After giving birth

After the delivery, the mother and baby go to the maternity ward. In the ward the mother recovers from giving birth and becomes acquainted with her new baby. The purpose is that when the mother is discharged the family can independently take care of the baby and knows where to find help, if needed. The HUS maternity units follow the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The newborn

The first days with a new baby are like learning a new language. While the baby is completely dependent on its parents, it has multiple skills already. The baby has learned to recognise its parents’ voices in the womb. The baby can express many needs, feelings and emotions, such as hunger, pain and the need of closeness. The baby communicates through facial expressions, gestures and sounds and expects the parents to respond. The baby has a natural need for interaction, and it is very sensitive to the parents’ emotional state. The personnel of the maternity ward give advice on interpreting the baby's messages, taking care of and handling the baby and breastfeeding.

24-hour rooming-in
and breast-feeding on demand

The mother and her newborn baby belong together. By holding the baby close and taking care of it the parents learn to know and look after their baby. To ensure successful breastfeeding, it is important that the mother notices when the baby expresses hunger. The signs of hunger include opening the mouth, turning the head to the side, licking the lips and sucking the fist. The baby should be breastfed anytime it shows these signs.

Frequent breastfeeding on demand from the very first day is the best way to ensure that the baby gets enough milk. Usually babies breastfeed 8 to 12 times per day, but this varies greatly. In particular, during its second day of life a baby may breastfeed a lot, even several hours at a time. Frequent breastfeeding ensures that the baby gets enough food and helps milk to come in. The personnel in the maternity ward explain how to recognise the baby’s messages, and they assist the mother in breastfeeding.
If the condition of the mother or baby does not allow rooming-in (the baby is premature and being treated in the paediatric ward, for example), it is recommended that the mother starts expressing milk within six hours of the delivery. The milk should be expressed at least eight times per day. This will stimulate normal excretion of breast milk and the baby can enjoy the benefits of breast milk even though it is not yet possible to breastfeed. The personnel of the maternity and paediatric wards give more detailed instructions on expressing milk.

Avoiding complementary feed,
bottle feeding and dummies

A healthy, full-term infant of normal weight does not need any food in addition to breast milk, not even on the first days. Frequent breastfeeding guarantees sufficient intake of food. However, there are situations when the baby needs complementary feed, until the amount of the mother’s breast milk increases. This may be the case when the baby is premature or very small or large at birth, or the mother has gestation diabetes. If the baby’s health allows, even in these situations it is recommended that the mother breastfeeds her baby frequently in addition to giving complementary feed. If the baby cannot suck on the breast the mother should express milk. This way, at least some of the milk given to the baby comes from the baby’s own mother. The personnel of the maternity and pediatric wards as well as pediatricians will give you more information on your baby’s possible need for complementary feed.
If the baby’s condition allows, bottle feeding should be avoided when giving complementary feed. Bottle feeding may make it difficult for the baby to learn to breastfeed. Instead, complementary feed may be given using a cup, a spoon or a syringe, for example. You may discuss the best method for your situation with the personnel in the maternity or paediatric ward.
Avoid using a dummy during the initial stage of breastfeeding. Babies using a dummy breastfeed less frequently and get less milk. This may also slow down the process of milk production adapting to the to the baby’s need. If you want to give the baby a dummy, wait until breastfeeding has been established and the amount of the mother’s breast milk matches the baby’s need.
If the mother and baby have to be separated from each other, a dummy is useful. It comforts the baby when the mother is not there. In addition, it helps a premature baby to digest its food better.