The Breastfeeding Couple: Initiation - Nursing Immediately After Birth

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The Breastfeeding Couple: Topics
Table of Contents
Pre module evaluation
Breastfeeding Initiation
Breast Care
New Family
Growth Spurts
Maternal Diet
Returning to Work
Post module evaluation

Infants are most alert in the first hour to hour and a half of life. This is especially true if no maternal medications have been transferred to the infant during labor and delivery. Newborns should nurse at the mother's breast during this alert period. After this initial alert period, babies go through a two to six or eight hour period of time when they are much sleepier and less arousable. Breastfeeding during this period of time may be much more difficult. Mothers need to be reassured that this is normal and it will not hurt their baby to go through this period of time without a good feeding. Studies have shown that infants who nursed soon after birth had a longer duration of breastfeeding than infants who were first put to breast 3 to 6 hours after birth ( Memorize Taylor, 1986 ).

Babies Crawling to Breast

Work by investigators in Sweden has shown that if a mother is not medicated during delivery and her newborn infant is dried except for the hands and placed naked below the mothers breast immediately after delivery (skin-to-skin contact), the infant will slowly move toward the breast. The infant will pause, lick his hands and then lick the nipple and areola. The baby will then open his mouth wide and make an excellent attachment to the breast and begin to suckle. This facilitates latch-on at later feedings. In Righard's studies, by an average of 80 minutes after birth the babies had latched onto the breast without help from anyone. If the mother has received medication the infant may carry out the crawling and self-attachment partially or not at all ( Memorize Righard, 1990 ).

Infants who had skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding immediately after birth were able to recognize the smell of their mothers own milk more readily at 4 days of age than were infants who had no skin-to skin contact and breastfeeding immediately after birth. They also had longer breastfeeding duration. This recognition of maternal milk odor may be related to successful breastfeeding ( Memorize Mizuno, 2004 ).

A review of over 30 studies on the effect of early (in the delivery room) skin to skin contact on infants and mothers showed that babies who were in skin to skin contact:

  • interacted more with their mother,
  • stayed warmer,
  • cried less,
  • were more likely to be breastfed, and
  • were more likely to breastfeed for longer duration. ( Memorize Moore, 2007 ).

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