The First Breastfeed: Tips for Newborn Breastfeeding
Are you curious about how your baby's first breastfeed might be in real life? Below, you will hear from Maureen, a first-time-mother, who shares her birth experience and the hours following including that very important first breastfeed.
There's something special about the bond between a mother and her baby, and one of the ways that bond is established is through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is natural and for some mothers and babies, comes easily.
But for many, breastfeeding can be difficult, stressful and even painful. The Thompson Method is a new and gentle approach to breastfeeding, and is based on the principle that every woman's body is unique and every newborn baby is unique.
Maureen's story about The First Breastfeed of her Newborn
I came across the program because my mom told me I needed to toughen up my nipples to prepare my breasts by taking a toothbrush. Which is terrible advice! It's sad, but it's such common advice, which I suppose is on top of that mountain of conflicting advice that we've all been given during pregnancy.
I'm usually a little bit of a sceptic, and I thought this program might sound a little too good to be true. But when I did research on Dr Robyn to see who she was and I learned her story, I decided to investigate further.
Pic: Maureen in the latter stages of her pregnancy
How the events during Maureen's labor impacted her baby's first breastfeed
My labor felt very long. It was about 36 hours, which I do understand is right in the middle of the average first time for a mom's labour experience, but I was exhausted and I decided to ask for pain relief towards the end. I felt confident and informed about doing this from the education in the program.
My son, Tyler, passed his meconium in the womb. Unfortunately, due to his meconium likely blocking his airways, they did need to take him briefly to clean him up and clear his airways. His first Apgar score was 4 and again, thanks to Dr Robyn’s information, I understood what that meant for me... for us.
Thankfully, his second Apgar score was 9, so he was immediately brought back to me because that was part of my birth plan on my request. Due to some of the interventions that I ultimately needed to have, through my labor, he was a little sleepy but he did come to my breast, about 30 minutes post delivery.
Pic: Maureen and baby Tyler
We can plan as much as we like, but I discover that the key to planning is having the preparation on what to do if it doesn't go to plan. You know, our babies spend nine months approximately growing inside us, kicking and making us feel all kinds of things, emotionally and physically. And then all of a sudden, this 21 inch long, seven pound nine ounce creature was in my arms!!
"I felt more prepared for my first breastfeed thanks to the resources from the program"
With the first breastfeed, I would be lying if I said that it was ONLY 30 minutes before he first came to my breast. Honestly, I got a little frustrated and I was getting a little nervous. But I just tried to be patient and remind myself that all babies are born with the instinctive knowledge to do this - healthy babies of course.
That is a principle that Dr Robyn gently reminds us, is that babies have instincts and mommies have instincts and we need to listen to them because they're almost never wrong. And they really aren't. So I just had to kind of tune out the nurses, tune out my husband and just let my baby do his thing.
"During the first breastfeed all the postpartum nurses kept asking me if I was sure this was my first baby to breastfeed, because they had never seen The Thompson Method applied before."
However.... one of the 'checkboxes' in order to be discharged to go home was to have the local lactation consultant on staff stop by and check things out and make sure that my baby was feeding "efficiently"......
Whatever that means.
So she came in and initially it was fine. She was just sharing education about the physiology of breastfeeding. Then of course, I think Tyler felt my stress because I really didn't want her in the room..... I HAD to have her in the room. So he kind of stopped feeding and was struggling a little bit. Then she took that as an opportunity to put her hands on me and put her hands on Tyler and I'll use the polite word of 'guiding him' in a 'not so gentle' manner.
Forceful techniques were used with without my consent.
My husband was even getting frustrated. He told me afterwards that he was very close to asking her to please leave, because he could see that Tyler was getting distraught and I was getting very upset. Luckily, I don't know if she read the room, or if she just had to go on to the next patient but she said 'sorry' and left in a rush, leaving me behind a nipple shield.
A knock to my confidence by the professionals who were there to care for me and my baby
So this was the point where things turned around. I cried. It was very defeating to feel that way because I felt like we were doing so well. I was doing so well and then I had a lactation specialist come in and use these forceful techniques, which made it more challenging. Of course, it resulted in a bit of nipple trauma with the breastfeeding technique that she used. And it's crazy to think that just those few moments impacted it. So wow.
