In the exhaustion and euphoria of childbirth, a mother’s very next job is feeding her baby. But breastfeeding rarely comes naturally as expected.  The first few hours after delivery are vital and establishing robust milk production hinges on this time.  This is the time to signal to your breasts to make milk for your new arrival. So how do you do it? 

Here are 3 things to know to help you prepare for breastfeeding before delivery. 

  1. Understand what is a good latch. 

When a baby is latched onto the breast well, the nipple is deep into the roof of its mouth and fills it to create a full suction-type situation. Once the baby has a nice wide mouth, bring the head into the crook of your elbow and move him or her towards the breast, chin first. This will create a latch. Once latched, you can all relax, sit back and enjoy this sweet bonding moment. Try different hold positions to see what is most comfortable. Making sure to always support the head and neck.

  1. Know how to help your baby latch, if needed. 

Biology suggests that babies are born with the intuitive ability to find their mom’s breasts and suckle. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes we have to help our babies along.  To do so, run your hand up your baby’s back and form a c-shape at the base of their skull so that you can direct them on where to go.  Position the baby’s nipple to the nose, making sure his or her head is tipped up so the chin is pushing into the breast more than the nose, so the nipple goes to the top of the mouth, aka the sweet spot. Grab your breast and make a C shape using your hand, making your breast into more of an oval shape, rather than a circle. This way the breast is sandwiched to fit into your newborn’s mouth and promote that suction seal. Use your hand to get a comfortable position with the baby’s lower lip far below the base of your nipple. Bring your baby to the breast chin first, waiting for a wide, yawning mouth first—rather than a shallow “fish” mouth.  Try rubbing his or her upper lip and wait for the gaping mouth before bringing them into the breast, chin first. Listen for swallows and there you have it. The breastfeeding journey has begun.

  1. Learn how to make more milk, sooner

Babies will often become champion feeders once the milk increases in time (usually on the 3rd or 4th day). Keep your baby close to your breast in those early days and let them suckle anytime they can find the nipple. Sucking will signal milk production deep inside the ducts.  But if your baby doesn’t learn how to nurse effectively in the first hour or day—don’t worry! You can use your hands to help! (Hormones of delivery make hand expression on the first day especially easy.) During times that your baby is resting, use your hands to self-express. This will stimulate nursing and provide extra incentive for your breasts to get to work. Try this technique: 

  • Grab your breast and make a c with your hand.
  • Squeeze backward, compress, pull forward gently, and now relax.

This action is what stimulates milk production. A small excretion may come out of the nipple. This is called colostrum and is liquid gold for babies because of its natural antibiotic qualities. So, you’ll want to capture some of that if you can express it. To save it for your baby, take a clean spoon, hold it up to the nipple, and capture the droplets that come out of the expressing session. Some women like to capture it in a small syringe. Take your pick. To feed it to your baby, let the spoon sit on their lower lip, they will smell it, then slowly take it. 

Breastfeeding in the first hour, it’s in your hands from First Droplets on Vimeo. Some tips to remember:

  1. Days before your due date, practice the hand expression technique.
  2. Make sure to feed your baby before they demand it. A hungry baby is harder to soothe.
  3. In the first three days you can never overfeed a baby, so cluster feed if your baby wants it.

And finally remember: you can never get these moments back again. Ensure that the first moments of skin-to-skin and vital milk stimulation are not missed opportunities. You can learn more about breastfeeding in New Mom Schools’ Newborn Class, Breastfeeding Support Group, or a private lactation consultation.