What to Expect: The First Two Weeks of Nursing - FamilyEducation

What to Expect: The First Two Weeks of Nursing

Learn what to expect when first starting to breast-feed.

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I've always thought that the first two weeks of nursing were the hardest to deal with, whether it was my first baby or my third. Once I was over that two-week hump, it seemed that nursing was, with a few exceptions, smooth sailing.

It takes about two weeks to establish a routine with baby, which changes often because of growth spurts, the first of which occurs between eight and twelve days. Subsequent surges in development that prompt baby to feed more frequently take place at about three to four weeks, and again at three months or so. After that, growth spurts are variable.

The more you know, the better you will be able to handle breastfeeding during this critical time when you are more likely to throw in the towel because you don't think you're doing it right. Here's what to expect from moments after delivery.

In the Delivery Room
Within the first two hours or so after birth, babies seek comfort in their mother's breast. Their instinct is to latch on and suck, so right after delivery is typically the best time to first nurse your baby. If you can't feed the baby soon after birth, make it clear to the delivery room staff and to the nursery personnel that you want to breastfeed as soon as possible, and that you don't want the baby to receive any supplemental feedings of formula or water if it's not medically necessary. Supplemental infant formula can confuse a baby just learning to nurse, because sucking on artificial nipples uses different tongue and jaw motions than does suckling at the breast. Have the baby stay with you if possible. This arrangement, called rooming in, encourages breastfeeding and reduces the odds that your baby will get supplemental feedings.

Sometimes women have a difficult delivery or their baby is born with certain problems that prevent breastfeeding right after birth. Does that mean breastfeeding becomes impossible? Not necessarily. My friend Hillary's situation beautifully illustrates that point.

Hillary delivered a son who was immediately whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Because he required help breathing, her baby was placed on a respirator, ruling out breastfeeding for the time being. That didn't deter Hillary, however. While she waited for her baby to get well enough to breath on his own, she pumped her milk. Three days after delivery, Hillary first nursed her son, and it went without a hitch. Nine months later, he's a happy, robust boy who has clearly benefited from breastfeeding and the commitment his mother made to nursing.