Moms work endlessly to prepare for the birth of their children. They go through the nesting process, fill out the registry for baby items, and make sure they do everything possible to make their babies entrance to the world wonderful. However, one of the most important things they can do for their child starts the first hour the child is born: breastfeed.
The World Health Organization recommends moms breastfeed their babes for at least six months, with a year to two years being the goal. The best time to get started is the first 60 minutes after the baby exits mom’s body. The benefits to starting early can’t be overstated, and getting an early start can affect the breastfeeding relationship permanently.
There’s a lot going on in a delivery room when a baby arrives, but nurses and doctors should be focused on handing the baby off to mom and letting her nurse even before the placenta is delivered. In fact, mom can ask for this in her birth plan. Even women who have C-sections can request that their babies be allowed to nurse in those early moments. Barring any complications for mom or the baby, this should be doable in most any situation.
It’s true that not every mom will decide to nurse for the long haul, but breastfeeding a child the first hour is still important no matter what mom decides. The first nutrient-rich substance that comes from a mother’s breast is wonderful for a baby, and starting early gives the child benefits that can last a lifetime.
15 Time To Connect With The Newborn
It’s true that mom and her baby have technically been attached for nine months, but the hour right after birth is the perfect time for them to connect when the baby is outside of the womb. Breastfeeding can help mom and her child bond early on and give mom an early success that leaves her feeling capable of taking on all of the tasks that come with being a parent.
Hospitals now are even becoming baby-friendly, meaning they don’t remove a child from mom after birth unless it’s necessary. The baby can stay in the room, nurse, and build the connection that is going to last a lifetime.
Aiding in this bond will be the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin has been nicknamed the love hormone, and UNICEF says it can help moms feel more connected to their babies. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin, so the sooner the better. Mom will love her baby no matter what, but the early release of oxytocin can calm mom and make it easier for her to soothe her crying baby who has just entered an unfamiliar environment.
This kind of attachment is possible even if mom has a C-section. Talking to the OB early on can help ensure that mom has the early attachment and nursing time with the baby and that neither miss this opportunity.
14 Helps Mom Recover Quicker
Bleeding doesn’t end when the baby arrives. After the baby arrives, there’s still a placenta that has to come out, and breastfeeding the first hour after birth helps make this easier and less bloody.
Oxytocin, the same hormone that makes mom fall head over heels for her little one, also makes the placenta come faster and slows the bleeding. It can even cause mom to bleed less according to UNICEF.
Oxytocin aids in contractions and that’s why the placenta is delivered faster when mom breastfeeds. Delaying the onset of breastfeeding means mom will have to deliver the placenta without the aid of extra oxytocin. While this is possible, it can make the delivery more difficult and result in more blood loss for mom.
Birth is bloody anyway, and the sooner mom can recover the sooner she can get home with her baby. Along with a myriad of other benefits, breastfeeding helps mom recover by lessening the chance that she will lose more blood than is necessary. It’s not awkward or inconvenient to have a baby on mom’s chest while she delivers the placenta, and being able to fully focus on the nursing relationship may make delivering the placenta easier for mom.
13 Breastmilk Is The Baby's First Vaccine
No matter where anyone stands on vaccines, a baby’s first vaccine is non-controversial: mom’s breastmilk. A baby is born without much of an immune system to speak of, but mom can give her child an immediate immune system boost by nursing as soon as possible.
Colostrum, the thick, golden colored milk that comes out when a child first nurses, is nutrient-rich and helps set up a child’s body for future health.
Since around 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, consuming colostrum introduces the right kind of bacteria to give a baby a chance to fight off infections and build solid health.
Breastmilk can also protect a child from bacteria from others, like doctors or visitors, and this will help the child hopefully avoid picking up infections. The sooner a child is breastfed the better since they are exposed to bad bacteria upon existing the womb.
