If you want to breastfeed then there are things that can be done before your baby arrives to make things easier for you.
In the last few weeks of your pregnancy take care of your breasts and nipples. Avoid soap in the shower to prevent them from cracking and getting too dry. You can moisturise with a lanolin cream.
Once your baby has been delivered ask for it to be put on your chest straight away. Skin to skin contact even without feeding promotes the production of oxytocin, the main hormone responsible for milk production. A study in India found that holding the baby skin to skin in the 45 minutes after birth had a significant impact on the success and longevity of breastfeeding (72% were still breastfeeding after six weeks, compared to 52% of the women who did not spend that time with the baby)
Write it down in your birth plan that this is something you want to do
Your baby will be covered in something called vernix. This is an oily secretion designed to protect them and keep them warm in the womb. A recent study has shown that if this is not washed off for at least two hours after birth (preferably 12 hours) then the baby has a significantly higher chance of being able to breastfeed.
Amniotic fluid smells very similar to the hormone smell that is secreted from the breast. You will see newborn babies putting their hand to their face – they can smell the fluid and then they will smell that same scent coming from your nipple – it all serves to give them a natural cue as to where to go for food.
Don’t worry if the baby does not want to feed straight away – they may be tired from the birth and just need a little time. Some can take up to 48 hours to really understand that they are hungry and you can help! The birth process is tiring for you both so baby may just want to feed little and often in those first few days as get used to their new world – this is normal.
Give your baby a chance to ‘self attach,’ so skin to skin straight after birth and allow them to find your nipple. Babies who are given this chance have a greater success rate.
Limit visitors in the first few days – yes you will want to show the baby off but it is important to maintain a relaxed atmosphere as well as concentration in those first sessions.
Your baby may not take a lot straight away especially if you have had drugs during delivery. Cuddling and that all important skin to skin will help.
Keep your baby bottle free. Newborn babies have tiny stomachs so really do not need supplements such as either formula or water. You need your breasts to be stimulated so you can produce milk and filling a baby with formula will stop that demand. Also an artificial nipple such as a teat on a bottle requires less effort babies become lazy.
No dummies or pacifiers until breastfeeding is established.
Breast feed on demand. Aim for between 8-12 feeds a day. Any routine or any timing of feeds in these early stages can impact your supply and production of milk meaning that you can feel uncomfortable as you get engorged.
Remember that if you are on a drip that fluid will go into the baby. They will also have fluid from being in the amniotic sac. They are designed to lose weight and it is ok. They should gain any lost weight (which will be around 5-10%) back by their two week check up.