Having a newborn can be extremely overwhelming, and those first few weeks with them home can be among the toughest. There's so much to consider and learn, and it's hard to manage that all while keeping the baby healthy, too. On top of that, if you're choosing to breastfeed, getting started is no simple feat. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for your breastfeeding journey is to gather information beforehand, so keeping in mind what your lactation consultant wants you to know about those first two weeks of breastfeeding can really set you up for success.
According to Diane de Jesus, Registered Dietitian and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in training of West London, the most important thing you can do is try to spend those first weeks with lots of skin-to-skin time. Skin-to-skin contact has many health benefits for both mothers and babies, and one of them is that it can promote breast milk production, and regulate breastfeeding.
"Try feeding baby frequently, in response to the first signs that he or she is hungry — a baby will wriggle around, turn their head to search for the breast, bring their hands to their mouth, or appear fussy or restless before they will begin fully crying," de Jesus tells Romper.
Coming to terms with the fact that breastfeeding in the first two weeks may be hard is paramount for new parents, says Deedee Franke, RN and IBCLC, to Romper. "Breastfeeding is a lot like learning to dance," she says, "and it takes a lot of practice for a mom and baby to learn to work together. Moms are often exhausted and recovering physically and emotionally from the delivery. Breastfeeding frequently gives the mom and baby a lot of practice, and usually it take most moms two to four weeks to get comfortable with breastfeeding."
Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC and New York City lactation consultant, has two recommendations for new moms. "To make milk, milk must be removed from the breasts on a regular basis," she tells Romper, "and this can be by a baby nursing and/or a pump." So try not to panic about eating fenugreek or having oatmeal for breakfast. If your supply needs help, breastfeed or pump more often.
But most importantly, O'Connor says, "Everyone's experience is unique, so do not compare yourself and your baby to your sister's, your neighbor's, your mother's, or your coworker's."
Moreso, ask for help if you're in pain or just confused, note both de Jesus and O'Connor. "Breastfeeding truly is a beautiful and rewarding experience when all is going well," says de Jesus. "That said, it can be a challenge to get it going, or keep it going."
So, don't be ashamed to ask for help. Talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or friends. Breastfeeding is touted as being the natural and right thing to do, but that doesn't mean it comes naturally to everyone. It can take time and support and more time to get going. And, expecting that can help.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries: