Breastfeeding - what the experts say
The first days after birth are very important for getting started on the right foot. Milk production depends primarily on your baby’s needs. The baby’s sucking stimulates the release of prolactin and oxytocin, the two main hormones involved in lactation. The more and better your baby nurses, the more milk you will produce.
Whenever possible, your baby will be placed on your stomach right after birth. You will then see the newborn spontaneously seek the breast by moving his body and turning his head right and left on your chest until he latches on to a nipple. The baby is guided in this effort by a secretion from your nipples that has the same smell as amniotic fluid. Let the baby find your nipple on his own without holding his head or placing him on your breast, which would cause him to pull back. When he has found your breast, let it nurse as long as he wants.
Whenever possible, you should start breastfeeding during the first few hours after giving birth; if you wait any longer, the rooting reflex starts to fade. However, if a Caesarean section or other complication prevents you from breastfeeding this soon, don’t worry. You can guide your baby towards your breast and place your nipple in front of his mouth so that he can nurse a little later.
At birth and during the first two to three days, your breasts produce colostrum rather than milk. This thick yellowish orange fluid has exceptional nutritional and anti-infection properties. It contains everything your baby needs during his first days of life, especially a high concentration of antibodies, which protect your baby against the numerous germs he has been coming into contact with since he left your womb.
During this initial period, it’s essential to put your baby to the breast as often as possible. Offer the breast each time he wakes up and let him nurse as long as he wants. Make sure that each feed is productive by observing whether the baby is swallowing regularly.
These frequent feeds stimulate milk production and promote the initial let-down 48 to 72 hours after childbirth when the breasts swell, harden and become slightly painful. Nurse your infant as soon as your milk comes in and very frequently over the next few days to relieve your breasts and establish your milk supply.
The number of daily feeds varies widely from one baby to another. On average, newborns demand to be fed seven to eight times during a 24-hour period, but some demand up to 12 feeds or even more. Trust your baby and meet his needs.