Despite feeling so confident and getting off to a great start, I had my confidence knocked when the nipple shield was introduced. Luckily, I was able to turn to the resources and information Dr Robyn shares on gently weaning off the shield.
Having trusted guidance and support at my finger tips
Well, while I was still in the hospital, I did reach out to the admin team in the Club. I thank God for The Thompson Method team. There were some amazing women that I am so grateful for that led me to several videos that I could watch at my convenience, which is one of my favourite things about the program. There are so many videos, and you can access them as many times as little times as you want as often and you know, at 2am or 2pm.
So I was very happy to go home and be able to sit comfortably on my couch and watch all the videos I wanted to watch and really give myself a moment to absorb the information. Again, even though I had watched it all before and I had some confidence behind me to learn some of the things that brought me to the success I had initially. I just had to reabsorb that again.
A successful 'newborn breastfeeding' turnaround
Now Tyler will be 18 months on Sunday, our breastfeeding journey went on to be successful and I am so grateful for the education, the continued support and gentle guidance.
Every time a new challenge presented, like baby getting teeth, vaccines or other medical procedures that he has had to go through, growth spurts and just minor bumps in the road, I knew how to deal with all of that because there's so much information available that I've never felt alone.
Maureen breastfeeding Tyler at 18months
The Club is such a unique and special community because that is just a trusted source of information and there's just no judgement.
I feel that women are so underserved, because it's assumed that this is a natural process . And there's no need for anybody to educate anybody.
Breastfeeding might be the most natural, the most beautiful thing to do in the world but if you struggle to begin with, if you can't achieve that newborn breastfeeding success in those early days, that's when the coercion starts. That's when so many women are encouraged to to give up or worse... feel forced to give up.
I really couldn't be more grateful for the knowledge and breastfeeding support that's available at my fingertips.
There are so many resources and other women before me who have asked the same questions and who have gone through similar experiences. So even when you feel like you're at your most alone, you have this community to turn to.
The biggest challenge to overcome is to trust yourself. I still struggle with it now sometimes but thankfully, with us all supporting each other, we're easily reminded that we have got this!
Why is The First Breastfeed So Important?
The first breastfeed is a very special and much anticipated time for a mother and her baby and play an important part in getting off to the best start and establishing breastfeeding.
In Dr Robyn Thompson's experience, the first breastfeed may take 2-3 hours to complete and the baby will feed leisurely from both breasts until the baby drifts into a sleep or relaxes. That’s why we refer to this special time as the 3 Golden Hours!
Dr Robyn recommends that if the APGAR score is 7 or above that the baby should be with you. She encourages all non urgent assessments and vaccinations to be done after the 3 golden hours and first breastfeed is complete.
Research by Dr Robyn Thompson, Midwife
When a woman breastfeeds without complication, she is in a position to choose whether she breastfeeds her baby and for how long. However, most women give birth to their babies in hospital with many experience common breastfeeding complications such as nipple trauma, breast engorgement and mastitis in the early postnatal period. These complications increase the likelihood of further complications such as low milk volume, often leaving women feeling as though they have no choice but to give up breastfeeding.
This is why preparation during pregnancy is so important. Understanding the importance of the first breastfeed, and what to do if you find yourself in an unexpected situation where Mother and baby are separated, is the absolute key to a successful breastfeeding journey.
Pic: Dr Robyn Thompson helping a mother breastfeed her 6 week old baby
Why sharing women's birth and breastfeeding journey's is so important
For many women, the act of breastfeeding is a deeply personal experience. It can be a time of bonding with their baby, as well as a source of strength and power. However, it can also be a time of uncertainty and anxiety, especially for new mothers. The Thompson Method is designed to help women feel more confident and comfortable breastfeeding their babies.
The aim of sharing women's birth and breastfeeding stories with one another, is order to provide awareness around the common practices used in the hospital system and how to navigate those. By hearing the stories of other women who have successfully breastfed their babies, new mothers can feel more empowered to do the same. In addition, the Thompson Method can help to build a sense of community among women who are breastfeeding, which can be immensely valuable during this special time.