Breastfeeding: Getting started

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After the birth

Once your baby is born, a breastfeeding consultant, your midwife or maternity ward nurse will guide you slowly through the steps of breastfeeding. Your newborn’s sucking reflex is the strongest in the first hours directly after birth.

Feeding your baby can take 7–40 minutes, every 3 hours. Most newborns want to feed 10–15 times a day after the first 3–4 days of life and then settle down to 6–8 times a day by the end of the first week. Your baby will lose 5-10% of her birth weight in the first 3 days but will start to regain weight after that.

For the first few days after birth, your breasts will secrete watery, yellow fluid known as colostrum. Colostrum contains antibodies and has all the proteins, vitamins and minerals your newborn needs. It also acts as a gentle laxative, helping to clear out the sticky brown-black meconium from your baby’s intestines.

Here comes the milk

You’ve probably heard people say that breast milk “comes in on the third day”. This means that the production of mature milk will start any time between the second and fifth day. Prepare for your breasts to increase in size when this happens
  • Nurses will help you to get used to breastfeeding, giving you advice on latching, different positions and how long to breastfeed on each breast. Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks, and could even be painful until you get the hang of it.
  • Breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth is good for both mom and baby. It promotes bonding, provides stimulation to bring the milk in sooner, releases the hormone oxytocin to help the uterus contract. It also provides the baby with the immunological advantages of colostrum.
  • Some women never get the hang of breastfeeding or might decide that they won’t be breastfeeding and go onto formula directly after the birth. It is your choice, know the facts and make the best decision you can to ensure your good health and a healthy and happy baby.
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