Both mother and baby benefit from being in contact immediately after birth. Consider these facts from research in the hour or two after birth:
- Studies show that newborns who have early contact with their mothers learn to latch on more efficiently than babies who are separated from their mothers in the hour or two following birth.
- This is a time when baby will be in a state of quiet alertness, the optimal behavior state for interaction with you. Her eyes are wide open, she is attentive and is looking for another set of eyes – and for the breast.
- Remarkable films of newborns after birth have shown that babies draped over mother’s abdomen make crawling motions toward the breast and often find their target with minimal assistance.
Give your baby your full attention during this precious time. Gaze into her face, let her hear the voices of her parents that she already learned to recognize in the womb. Drape baby over your chest, tummy to tummy, cheek to breast, skin to skin. Your helpers can cover baby with a warm towel, and your body heat will keep her warm better than any elaborate hospital equipment.
As you hold your baby skin-to-skin against your body, guide her movements and let her nuzzle at your nipple. Just relax and enjoy one another. Introduce your baby to the breast–don’t rush the breastfeeding. This first meeting is not a time to practice latch-on skills or worry about getting everything just right. This is a time for baby to discover where her food will come from, not a time to fill her tummy.
Newly-born babies may lick the nipple at first. When they latch on, they take a few sucks, pause, and then may lick the nipple again or resume gentle sucking. Sucking in irregular bursts and pauses is the usual pattern for the first few hours, and sometimes even the first few days.
Sucking is good for the newly delivered baby. Crying is not. Sucking eases the tension that has built up during the stress of labor and birth. It is a familiar behavior, so it helps baby adjust to her new environment. Although it may seem that there is little or no milk in your breasts, your baby is getting colostrum: thick, yellowish “supermilk” that delivers concentrated germ-protecting factors and also has a laxative effect, helping baby clear the meconium from her system.
Infant sucking is also good for mothers immediately after birth. Stimulating the nipples triggers the release of oxytocin, which makes the uterus contract. This helps control postpartum bleeding and hastens the return of the uterus to its pre-pregnant size. Breastfeeding frequently in the first hours and days after birth will also help your milk “come in” sooner.