Congratulations on the birth of your little one. You are probably over the moon to finally be able to meet your baby, after months of feeling her move in your tummy. You are also probably a bit overwhelmed by the actual momentous event of giving birth and now being handed this tiny human to take care of.
Do not be afraid to have your baby attached at the boob for what feels like forever, it is normal and you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby if nursing directly from you.
I still remember how overwhelmed I was to be a mother, I forgot everything I had so eagerly researched to prepare me, my mind went a total blank. We only remembered on the second day that you are supposed to burp a baby. I also remember how amazed I was at how much she slept, she was almost never awake.
While you are overwhelmed, your new tiny human is also overwhelmed being in this bright loud world she knows nothing about. She was used to your muffled voice and constant heartbeat. She also all of a sudden has to learn to work for her food, she never knew what it felt like to be hungry and this new sensation scares her, as it's not nice.
Your baby will want to drink constantly, with newborns only consuming 5 to 7 ml (one teaspoon) per feed, she will need to nurse often. It is best to feed on demand and offer the breast as much as possible, not only will this help with your milk production but she also needs all the practice she can get for latching and sucking. Know your baby's hunger cues and offer the breast at the first signs of hunger eg. rooting, stirring and hand in mouth.
While feeding on demand is important, it is also important to not let her go too long without a feed. She should feed no less than 10 to 12 times a day, that is roughly every hour and a half to two hours (can stretch to 3 hours at night but no longer - you will need to wake your baby while she is younger than 6 weeks). If your baby's blood sugars are low or if you had a medicated birth where the pain medication can affect your baby, she may be too sleepy to let you know she needs to drink.
If your baby's sugars are low and she becomes too sleepy and weak to latch and suck, you can hand express some colostrum onto a spoon and feed it too her with the spoon or by using a syringe. You may also need to keep her awake during feeds so that she can actively suck.
To help her stay awake you can stroke her back, play with her feet, talk to her or sing to her, stroke her cheek and hair, change her diaper mid feed, hand her to daddy for a cuddle and then back to you for the rest of the feed or use a cold cloth or wet wipe on her feet. I mention the cold cloth lastly, as she won't like that one and I used it as a last resort.
Do not be afraid to have your baby attached at the boob for what feels like forever, it is normal and you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby if nursing directly from you. If you are going to bottle feed, it is important to do Paced-Bottle-Feeding, to ensure you are not overfeeding your baby.
However, it is not advised to pump before 6 weeks, as your milk needs time to stabilize. You can rather hand express if you need to. Babies nurse for more reasons than just hunger, they nurse for nurture too and the stimulation will help with your milk production.
Do lots of skin-to-skin with your baby and let her sleep on your chest, she wants to be close to you and on your chest is where she belongs. Your heartbeat will soothe her, as she has been used to it all her life and the rhythmic thudding against her ear will have her sleeping peacefully.
When she is skin-to-skin, your body will also help her regulate her body temperature, as newborns cannot regulate their own temperature. Don't be afraid of overheating her, as a mother's body has the amazing ability to drop a degree when your baby has a fever and to gain a degree when your baby is cold. Skin-to-skin will also keep baby's blood sugar regular and cases have been recorded where a baby's blood sugars were stabilized via skin-to-skin even though the babies did not nurse or receive top-ups.
Newborn's cannot see very well and rely on smell to find their mothers. Your baby will recognize your smell when you nurse her and will associate it with her food source. In the early days babies are driven by their need to survive and knowing that they are helpless, they know that they need to stay close to their food source to survive. That is why they want to be held constantly.
As they begin to know you and see that their needs are always met, they will trust you and start being a bit more independent, being content with lying next to you rather than on you. An interesting fact is that while babies cannot see very well, they find your nipple via smell, as your nipple smells like amniotic fluid.
When taking a shower, avoid washing your breasts with any scented soap, as your baby will be reluctant to latch if she cannot smell it is you. It is also best to ask the family that want to hold your little one to not wear any strong scented perfumes. I actually had to go shower and give my little girl a bath before she would drink from me, as she could not smell me through the strong perfume scents of well meaning family members.
The best advice I can give you for a peaceful nights rest is to sleep with your newborn on your chest, do not be afraid, she won't fall off. You can pack some cushions next to you to make sure she stays put. On your chest is also the best method to burp your baby, you place your baby between your breasts and gently rub or pat her back. If you are struggling with a very bad wind, you can also have daddy burp her over his shoulder or while having her sit on his knee, supporting her chest and head with his hand.
If your newborn becomes over-tired, she won't be able to fall asleep by herself. The best tool you have is to nurse her to sleep or alternatively you can rock her to sleep while talking to her or singing to her. As a new mom you will suddenly discover you ability to make up songs in the early morning hours. Remember that your voice soothes your little one, so go ahead and sing even tho you are not a professional.
Don't be surprised when your newborn get frights a lot. The Moro Reflex (Startle Reflex) usually goes away after 6 weeks of age and you can either keep her securely on your chest or swaddle her if you want. She will also get a fright and even start crying when she passes gas, as the sensation and sound is new to her.
My little girl would be soundly asleep and then fart herself awake! Thus if she cries while passing a bowel movement or gas, it may not be that she is in pain but rather the new sensation of it. Your newborn will most likely also make quite a fuss and even look constipated trying to pass a bowel movement, this is not because she is constipated or it hurts but because she does not yet know which muscles to tighten and which to relax. She will thus be pushing till she is red in the face but not know "how to open the door".
Breastfed babies do not get constipated, with their stools resembling the texture of butternut soup and being yellow or orange in color. (The meconium they pass the first 3 days are black or dark green, sticky and tar like) In the first few days your baby will most likely have dirty diapers equal to the amount of day they are old eg. 3 on day 3. Don't worry, it won't go as far as 20 dirty diapers on day 20, it usually stabilizes to about 6 a day around day 6. After 6 weeks anything from 1 in 10 days to 10 in 1 day is normal. My little one's record to date was going 8 days without a dirty diaper - just be prepared for a poo-splosion.
Lastly it is important to know that breastfeeding does not and should not hurt, If it is hurting then your baby's latch is probably wrong and you can contact your nearest La Leche League Leader for assistance or a lactation consultant to come help you with the latch. If the latch is not the problem then it could be Thrush, as it is very common among mothers and babies.
To learn more about your newbor's different reflexes, you can read here: