The first 24 hours of a baby's life are crucial to a positive breastfeeding experience for both mom and baby. Whether delivered vaginally or by Caesarean section, putting the baby to the breast as soon as possible after delivery is essential. Getting off to a good start is key. (Of course, there are times where this scenario is not possible -- prematurity, respiration issues, heart-rate problems -- and the baby must be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for observation and monitoring. However, as soon as the baby is allowed to be put to the breast, a lactation consultant should be alerted.)
What To Generally Expect At This Stage
Newborn babies are very alert for the first two hours after birth and, typically, are eager to feed. Labor and delivery nurses and midwives are well-trained to help you with positioning and latching your baby. Realistically, it can be a bit unwieldy to latch on your baby right after delivery. If you deliver in a hospital, you may have a blood pressure cuff on one arm, an IV in another, and the baby is swaddled in quite a few blankets. So be aware that the positioning may not be as natural and comfortable as it will be once you're released to your postpartum floor. Do the best that you can and know that this will all change within hours.
Waking Up A Sleepy Baby
During the first 0 to 2 hours of life, babies are very alert. And then they tend to become sleepy from about 2 to 24 hours after they are born. Depending on the labor and type of delivery you had, baby (and you!) are likely exhausted. However, it is important for both the establishment of your milk supply and the baby's nutrition to wake the baby during this stage if he is not waking himself.
Establishing A Milk Supply
If the baby can't be roused, it is pertinent that you begin to stimulate your milk supply and simulate what the baby would be doing by either hand expression or using a breast pump. Don't despair if baby wasn't feeling well at the time. You should still attempt to feed every few hours before resorting to other means of expression.
Common Issues For Mother At This Stage
The most common issue in the first 24 hours is sore nipples. Even with a properly latched baby, nipples may be sensitive because of postpartum hormonal changes. Mothers often jolt when their baby latches on because their nipples are in such a heightened state of sensitivity. This hormonal sensitivity does fade, but ensuring that the baby is latched on correctly is very important.
For a mom who has had a C-section, it can be challenging to get into a comfortable position to nurse the baby. A lactation consultant can help find the perfect position in these cases.
Common Issues For Baby At This Stage
Sleepiness is the most common issue in the first 24 hours. Depending on the mother's labor and delivery and the medications received during that time may make a baby even more sleepy than usual. In addition, certain pain relievers given during labor, such as Demerol, may delay the first breastfeeding as it depresses the baby's rooting and sucking mechanism. This is not to say that every baby has an issue with anesthesia or pain relief. Discuss options with your doctor to make an informed decision.
Be persistent and consistent. Even if your baby doesn't impress you with a full feeding, take what she gives you and see what happens at the next. Babies become much more alert within days and you'll be so happy that you started off on the right foot.