Hold the baby skin-to-skin and nurse within an hour of birth and often thereafter. Skin-to-skin stimulates mom's milk, sooths the baby and lowers mom's blood pressure
The first day, babies need to be held a lot, but may eat very little.
At birth, the average baby's stomach holds only a teaspoon and a half. At first, breastfed babies eat small amounts every hour or so.
For the first few days, mom's breasts produce small amounts of colostrum, a concentrated yellowish milk full of nutrients, antibodies and immunities. It is important for the baby to have it, even if you syringe or spoon it in. It may be just drops at times.
A baby's gut is immature at birth, full of tiny holes. Colostrum (early milk) works like a primer, sealing the holes. For it to work most effectively, put nothing else in the baby's stomach, unless there is a medical reason to do so.
A baby's stomach doubles in size within 3 days, then again within 10 days. At that point, it holds about two ounces.
The more a mother nurses, the more milk she produces, the faster her milk comes in.
No formula can match immunities breastfeeding gives babies: lower risk of obesity, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, throat, ear and lung infections, diabetes, intestinal infections, leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome. Mom gets extra protection against breast and ovarian cancer.
To let mom's milk do its best job, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and American Dietetic Association advise mothers to breastfeed, with no other food, at least six months, preferably a year, unless there is a medical problem. The formula industry advises six months.
In the first days, bottle nipples or pacifiers can make breastfeeding harder because they are different in feel from the breast and can cause "nipple confusion."
Avoid bright lights. They can cause new babies to fuss and resist nursing.
If the baby does not "latch," don't give up. Try skin-to-skin. Shift baby in position and angle. Ask a lactation consultant for help. Look for helpful YouTube videos. Hang in.
Sources: Jenny Morris and Brenda Young, certified lactation specialists, Women Infants and Children's Program; Dr. Jamie Jeffrey, director Children's Medicine Clinic, Charleston Area Medical Center.