“Eat, sleep, breastfeed, repeat.”
Importance of Breastfeeding in the First Hour
Breastfeeding is one the most empowering things a mother can accomplish. It takes dedication and patience to get the “flow” going between you and your baby. To make sure that it gets off to a good start – the very first hour after birth is crucial to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
The birth itself, is going to be different for all moms. However, it doesn’t matter how the birth turned out – getting a baby latched within that first hour is important, and can be done for all. Every mother will breastfeed for various lengths of times, some only a few weeks and some years. Yet, the mother’s first milk, colostrum, will set the stage for a lifetime of health benefits for the baby.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBE) even has a catchphrase, “Breast Feeding the 1st Hour – Save One Million Babies.”
What is this mind-blowing super-food that we call colostrum?
Breast Milk is usually what gets all the attention, but colostrum is really the biggest star in it all!
“Colostrum is rich in immunologic components such as secretory IgA, lactoferrin, leukocytes, as well as developmental factors such as epidermal growth factor. Colostrum also contains relatively low concentrations of lactose, indicating its primary functions to be immunologic and trophic rather than nutritional. Levels of sodium, chloride and magnesium are higher and levels of potassium and calcium are lower in colostrum than later milk.” (source).
Colostrum is richer than breast milk, yellow in coloring and is loaded with protein and lower in sugar and fat, so it is easy for baby to digest. It is also loaded with immune boosting properties and white blood cells, giving your newborn amazing protection! For the first 2-5 days, your body will produce this liquid gold for your baby’s first food, before it transitions over to breast milk. Most mother’s only get about ounce within the first 24 hours but don’t worry – your newborn’s stomach is only the size of a cherry! Since your breasts are not very full during this stage, this can help the newborn to latch easier as the two of you get used to it together.
The First Hour
During this critical hour – the mother and baby (unless baby is born with a complication) should be in a quiet and supportive environment, to establish this first latch. Newborns appear to only be sleeping, but they are born ready to learn and they are focused on mom with all five of their senses. Placing them directly on mom’s chest will help calm them, along with calming mom and regulating each other’s body temperature.
It is also known that breastfeeding within the first hour, not only gives the baby the colostrum he/she needs, but more likely to succeed with breastfeeding for the long run. This is also known as the “early initiation of breastfeeding”. Mother feels the benefits during this time, as this natural bond between mom and baby will help her to soak in her new baby and experience all of the immediate and incredible changes her body will naturally go through. Her brain chemistry immediately changes and the innate need to nurture is installed right away, therefore having baby on her chest and breastfeeding will help the mother to recover much faster.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy that first incredibly magical hour with your baby!
Lindsay Gibson, Editor
Beautiful, Births & Beyond LLC