When you’ve just had a new baby, it’s good to expect that the first 6 weeks are likely to be a big adjustment period.
You and your baby are getting to know each other, and you are both learning lots of new skills. Breastfeeding is often thought of as something that should ‘just happen’, however most Mums find that it an acquired skill that may some perseverance and commitment.
The first six weeks are the hardest, not only as you adjust to having a newborn, but also as your newborn baby gets used to being outside the womb and establishes breastfeeding. During this time there is very little predictability and a lot of change! In some cultures around the world, the baby and mother are kept at home together to bond and adjust to their new life together with no outside interference.
Lots of breastfeeding
The average number of feeds a newborn baby has in a 24 hour period is between 8 to 12, but it can be more or less, depending on your individual baby. You can’t breastfeed too much, but you can breastfeed too little, so aim for 10+ feeds per 24 hours, depending on your baby’s weight gains.
Importantly, a breastfeed will be different for every baby. For some this could mean a leisurely long feed, with a couple of hours break until the next feed, for others this could mean feeding on and off over the course of an hour, and then having a 1-2 hour break before starting again (I like to call this ‘snacking’, and this eating pattern seems to continue into adulthood, with this type of person preferring to ‘graze’ rather than sit down for a couple of main meals).
It is normal for the breastfeeding pattern to change from day to day, or week to week, with some periods being linked to noticeable ‘growth spurts’ or ‘developmental leaps’, while others just seem to be an increased need for comfort for a period of time. The best strategy is to follow your baby’s lead and feed at the first signs of hunger, rather than waiting until baby is crying.
These hunger signs could be bobbing around looking for a breast, sucking on hands or any other number of signs (check this list of common feeding cues from the Australian Breastfeeding Association). You will come to recognise your baby’s unique ways of communicating with you as you bond together. If you’re unsure what’s wrong, try offering a breastfeed. Remember, you can’t feed too much!
Get out of the house
With all of this unpredictable feeding, it can seem impossible to get out of the house with a newborn. Getting outside however is almost guaranteed to lift your mood. Being out and about and feeling fresh air on your face will help you AND your baby relax, and your baby will love the change in surroundings and will also pick up on your change in mood.
A great way to get outside is to find a natural environment nearby, such as a park or playground, where you can both enjoy the sun filtering through branches, and the rustle of leaves in the breeze. Many studies have shown the relaxing properties of being in natural environments.
As a new mum, it can be daunting to be out in public with an unpredictable newborn, especially if you’re wearing your old maternity clothes and feeling daggy. It’s a good idea to invest in a couple of versatile nursing friendly tops or dresses that give you confidence when you step outside. Ideally, your breastfeeding tops or dresses should be easy to breastfeed in, comfortable, and made with natural fibres so they don’t irritate your skin or your baby’s.
Most importantly, aim to feel fabulous when you step out the door – it’s not all about your baby! This could mean adding a colourful necklace or scarf as you’re heading out the door, or buying a nursing top in your favourite colour, or splashing out on a gorgeous breastfeeding friendly dress. Maybe painting your nails in a bright colour. Whatever it is for you, do it! Looking after yourself and feeling good about yourself is incredibly important.
Many people like to use nursing covers, and other people find them impossible to use as you’re trying to adjust your top, attach your baby and cover up at the same time.
You may feel confident without any cover when you’re breastfeeding, or you may find it easier to invest in some nice breastfeeding tops or dresses with discrete access that include a modesty panel (this is simply a piece of fabric that prevents your whole stomach or whole chest from being exposed), or alternatively wear a top with a built in nursing cover, or a wrap that you can fling up when you feel the need, but won’t fall to the floor when you’re trying to juggle everything else.
Everyone is different, but, rest assured, you are likely to feel increasingly confident breastfeeding in public as you get more practice, and may not even need any special clothes or covers. Remember that you have a legal right to breastfeed everywhere and anywhere in Australia without discrimination!
Whatever you decide to do, and whatever happens with your breastfeeding journey, know that you are doing a fabulous job as a mum!
Do you have any other tips to share? Let us know in the comments.