This is especially important for moms who have C-sections. Since a child born by C-section doesn’t exit vaginally, he won’t be covered in the bacteria from the birth canal. This puts children born via C-section at a disadvantage when it comes to immune system response. They don’t receive those bacteria and their immune systems suffer. By nursing as soon as possible once they are born surgically, their immune systems can gain traction and hopefully fight off any attacks.
12 Helps With Contractions After Labor
Labor is over, so why would mom want more contractions? The afterbirth. The placenta still has to be delivered, and as might be expected, mom is exhausted by this point. Excited to meet her little one, sure, but not in the mood for more contractions.
Luckily nursing early can help mom finish strong by aiding in contractions. More contractions mean a faster delivery of the placenta, and then mom can put labor behind her and truly focus on the next steps in parenting. Plus, the contractions will help slow the bleeding mom is experiencing, leaving her less likely to deal with a postpartum hemorrhage.
It is possible to hold the baby immediately and initiate the breastfeeding process even before the placenta comes out. Some moms choose to let the cord quit pulsing so the baby can get all the blood from the cord before cutting it and detaching the placenta from the baby. Whatever mom chooses, she'll be grateful that breastfeeding makes the process of delivering the afterbirth faster, and she may be so focused on nursing her child that she doesn't stress about what is still going on in her uterus. It's bonding time, feeding time, and a great way to focus on nurturing instead of still contracting.
11 Regulates The Baby's Body Temperature
Babies use a lot of energy getting warm after they leave the comfort of the womb. One way to help them save that energy? Nurse them early. The skin-to-skin time will help regulate their body temperature, and this can be very important.
There are a couple of reasons breastfeeding helps babies in the temperature department and several reasons that it matters. Babies who don't have issues regulating their own temperatures tend to experience better growth according to Fit Pregnancy. They aren't using their energy to stay warm, they are using it to put on some ounces that will help them bust out of the hospital and get home.
Babies who have skin-to-skin time to regulate body temperature are also more likely to have a good breastfeeding relationship with mom because, as previously mentioned, the earlier the nursing takes place, the longer it tends to last. This helps a child keep their temperature up in those early days because they are nestled into mom, and it also leads to a journey full of growth and development because a child is nursing.
Stepping out of a warm shower into a cold bathroom is hard for adults, so imagine popping out of a warm womb into a cold labor room. Nursing early offers a child the chance to have a more stable temperature, and that's the gift that keeps on giving.
10 Can Be A Lifesaver
There are times when breastfeeding a child early can be the difference between life and death. Medical News reported that studies indicate that over 40 percent of babies that die the first 30 days after they are born could have been saved if breastfeeding had taken place in the first hour.
The logic is that early breastfeeding will establish a nursing relationship that will likely continue, an assumption that is scientifically supported. If a child who would otherwise face the risk of malnutrition is instead breastfed, less children would die from starvation and malnutrition. Establishing this bond early on could be a life saver for these kids.
Of course there is formula if mom can't or doesn't want to breastfeed, but not every child has access to formula or safe water for it to be mixed in.
Breastfeeding early is the best way to guarantee milk comes and a source of nutrition, as well as immune-building goodness, is offered to a baby.
Even children who are in developed countries benefit from nursing. Children who are born too early and land in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) often receive pumped breastmilk from their mothers since they aren't able to nurse on their own. Every drop of this rich substance helps the baby along the path to development.
9 The Baby Will Be Alert And Aware
Everyone has a time of the day when they are especially alert, and this is a great time for them to learn a new skill. Babies come into the world alert and ready to learn, and so the first hour of life is the best time to teach them how to breastfeed. Yes, they will instantly lunge for the breast, but they will need help latching properly and staying on. This is the perfect time to help them, while they are hungry and very awake.
Everyone knows the baby's scream that marks his entrance to the world is loud and passionate, but they don't usually connect that to the alertness the baby feels at that time. Taken from one environment and thrust into another, the baby is awake and aware.
