Looking after a baby is a hard 24hour around the clock affair. It’s unpredictable. So it’s important to rest and to try not to plan to go out in the first few weeks. Disturbed nights take their toll and you will both be worn out for a while. It is good to arrange for extra support with things like cooking and cleaning for at least the first month.
A baby is born expecting to breastfeed and often the first feed goes really well. The baby will use all its reflexes to find the way to the breast to feed. The first milk we produce is called Colostrum, It is very nutrient dense and is full of antibodies and stem cells. It is the most important feed that any baby can have, the colostrum lines the infant’s gut and is the first layer of protection. During the golden hour following birth you will be encouraged to do lots of skin to skin with your baby. Both parents can do Skin to skin as it is one of the best tools that you have in the early days and weeks of parenting.
Breastfeeding is a learned art, its a bit like learning to walk, you are going to fall on your backside a few times. But you will get up and try again. There is lots you can both do to get feeding off to a good start. Watching other mothers feed their babies is the ideal way to learn, but failing that Medway Public Health’s We are beside you initiative has a fantastic resources section and I’d encourage you to watch the videos together.
Around the 3rd or 4th day the supply will dramatically increase,so its really important to feed the baby often during this time to keep the breasts drained. It is often accompanied by the ’Baby Blues’ when your partner will feel really emotional. This is normal and it’s down to the hormones sorting themselves out. Understanding that this is likely to happen means that the birth partner is in a better place to reassure the mother that all is well.
Now, some Parent will choose not to breastfeed, there are many reasons behind these decision and its although it is not a decision to be made lightly, it is a decision that many parents come to. If you are planning to bottle feed from the start it is important to get your feeding equipment ready to take into the hospital with you. You will need to take in a couple of bottles (pre sterilised) and small bottles of UHT first stage milk. Sterilizing facilities are available whilst you are there and the MSWs at the hospital will help you with this. You will be shown how to do paced feeding with your baby and how to encourage your baby to latch onto the bottle so that your baby is in control of how much milk that they drink.
There is more information about choosing formula milk at First Steps Nutrition. This is really worth reading as there are a lot of options out there. There are many sorts of milk for many different situations. But generally you will need a first stage formula. All first stage formula is regulated and must contain the same basic ingredients. Each manufacturer will advertise their formula as containing the best this or that, but it doesnt change the fact that they are all basically the same. If you are sold by the organic label, then do look at what percentage of the formula is actually organic, I understand that it can be very little.
All formula should be made up using the current government guidelines. Formula powder is not sterile and ill prepared formula has been known to cause gastroenteritis and very sick babies. Its really important that every bottle is made up with 70 degree boiled water and cooled to the right temperature for baby. You can find more information on the baby friendly unicef website.
Did you know that formula milk companies are not allowed to advertise to new parents? That is the subject of a whole other blog post!