Breastfeeding Newborn Baby – The First 48 Hours

Breastfeeding Newborn Baby – The First 48 Hours

The first 48 hours with your breastfeeding newborn baby can be pretty intense. Having a general idea of what to expect during this time can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as help you enjoy bonding with your newborn.

Immediately after birth the best place for your baby to be is skin to skin with mum. This first cuddle is super important. Being skin to skin helps your baby regulate her heart rate, her breathing and her temperature. It makes for a calm transition between being in the uterus and in the outside world. As well, it helps your baby become colonised with the good bacteria on your skin, priming her immune system. The longer you are able to have your baby skin to skin, the better. Certainly weighing and measuring can wait, and if your baby is having Hep B and Vitamin K injections, these can be done whilst she is on your chest. If mum and baby have to be separated after birth, your partner can have skin to skin too!

Beginning: Breastfeeding Newborn Baby

Newborn Baby in mother's armsThe first hour after birth is a wonderful time for the first breastfeed. Feeding your baby for the first time is very special. You will notice that your newborn is very alert when he is first born. He will often start showing instinctive behaviours that indicate he is getting ready to feed. He may start to wriggle towards the breast, explore his surroundings with his hands, poke his tongue out, or bob his head up and down as he attempts to find the nipple.

Some babies achieve a good latch quite quickly, others may take up to an hour, having short breaks in between attempts. By keeping him warm and calm on your chest you can help your baby reach his goal and have that first, important breastfeed. This is a really special time for you and your partner to get to know your newborn baby, so try to not have visitors at the early stage, no matter how keen they may be! There will be plenty of time for others to meet your baby later.

Time to Rest After Feeding Newborn

Breastfeeding newborn baby sketch

After your newborn’s first breastfeed, she will probably fall into a deep sleep, called the ‘hibernation sleep’. This lets her recover from the stress of being born. The hibernation sleep can last for several hours, so it’s a really good idea for the new parents to use this opportunity to also rest. Again, it is not a time for visitors. This will probably be the longest stretch of sleep your baby will have for at least the next few months, so don’t waste it! Turn off your phone and snuggle down to sleep.

Although each baby is different, it is very common for new babies to be fairly content in the first 24 hours of life. They usually just eat and sleep and will settle in their cot without much trouble. This is when well meaning visitors come in and exclaim “Oh, he’s such a good baby!” You may be lulled into thinking that he will always be like this and wonder what everyone else is talking about. And then comes the next 24 hours…

Cluster Feeding and Grumpy Newborn Babies.

Sometime during your baby’s second day they will “wake up” and develop a feeding pattern. I like to think of it as your baby has realised that his room-service has been switched off, and he’s not pleased about it. Suddenly your baby has to feel all the discomforts of being in the ‘outside world’. He has to regulate his own temperature, experience hunger, feel his tummy gurgle as he digests milk, do a poo, wear scratchy clothes, smell Granny’s perfume and all the other myriad of things that we, as adults are used to. This all makes babies unsettled and grumpy in these early days.

Mother holding baby close to breasts while receiving breastfeeding support

The place he feels safest is in mum or dad’s arms and the vast majority will protest strongly about being placed in a cot, when just hours before he slept there soundly. Your baby is also now starting to get a bit hungry. Babies are born with plenty of energy reserves to get through the first few days of life. They are designed to have small amounts of colostrum. But as those reserves get used up, your baby will start to demand to be at the breast more frequently. This is called cluster feeding and it is vitally important as it helps your breast milk supply to “come in”.

This period can be very challenging and tiring, both for you and your newborn. There are things you can do to get through it as easily as possible:

Recommendations During the Early Days

  • Limit visitors. Too many other people holding your baby will make him even more unsettled.
  • Respond early to your newborn’s feeding cues.
  • Go with the flow as much as you can. This won’t last forever.
  • If your nipples are tender, try hand expressing and giving your baby colostrum from a syringe or cup to ensure your baby is getting enough milk.

Most women find that their newborn is much more settled once the milk has come in, but remember all babies have fussy times of the day, which is completely normal!

Relax and Enjoy

Dad cuddling newborn baby

Having a newborn baby is a very special time. All new parents encounter challenges, but by preparing yourself and accessing good postnatal support from a lactation consultant these challenges don’t have to be insurmountable.

You can also find support in your community at your GP, you local Early Childhood Health Centre and the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

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