Breastfeeding is one of the most overwhelming but most rewarding things you will ever do in my opinion. Those early days are tough though and I know I had so many questions, ‘Am I doing it right?’ ‘Is my baby getting enough?’ ‘Is this or that normal?’ I’d done a little research and attended a talk on breastfeeding before having my little Theodore but no one really told me quite how those first few days breastfeeding were going to be.
The first few days of breastfeeding are what I felt was one of the biggest shocks to the system. (Along with the sleep deprivation!) Getting your latch right from the beginning is so so important to try and minimise nipple damage. For the first few days up until normally day 4/5 you produce colostrum which is yellowy, super rich milk for your baby. This is normal and baby is getting everything it needs even though your milk hasn’t fully come in yet. The more you have baby latched on the better in those early days. If baby is fussy/crying and has a clean nappy then latch them on. As long as baby is having the correct number of wet and dirty nappies then keep going. It is perfectly normal for your baby to want to be latched on and in your arms all the time, it is certainly overwhelming but it is normal!
I plan to write a whole post on nipple trauma but should your nipples take a hit in the early days it is so important to get some face to face support, ideally from an IBCLC Lactation Consultant to check your positioning and attachment. Most problems with breastfeeding in the early days are because you just need to slightly tweak the way you are holding your baby while they feed. Alongside this, Lansinoh Lanolin Cream, Multi Mam Compresses (keep them in the fridge!) and Silver Breast Angel Cups will help you massively in healing and soothing your poor nipples in between feeds.
Midwives and health visitors recommend that once your milk is in baby should be having 8-12 feeds in 24 hours. This is only a GUIDELINE and if your baby feeds more than this it is totally okay, most babies actually will! If your baby has had a big feed and ten minutes later is asking for more this is totally okay and normal, you do not need to feed to a schedule or try and ‘stretch baby between feeds’ listening to your baby and following their cues and feeding responsively is so important. A friend once told me the saying ‘If in doubt, whip a boob out’ and honestly it is the best saying to live by. Breastfed babies are super clever and will never over feed so if baby is fussing, offer milk and if they accept then they were most likely hungry.
Cluster feeding. You may have heard of it before or maybe it’s a new concept to you. No one can truly prepare you for cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is how baby builds your supply in the early days. It can make even the most prepared mama doubt her milk supply. Theodore cluster fed for 6/7 hours sometimes in the early days and I’m not going to lie it was exhausting. He’d drift off while still latched on but the second I unlatched him he’d wake up screaming for milk again. This is normal and my best tips to deal with cluster feeding are to lower your expectations and get comfy in bed or on the sofa, surrounded by snacks and drinks with your tv remote near by and just give in to it. Your baby is only little for such a short period of time and although it feels like forever when you’re in the moment, the cluster feeding phase will be over before you know it.
My final tip is to find your local support group and lactation consultant and breastfeeding peer support team when pregnant and stick a list to your fridge with relevant numbers and times of groups. Having a support system in place to cheer you on, tell you what a great job you’re doing and to talk through any concerns is so important in those early days.