7 tips for breastfeeding success during the first week

August 7, 2020

By Camillia Villate

Breast milk is often talked about as the best food for your new baby: it has all the nutrients your child needs, is easily digested, and helps protect your baby against sickness and disease. But breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally to new mothers, and that’s OK. It’s not uncommon for women who have just given birth to struggle with breastfeeding. It can take some time for mom and baby to get to know each other, and to learn what works and what doesn’t.

To help alleviate some of the stress for moms learning how to breastfeed, here are 7 tips for successful breastfeeding in the first week after birth.

1. Make skin-to-skin contact

Studies have shown that babies who are held skin-to-skin show more feeding cues and feed better at the breast than those who aren’t. Other added benefits of skin-to-skin contact for baby are a more stable heart rate, body temperature and stronger immune systems. Keep your baby close in a carrier or wrap for easier skin-to-skin time.

2. Relax and massage

Stress can affect your body’s let-down response (the cue that gets milk flowing in response to your baby’s needs). Before latching your baby on, make sure you’re in a comfortable space with everything you need, such as a pillow, water or music. Then do some breast massage by using your fingers to apply light pressure in circular motions around the breast. This will stimulate your milk production, prevent plugged ducts and help the flow of your milk once your baby latches on.

3. Feed on demand or every two hours

Recognizing your baby’s early hunger cues is essential to making feedings easier. In the first week after birth, a baby’s stomach is the size of an egg so they feed in small amounts throughout the day. During the day, it’s important to wake your baby every two hours to help avoid your baby becoming overwhelmed by hunger. A good rhyme to remember is “10 or more in 24,” or 10 or more feedings every 24 hours for the first week of life.

4. Stimulate your baby during feedings

Between cozy swaddles and warm blankets, many babies don’t like to stay awake during feedings. Try keeping your baby in just a diaper to keep them awake – don’t worry, the heat of your body is all they need to stay warm. Also try talking to your baby or move their arms while feeding. Pro tip: breast massage while your baby feeds also keeps them alert and gulping.

5. Avoid bottles and pacifiers

In the first couple weeks of life, babies are learning how to breastfeed, so introducing bottles or pacifiers during this time can throw them off track. Due to the fast flow of bottles, many babies begin to prefer them and may not want to breastfeed, so avoiding bottles and pacifiers throughout the first couple weeks of life can dramatically help how well your baby breastfeeds.

6. Look at the latch

Check in with yourself: how do you feel when your baby latches on? How do you feel during feedings? If you are in pain, that is a sign that a small change is needed in either positioning or latching. Make sure to get the support you need through WIC, La Leche League, CinnaMoms or at Venice Family Clinic with me.

7. Keep a diaper log

Knowing exactly how much breast milk your baby is taking in can be stressful, but keeping a diaper log can give you the peace of mind that you make just the right amount of milk that your baby needs. During the first week, your baby’s wet and dirty diapers should equal your baby’s days of life. For example, on Day One your baby should produce one dirty diaper and one wet diaper, on Day Two your baby should make two dirty diapers and two wet diapers, and so on. You can keep this diaper log the old fashioned way by writing it down, or you can use an app on your phone. You got this, mama!

Camillia Villate is a prenatal health educator with Venice Family Clinic. She is a certified lactation consultant who helps new mothers navigate the nuances of breastfeeding, whether they’re first-time or encore moms.