Blog by NHS Midwife and No Milk Like Mama’s Peer Supporter Jenny Clark
Those first few days after giving birth..
What to expect? How to prepare? What is normal?
I’ve had experience witnessing and supporting many mothers in the first few days after giving birth and anyone who has been lucky enough to have a baby knows those first few days and weeks can be really tough.
Firstly a bit about my own experience…
I gave birth to my first baby in July 2018, as a midwife I was lucky enough to be surrounded by colleagues and friends to support me as much as they could. As I sit here thinking about those first few days it’s difficult to remember exactly how I felt. I remember the hot, sweaty postnatal ward…it was about 30 degrees outside and we had gone from the lovely air con in delivery suite to the stuffy ward. My daughter had been on neonatal unit for the first 36 hours of her life due to meconium aspiration at birth and needed oxygen to help her breathe. Unfortunately this meant we had no skin to skin at birth and she wasn’t able to feed for this time. I was also unwell myself so breastfeeding had to take a back seat for the time being. Thankfully my knowledge of being a midwife meant I harvested colostrum while on my maternity leave. Expressing small amounts every day every few days into a small syringe, labelling it with the date and time and freezing it. I have seen colostrum a lot but seeing this thick, liquid gold coming drop by drop out of me was amazing. To be honest my main reason for doing this was in case I was unable to get her latched correctly or she had a tongue tie, something I had seen a number of times. I never thought or prepared myself that either of us would be unwell. But who does?
After 36 hours of my daughter being on neonatal unit we were both getting better and it was safe for her to have the numerous tubes removed and we could hold her. We had skin to skin and she latched to the boob straight away. What a relief!
The next few days were tough, she was able to come to the ward with us that evening. As any mother I stared with wonder at her all night and hardly slept. She fed on and off. By day 3 she was unsettled and cluster feeding. This was when I decided to give her the colostrum I had collected and it took the pressure off me for a little while. I questioned whether she was getting enough in my tired state. She hadn’t opened her bowels for a while but was weeing plenty so knew she was fine. My milk came in and we were off to a great start. She didn’t lose too much weight considering she hadn’t fed for the first 36 hours and she has been a boob monster ever since!
A number of things may affect you initiating breastfeeding after the birth of your baby. This could be issues with yourself or your baby, this maybe babies ability to latch well to the breast or baby may be being monitored. In case any of these happen you can do a number of things to help in those first few days.
Skin to skin – is recommended in all births, not only to help initiate breastfeeding but to also keep baby warm, regulate the heart rate and keep them calm. This should be for at least an hour minimum and can be continued into the postnatal period as much as possible. In my case this wasn’t possible initially but we made up for this after!
Colostrum harvesting- get syringes from your midwife or online. See video regarding how to do this. Please do not worry if you are unable to express any colostrum. This does not mean you will be unable to breastfeed. If you are able to take these syringes with you to hospital and request for them to be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Cluster feeding- expect baby to want to be on and off your breast, they may fall asleep and then wake up when you move them and want to feed again. This is perfectly normal, naturally they need to stimulate your milk supply, think of it as putting them putting in their order and telling your body what it needs to do. This is tough in those first few days and weeks, when you are sleep deprived and sore from the birth you question what is happening. Reach out for your support to get reassurance, this may be your partner, mum, friends and health professionals.