It doesn’t really matter how your baby arrives.
Whether your baby arrives vaginally or by C-section breastfeeding your newborn, or at least attempting to, as soon as possible after delivery can be the key to success. It's important to start early, be aware of common issues and learn some tips for success.
During the first few hours after delivery, newborns tend to be very alert and eager to eat. It isn’t always easy to get them to latch on (the term for the way baby fastens to the breast), but it’s important to try. Your baby may only get a small amount of breast milk during the first 24 hours, but the colostrum, a concentrated and highly nutritious fluid that is produced by your mammary glands in baby’s first few days of life, is perfect for this time period because:
- It is high in protein
- It is easily digested
- It acts as a laxative to help your baby’s body get rid of bilirubin and prevent jaundice
- It provides immunity to your baby to help protect against illness
- It coats the digestive tract and helps prevent infection
The most common problem breastfeeding mothers face in the first 24 hours is soreness.
A poor breastfeeding latch can be painful. Once the damage is done, even a proper latch may be uncomfortable during the initial sucks. Don’t be afraid to ask for latch assistance. During your hospital stay, your nurse or a lactation consultant will be available to work with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re having trouble. Lactation stores can also be a great resource, equipped with everything you need to make breastfeeding more comfortable. Most are staffed with knowledgeable staff members who can address any of your questions.
Tips for success.
Remember, breastfeeding is a learned skill for both baby and mother. For some, it goes smoothly right from the start. For others, it takes a little time. Practice and patience are required.
Try to enjoy the process and keep these tips in mind:
- Try to breastfeed for the first time within the first hour after your baby is born
- Be persistent and consistent. Even if your baby doesn't nurse very long
- To encourage your child to breastfeed more, spend time in direct skin-to-skin contact with your newborn
- Even if your baby is sleepy, keep putting him or her to the breast every few hours
- If you're worried that your child isn't getting enough to eat, talk to your nurse or a lactation consultant
- Don't give your baby a pacifier—at least not right away
- Aim for four or more good feedings in the first 24 hours with at least five minutes of sucking or sustained latch each feeding
- Baby should have one or more wet diapers in the first 24 hours and one or more stools in the first 24 hours
Have more questions? Read the Most Common Questions New Moms Ask About Breastfeeding or call one of our Lactation Consultants.
Jessica Williams is a Licensed Practical Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has more than 12 years of experience working with new moms, including as a Mother Baby Nurse and an IBCLC.
*This article was updated August 2021 to represent Chesapeake Regional’s updates to lactation services.