast crawl around your chest and they wake up and they are ready to eat or they will start sucking on their hands or you will see the subtle signs of licking their lips. While it might seem overwhelming to think about feeding your baby 14 times in 24 hours during the first week. Again, I just want to emphasize that this work that you put in in that first week is all going to pay you back and make it so much easier down the line when you have a healthy milk supply and a healthy breastfeeding relationship. So one other important question that often comes up in this first week for mothers is am I supposed to feed from one breast or both breasts? And the answer again comes back to listening to your baby, your baby will always tell you what they need. And you might not get it right every single time but if you continue to listen, you will learn their language. So feeding from one breast or both breasts depends on your baby's need their baby's needs at that time and their appetite. If they are feeding at one breast and they seem completely satiated and satisfied, they fall asleep in their content than one breast is enough. If they pop off the one breast and they still are showing feeding cues, then it's time to offer the second breast. Sometimes you might even go back to the first breast again. The important point to remember here again, is that it is not a one size fits all rule for every woman. Every baby is different. Every mother is different. breast is different, every woman's milk production rate is different and their breast milk storage capacity is different. So it would be impossible for us to say that every mother and baby diade should feed for 10 minutes on one side every three hours or 20 minutes on both sides every two hours. those rules just cannot apply to everyone. I can't emphasize enough how much your baby is the guide.

So just to quickly summarize, what I hope that you will take away from this is that number one, the first week is more challenging and more difficult than any other week of breastfeeding, but it will pay you back in the end. Number two, no clocks, no rules, no schedules, just learning your baby's language. And number three is that if breastfeeding is your desire and your choice and fits your lifestyle, it truly is far easier once you get past this initial adjustment. Period. Breastfeeding may not be for every woman and that is okay. But this is for the woman who wants to breastfeed, but is finding the first week very challenging and feels that it's going to be difficult the whole way through and maybe just not worth it.

Finally, just a couple pointers on how to cope in these first weeks with your new baby. Number one is to sleep when your baby sleeps, and this is not always going to be at night. So if you have opportunities during the day, it's very important that you rest at least and close your eyes when your baby sleeps. A second very helpful tip is if you can learn to breastfeed in a sideline position. It really makes a tremendous difference if you can be resting and laying down when you feed your baby. And this position can take time to learn don't feel badly if you aren't able to master the sideline position in your first few weeks of breastfeeding is something that over time you will get proficient at and you will actually be able to To sleep and breastfeed at the same time. It's truly one of nature's greatest gifts that we can feed our babies while in bed while sleeping. So I hope that this information has been helpful to you. And I hope that it gives you some encouragement to get through what can be often a very challenging first week. Know that you will get there know that putting the time in will pay you back, big time in your long term relationship, breastfeeding with your baby. That's all for today. Thank you for tuning in, and we'll see you next time.

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If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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