Breastfeeding at Birth - Why Breastfeed Immediately After Birth?

Most babies have a powerful sucking reflex straight after birth, but it is also normal for a baby to only nuzzle or lick a little. Some babies will latch on very well, while others take some time to get the hang of it.

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Mother holding her baby

If you decide on a natural birth plan, without many medications and interruptions, your baby will be more likely to breastfeed immediately after birth.

Most babies have a powerful sucking reflex straight after birth, but it is also normal for a baby to only nuzzle or lick a little. Some babies will latch on very well, while others take time to get the hang of it.

Studies have even shown that a newborn baby can crawl from the mother’s abdomen to her chest and latch himself onto the breast straight after birth without help.

If the baby does not initiate breastfeeding on their own after 50 minutes, then the mother can help them latch on.

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The Benefits of Breastfeeding Right After Birth

  • Nursing your baby as soon as possible after birth will help your uterus contract.
  • Breastfeeding at birth speeds up the delivery of the placenta.
  • Breastfeeding at birth also helps to initiate immediate bonding between the mother and baby due to the hormone Oxytocin released.
  • Breastfeeding as soon as possible stimulates the production of milk.
  • Mothers who breastfeed shortly after birth have been found to breastfeed their babies longer and more successfully.
  • Suckling decreases the tension and stress of birth and labor for the baby and will help the mom relax, as she will produce feel-good hormones during nursing.
breastfeeding a newborn baby
Photo by Hollie Santos / Unsplash

Tips to Make Breastfeeding at Birth More Possible

  • A natural birth experience is best. If possible, have a non-medical birth with as little medication as possible. Drugs can make babies sleepy and less able to suck as they should.
  • Skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby will help the baby stay warm after birth and increase the chances of successful breastfeeding.
  • Educate yourself about a good latch. You should never let your baby suck on your nipple alone; they should always have the nipple and a large part of your areola in their mouth for the best possible milk transfer.
  • If your baby does not seem interested in breastfeeding immediately after birth, you can rub some colostrum on the baby's lips to entice them.

Things That May Interfere With Breastfeeding After Birth

  • An epidural can result in a baby being extra drowsy and experiencing a poor suck after birth.
  • Narcotics can hamper breastfeeding at birth success.
  • A Cesarean delivery. Babies delivered via c-sections are lethargic and less enthusiastic about sucking for up to two weeks after birth.
  • Having a premature baby.
  • Having your baby put in the Intensive Care Unit. In this case, a mother might need to pump exclusively until her baby can breastfeed.

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  • Remember that if you are experiencing very sore nipples, your baby is most likely not latching on correctly. Some nipple sensitivity, in the beginning, is normal, but other than this, you should not have severe pain, cracks, or bleeding. Seek the help of a lactation consultant.
  • Try not to rush breastfeeding at birth. These first moments together are mostly to introduce your baby to the breast, not to fill their tummy.
  • For the first few days, your breasts produce only colostrum until your mature milk comes in. This colostrum is produced in small amounts, is genuinely filling and nutritious, and is enough to fill your baby’s tiny tummy.