Limiting hospital visitors

A new baby! What could be more exciting? After months of anticipation, the big day has finally arrived…. along with family, friends, and co-workers. What most people don’t realize, including the new parents, is that visitors in the first couple of days can interfere with breastfeeding success.

A newborn babyI see it daily at the hospital. A waiting room full of people anxiously listening for that very first cry, followed by an endless stream of visitors in and out of the room to see the new family. I also see baby passed from grandparents, to aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. The baby doesn’t seem to mind, he sleeps through it all.

But what if I told you the baby does mind. Being away from mom is stressful for a newborn baby and decreases breastfeeding interest. During the first couple of days, stressed-out newborns don’t cry when they are passed around by their loving family and friends; they sleep. This means they show fewer “feeding cues” and miss opportunities practice breastfeeding.  When baby is left skin to skin with mom, he relaxes and communicates with her. He puts his hands in his mouth and turns his head to let her know he’s ready to try.

Babies who miss feeding opportunities during the 1st couple of days may have greater weight loss and an increased risk for jaundice. They are also more likely to wean early. Their moms are more likely to experience breastfeeding difficulties, too, such as engorgement or an insufficient milk supply.

Hospital visitors should be limited. I know, easier said than done! And, I also know that new moms and dads want the love and support of their family and friends during this special time.  My best advice, as a Lactation Consultant who spends day after day (and night after night) with families during the first days of their baby’s life, is to talk honestly about the importance of establishing breastfeeding before the baby arrives. Limit visitors to only those that mom feels most comfortable learning to breastfeed in front of, or those that she is comfortable asking to step out on a moments notice. And, be selfish; I give you permission. Keep baby skin to skin and don’t allow others to hold him until he’s learned to breastfeed.


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