Holding your baby with their skin next to your skin immediately after birth will calm and relax you both.
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the first hour after birth will help get the first feed off to a good start. Your midwife will assist you to position your baby safely.
Most babies are alert and keen to breastfeed soon after birth, but every baby is different. Check for signs that your baby is hungry. Your midwife or nurse is there to help and support you.
Signs your baby is hungry
The following are signs that your baby could be starting to get hungry:
- Eyes fluttering.
- Moving their hands to their mouth.
- Making mouth movements.
- Moving towards your breast or turning their head when you touch their cheek.
Crying is a late sign of hunger. Try feeding when you notice your baby giving you the earlier signs. It will often be easier as you'll both be calmer and more relaxed.
You and your baby may start the first feed by yourselves or you may need a little help and guidance from your midwife.
Follow these steps to begin your baby's first feed:
- Hold your baby close to your breast.
- Stroke your baby’s hands and feet.
- Wait for signs your baby is hungry (early feeding cues).
- Attach your baby to your breast.
First days of breastfeeding
When you start breastfeeding, your breasts will release an early milk called colostrum. It is produced in small amounts by your body and is quite thick in consistency. Colostrum is full of antibodies that will help your baby fight off infection.
Breastfeeding your newborn
A newborn baby can feed 10 to 12 times in 24 hours. Every time your baby feeds, they are letting your body know how much breast milk you need to produce.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system - the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. In the early days, breastfeeding often is important to help you build up a good milk supply. Breast milk meets all your baby's food and drink needs for the first 6 months.
Like most breastfeeding mothers, you will probably notice that your breast milk supply will increase around days 3 to 5. You may notice your breasts becoming fuller and firmer. This is sometimes known as 'your milk coming in.'
In the next few weeks, your baby may develop a more regular feeding pattern. This will help you adjust to producing the right amount of milk. But there may be days when your baby wants to feed a lot.
Breastfeeding takes patience and practice. In the early days:
- hold your baby in skin-to-skin contact after birth, if possible
- breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth
- feed your baby as often as they want, this will help you stay comfortable
- breast milk may leak from your nipples
- change your breast pads regularly or at every feed