What to Do if Your Baby Doesn’t Breastfeed in the First Golden Hour After Birth

Sometimes babies are not yet ready to feed in the first hour after birth. This may be for several reasons: 

  • Babies born closer to 37 weeks of pregnancy or less
  • Babies who have had some opiate medicines or epidural on board during the labour
  • Babies born by caesarean section
  • Babies who have had an extremely quick birth.

Here are a few things to keep in mind...

The Importance of Skin Contact

What is really important is that all babies have skin to skin contact as soon as possible after birth (when safe to do so). Skin to skin contact is the perfect tool to help your baby and you relax and calm after labour. Skin to skin contact also enhances your baby’s natural reflexes which help her to crawl and find the breast and feed.

For those babies who have had some medicines on board during the labour or born a few weeks before their due date it can mean that they are a little too sleepy to attach on to your breast straight after birth, even if they are in skin to skin contact with you.

How Long Can it Take for Babies to Start Breastfeeding?

It can take some babies anywhere from a few hours up to 48 hours to start breastfeeding. What’s really important to remember is that the first hour is often known as the “Golden hour!”

This is because the first hour after birth has been shown to be important in initiating your milk supply for now and the future. Therefore if your baby is not able to breastfeed in the first 60 minutes after birth it is important to start expressing your milk to ensure you still get the full benefits of initiating your milk supply in this “Golden Hour.”

Your midwife will help you do this by hand expressing as well as using the Medela Symphony pump with Initiation Technology.

Thereafter, until your baby is breastfeeding well, the midwives will advise you to keep expressing your breasts about 8 times every 24 hours. This may seem like a lot but this is just mimicking what a normal breastfeeding baby would be doing.

This frequency of expression is what is really important to help you lay down all the foundations to create a good milk supply for the future, whilst still providing your baby with the precious colostrum, even if baby is unable to breastfeed just yet.

Many babies take a little extra time at first to get going with breastfeeding, this doesn’t mean breastfeeding has failed for you! This just means all babies and births are different and some of us need a little extra recovery time. But once babies get going there’s usually no stopping them and they love breastfeeding!

So don’t worry, just be prepared and well informed so that you can ensure you make enough milk even if baby needs a little extra time to start breastfeeding.

Are you a breastfeeding mum? What advice would you give to new mums who are just starting their breastfeeding journey? For more tips and advice join the conversation on our Medela Australia Facebook page.