Bringing your infant home can be both exciting and scary. You may wonder what your family’s new normal will look like. Many refer to this period of time as the “fourth trimester,” or the period of time when mom and baby both adjust to their new physically separate states. This adjustment takes place over the course of several months. When your baby is first born he or she has no experience with the world beyond the womb. Certain things can facilitate the ease of this transition from the womb to your arms. Bonding is the name of the game during the first days home. “Eat, bond, sleep, repeat” becomes the new mother’s mantra.
The natural habitat of the human infant is mother’s breast. Your baby will likely spend most of his or her time there for the first few months. Since newborn nutrition is such a large part of life with a new baby, taking a prenatal breastfeeding class is essential. You may wish to speak to an LC one on one to discuss your questions or concerns specific to your family prior to your baby’s arrival. A prenatal breastfeeding consult is a helpful tool for preparing you with information about establishing the nursing relationship. Most of the time in Atlanta area hospitals, you will have the opportunity to receive a quick consult from a hospital lactation consultant prior to your discharge. This consult is generally brief. Many families still have questions and concerns regarding breastfeeding after returning home. Many new moms prefer to schedule home visits with their LC to stay in the comfort of home during the recovery period.
Breastmilk is digested in about 90 minutes. Expect to nurse your baby 10-15 times per 24 hours. Many first time mothers worry that their baby nursing frequently is a sign that they do not make enough milk. This is usually not the case. Colostrum, or newborn milk, is present in your breasts starting early in the third trimester. It is nutritionally rich and very little is required to fill a new baby’s tiny stomach. If your baby experiences the common condition “jaundice” also called hyperbilirubinemia, colostrum is a powerful laxative that will help resolve it. Within the first few days your milk will transition to “mature milk.” Each time your baby nurses, it signals your body to make more milk. Frequent on-cue nursing during the newborn period generally equates to a robust milk supply in the long term. Exclusive breastfeeding or “EBF” and avoiding formula are common goals for many mothers. This goal is attainable with access to breastfeeding education and breastfeeding help if necessary.
The best indicator of adequate intake is output. In the first week, counting diapers can give you reassurance that your baby is indeed eating enough. Your baby should have at least one stool per each day of life. Day one- 1 poop, Day two- 2 poops, Day three- three poops, and so on. Normal diaper count is 6-10 wet or dirty diapers daily. Some babies can wet plenty but still not stool adequately. Babies over 1 week old should stool at least 4 large stools daily plus more wets. “Cluster feeding” or blocks of frequent nursing are common. Although nursing is frequent, it should never feel painful. Your baby will likely love to be held on your chest close to your breasts even when he or she is not nursing.
Skin to skin contact is crucial for your newborn. Skin to skin regulates the infant’s body temperature and blood sugar. It also facilitates important early neurological development. The simple act of holding your baby skin to skin stimulates production of hormones in both the mother and baby that keep everyone feeling relaxed and calm. Your partner can help you with this important bonding process by doing things like screening phone calls, entertaining visitors, bringing you food and drinks, changing diapers, and caring for older children. Your partner should encourage you to rest as much as possible while your baby sleeps.
Newborn sleep gets a lot of publicity. When babies are born, they do not make their own sleep hormones. They receive their sleep hormones from their mother via breastmilk and suckling. This is why many babies nurse to sleep. Nursing to sleep is biologically normal. Many people refer to babies “having their days and nights confused.” This is not the case. Babies are not born with a light/dark cycle. One will eventually develop with time, but during the newborn period frequent night wakings are to be expected. Frequent waking to nurse is part of nature’s protection against SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a form of co-sleeping that is referred to as “rooming in” for the first six months of life as a measure of SIDS risk reduction. Sleeping in close proximity to your baby also allows to have a heightened awareness of your baby’s hunger cues throughout the night.
Your new baby’s first days at home will likely seem like more of a whirlwind than pregnancy. Prenatal breastfeeding education and accurate expectations of the newborn period can make this transition much more manageable for families. However, there will be times that you don’t know what to do. When in doubt just do less, nurse more, and call your IBCLC!