Breastfeeding - 1st Latch
When breastfeeding is what you've chosen to do, the first latch is very important. As soon after birth as possible, baby should latch and begin suckling. When a baby suckles at the breast, oxytocin and prolactin are released. Oxytocin aids in bonding, relaxation, and helps the uterus to contract thereby constricting blood vessels and aiding in the uterus' return to it's pre-pregnancy state/size. Prolactin is the hormone that aids in milk's production. Both of these hormones are important to baby and mom. The suckling that a baby does at the breast is also what 'should' be heard/seen after birth, as opposed to crying. A baby crying after birth is a sign of discomfort and that their stress is continuing. Suckling at the breast is important in helping a baby to relax following the birthing process. Families that choose to breastfeed often the first latch is important to them as well. I'm not sure how many women remember distinctly their child(ren)'s initial latch or the one that stands out the most to them. I do however and I remember it clearly....
For us, knowing how important that first latch is, shortly after Baby's birth, that is what we did. Now, again we happened to be fortunate in that Baby took to the breast pretty easily. He and I both fumbled a bit on one breast, but when we moved to the other, he latched on and suckled like a champ. It was wonderful. Being that our labor was so long I was utterly exhausted, there was no relishing, on my end, in the moment. That first latch was successful. Though I didn't feel a sense of accomplishment in the moment (mostly due to the exhaustion), he and I both fell asleep. It's remembered (by others) that this initial latch lasted at least 30-45min as we both just napped for a bit. Although this is magical, the magic of him nursing didn't occur for me until 2 days later.
This is the latch that I will always have a distinct fondness for. This is the latch that I remember the most. This is the latch that is most important to me. See, our little one had the unfortunate experience of suffering with a bit of transient tachypnea . Although he was overall not having much, if any, difficulty while I held him, with the assistance of our midwife we were transferred to a hospital to get him checked out. The entirety of that experience was not pleasant, but that's another conversation for another time. Nonetheless, we were unable to breastfeed for nearly 24 hours. We knew it was important to nurse, not only to aid in establishing the breastfeeding relationship, but for Baby to receive the "liquid gold" of colostrum so that he could expel meconium and receiving all of the wonderfulness that is colostrum. We also knew that feeding him would help my milk to come in soon.
First thing in the morning, I asked the doctor if we could begin nursing. I'll note that although it hadn't been 24 hours that Baby was on oxygen, it had been 24 hours since his birth. For this Mama Bear, that was plenty long enough! Although we'd been able to hold Baby, I desperately wanted to feed him. I wanted to help him get out of the hospital. I wanted to make sure we weren't going to have any supply issues. I wanted to bond with him in that special way of motherhood. Thankfully the doctor allowed us to nurse. Once Baby latched on, I just cried. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. I was so incredibly happy to be holding and nursing at the same time. In that moment, I felt so connected to our Baby boy that I was incredibly overwhelmed. It was a joyous feeling, coupled with a sense of pride in being able to feed him. I was positively overjoyed with the wonderful awesomeness of that initial feed. As I write this almost 5 months later, I still tear up. It was so special and just right for us.
Even still, I knew all I had was colostrum, but despite pressures from hospital staff to produce more, I was feeding my child! I was feeding him what he needed, precious precious colostrum. I was feeding him as much as he needed by allowing him to nurse on demand, even then. I was doing what was right for us. I was blessed to be able to feed my child. I was blessed with the confidence of all the research I'd done prior to birth about breastfeeding. Within all that, I was grateful; grateful to have our little boy with us, to share the world with, to help grow and learn, to cherish and nurture.