This won't be the case for long. Babycentre UK points out that babies will sleep a ton in the first 24 hours to recover from birth and because they are growing rapidly and need the rest. Missing the first alert hour can lead to mom trying to teach a very tired newborn how to latch, which leads to frustration for everyone many times.
Starting early gives a child the best chance to latch properly and learn easily.
8 Helps Stabilize Sugar Levels
If a baby's blood sugar levels don't stabilize after birth, it could mean time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). An easy way to help blood sugar levels stabilize is to breastfeed in the first hour, as soon as possible. This guarantees skin-to-skin time, which Baby Gooroo says helps with blood sugar. It also ensure a child is nursing before their blood sugar levels drop too low. When blood sugar drops too low, it may actually be harder for a baby to nurse due to how weak or irritable the low blood sugar makes them.
Allowing a baby to nurse and be close to mom means the child won't waste a ton of energy trying to stay warm or go too long without food. Not wasting that energy keeps blood sugar stable, and though doctors will still check blood sugar levels during mom's stay in the hospital, they hopefully won't be a problem.
Moms who suffer from gestational diabetes are more likely to have a child with blood sugar issues, so it's important to know the risks and breastfeed early. Starting strong is an easy way to avoid issues that can cause more problems in the future, and a good breastfeeding relationship is worth it.
7 The Sooner, The Longer
Breastfeeding is a natural process, but that absolutely does not mean that it's easy. Mom will inevitably run into problems on the breastfeeding journey, and she will have to decide whether or not it's a good idea to keep going. Some of these issues may be avoided, or mom's perspective about them may be different if she took advantage of nursing the first hour. How do we know? Because women who nurse early nurse longer.
Sanford Health reports that nursing the first hour is a good indicator that mom will continue to breastfeed longer than a woman who does not nurse early on.
Maybe it's the early success that encourages mom to keep going. Maybe it's because skin-to-skin time and nursing early on help bring mom's milk down. It could be the oxytocin released by breastfeeding that helps mom connect with her little one that keeps her going. Whatever the reason, timing matters, and if mom wants to breastfeed for the long term, it's a good idea for her to get started early.
Women who miss the first hour opportunity need not fret. They can still nurse their babies. It's just a good idea to start as soon as possible, and the first hour does seem to offer a sweet spot when it comes to establishing that connection.
6 The Milk Can Make Its Way Home
Mom's breasts change so much during pregnancy that it's hard to tell what is happening. What many moms don't know is that their actual milk won't come down until after the baby arrives, usually, a day or two after the baby arrives in fact. The magic liquid a child takes in until then is colostrum.
Milk coming down is not a comfortable process, but the sooner it happens the better. The best way to get the milk in is to let the baby nurse, and the sooner the baby nurses the sooner the milk will start making its way home. That means nursing the first hour starts a process that is necessary for the future of the breastfeeding relationship.
Though uncomfortable, a baby nursing can help mom survive the pain of the milk let down and get the job done quickly. Waiting too long can cause problems with milk supply, so it's best to nurse as soon as possible. In fact, it's possible that the early milk let down may make the nursing relationship easier for all involved, encouraging it to carry on to the two year point the World Health Organization recommends. Plus, getting the pain of milk coming down sooner than later is best.
5 Skin-To-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact is all the rage for good reason. Skin-to-skin time with a baby means the baby is up against mom or dad's skin, with their skin in contact. The logical way to do this is to pass the baby off to mom after birth and let her nuzzle her newborn to her chest. When this skin-to-skin connection takes place, amazing things happen for mom and the baby.
For mom, milk gets ready to come in when the baby is near because mom's body responds to the baby on the skin. Fit Pregnancy reports that this may help mom produce more milk, something that will aid in nursing. For the baby, safety is felt when next to mom's skin. Birth is a major, dramatic process for a baby, but being against mom's skin can cause stress levels to drop in the child, making them feel secure.
