As well as being a doula I visit the postnatal wards weekly as a volunteer feeding supporter. I find in the very early days of breast feeding most women have very similar questions and concerns, and I tend to have similar conversations with mamas as I do my round on the ward, so I thought I would write them down in single regular blogs and answer them on here for you .
My baby had one feed after birth and hasn’t fed since, she sleeps all the time, am I doing this right?…
My main answer for this type of question is to trust your instincts and your babies, lay naked in bed together, dim the lights, have lots of skin to skin (or laid back feeding as it is more recently known) and your baby will use their instincts and learn to feed when they need to by using their senses. The smell, and touch of you, and hearing the sound of your heart beat will all help to stimulate your baby when learning to feed. Having time for skin to skin creates closer bonding and stimulates oxytocin which then sends a message to your breasts to produce milk, your baby will respond naturally.
When I ask the parents who often have this question how old their baby is generally they are anything from 3 to 8 hours old. Most babies tend to have a similar pattern in the first 3 days after birth. Babies tiny bodies have been through a huge and tiring process , the birth itself can be tiring just as it is for the mama, but their bodies inside are going through huge changes where their blood vessels to the lungs are beginning to work, and vessels to the umbilical cord are being shut down, their digestive system is kicking in from their first feed of colostrum.
Taking this into account babies tend to have a wakeful period just after birth, they will have a feed then they can sleep for up to 8 hours, also natures way of giving mum time to rest too after the birthing journey they have experienced, (although I don’t think I have ever met a mama who sleeps during this period, most are awake with matchstick eyes in an oxytocin bubble watching their babies sleep and awaiting the next feed).
Babies will then very often have another feed which could be fairly long or it may be a short feed or two of a few minutes then sleep again. During the first 24 hours babies tend to sleep a lot to recover, so know that this is normal, if they go more than four hours you can wake them gently and try to offer them a breast. You can also offer a syringe of colostrum from your breast by expressing if your baby seems too sleepy to feed.
On day two most babies tend to have more wakeful periods, they may begin to feed a little more often, usually no longer then 2/3 hours are between feeds, or they may begin to cluster feed, where they feed every ten minutes for a few minutes.
On day three, mama may begin to feel tearful, this is due to the high level of hormones in the body bringing the milk in. Mama will very likely find her breasts have swollen and will feel the let down process as the milk comes through when baby feeds. The baby will begin to feed a lot more, especially in the early hours of the morning. The hormone prolactin is produced at night when babies feed which keeps the milk supply going so be prepared for waking every two hours or waking for cluster feeds in the early hours, but this hormone also keeps you more alert and ready to face the day after loosing sleep. Our bodies are so clever aren’t they!
Try to remember we are all different and the more relaxed your are you more relaxed your baby will be. Every new mum and baby is learning for the first time. Another doula, Paula Cleary mentioned, ‘with every new baby a mum is born too into a new journey of self discovery and learning’, which I feel is so true we are always learning.
Enjoy the first days with your baby try to relax and trust that yours and your baby’s instincts will get you through.