If mom wants the baby to sleep better, skin-to-skin time is also key. Fit Pregnancy reports that babies given skin-to-skin time are better sleepers, probably because they are calmer. Mom may even feel the calm since women who offer their infants skin-to-skin time don't have postpartum depression as often as women who don't.
Breastfeeding during the first hour is a great way to make sure a child receives skin-to-skin time, and if a child is close to mom's breasts that first hour, they will want to nurse.
4 No To Formula
Formula is not evil, but for women who want to exclusively breastfeed, it's a no-no. Since The World Health Organization recommends nursing exclusively for the first six months with no solids or formula introduced, it's important to start the right way in order to follow this piece of counsel.
Early breastfeeding helps ensure a child is not given formula because the baby stays with mom and is satiated by her milk.
A child exits the womb looking for mom and rooting for the breast. A child who isn't fed soon will continue to be in distress, and this can lead to the baby being offered a bottle of formula. Not only is this not the most nutritious way to start but it is also confusing for the baby.
The way a baby latches to a breast is different than the way the baby latches to a bottle nipple, and ideally a child will master nursing before ever being exposed to the bottle so the breastfeeding latch is done properly.
Make sure to specify if you don't want the baby offered formula, and work hard to feed him within the first hour so there's no need for it. The sooner, the better.
3 Bye, Bye Visitors
Everyone gets excited when a baby arrives, and that's great. However, mom may not want family, friends, and neighbors coming in to greet her and her newborn as soon as possible. Many moms want what is sometimes called the golden hour, that first hour after birth, to bond with their child uninterrupted. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to whip out a boob.
When visitors find out mom is nursing, they will likely respect her privacy, or nurses can ask them to. Nursing early is an easy way to ensure mom gets to bond with the baby since she is the one who carried him for nine months. She won't have to pass him off to well-meaning relatives. Those who understand that breastfeeding is taking place will usually respect the process and pick another time to ooh and aah over the little one.
There are many reasons to request that first hour be reserved for mom, dad, and the baby, but breastfeeding is one of the best. Establishing this bond early without the baby having any distractions can lead to lifelong benefits for the child. Asking grandparents to hold on just a bit longer to see the little one can pay off.
2 Salvage A Derailed Birth Plan
Moms often write birth plans to help guide their babies into the world. It's a good practice that allows mom to choose whether or not she wants to be medicated, what positions she wants to birth in, and other details she will want to decide on before labor comes on.
Unfortunately, not everything in life goes according to plan. Some women are able to carry out the details of their birth plans with no deviations, but others come up against unforeseen circumstances that throw the whole thing off the tracks.
When this occurs, nursing early and having success in that arena can help mom recover from a derailed birth plan. Sure, she may still be upset that she ended up with an epidural after hoping to refuse one or that an emergency led to a C-section, but she can still feel the sweet success of breastfeeding and bonding with her baby, no matter what.
It's possible to write early breastfeeding into the birth plan so doctors and nurses know that no matter what happens during labor, mom wants to breastfeed when it's over if possible. This can keep mom and the baby close after a difficult birth and allow them time to bond and calm down together.
1 Early Wins
Parenting is a beautiful, messy, hard job. There will be good days and awful days, and mom needs to take as many wins as she can get.
Early breastfeeding can be a really meaningful win, and it's beneficial to mom and her little one.
Mom knows she is giving her child an array of early benefits by breastfeeding, and starting early means she will likely continue to offer the nursing bond and benefits over a longer period of time. It also proves to her that she can calm her child, connect with her baby, and give him the sustenance he needs to survive.
Breastfeeding is so much more than just offering a baby food, though that is a big part of it. It's offering the affection, warmth, and togetherness that every baby craves. Moms who breastfeed early may find that the early success leaves them less worried about the rest of the parenting journey since they already conquered this early skill.
It's true that breastfeeding difficulties, from milk supply issues to mastitis, can creep up at any time, but early nursing gives mom a way to know she can feed her baby from her body. It's a win for mom and the little one.