There are things to know that can make breastfeeding much easier for you and your baby. For instance, knowing how important it is for you and your baby to get comfortable before you start and learning some proven techniques that other moms have used for nursing are two things that can help you tremendously.
Read this section carefully and ask your pediatrician about anything you don’t understand. Always wash your hands before nursing to keep your baby free of germs. Begin with the breast that was used last during the previous feeding.
Getting Yourself Ready and Comfortable
The first step in getting ready to breastfeed is make sure you and your baby are comfortable. You may be in one position for a long time, so your and your baby’s comfort will start things off right. You can breastfeed sitting in a chair, sitting propped up in bed, or lying sideways in bed. The side lying position is good if you’re recovering from a cesarean birth and for night feedings, but it is best if used once your baby has learned to latch-on to your breast correctly.
If you sit in a chair (with arms), put pillows behind your back, on your lap, and under the arm that will support your baby. Also, use a footstool to raise your baby closer to your breast without any strain. If you’re sitting in bed, use several pillows behind you so you’re sitting upright, a pillow under your arm in your lap, and under your knees. If you’re lying on your side, place two pillows under your head, a pillow behind your back, one behind your baby, and a fifth pillow under your top leg. This may seem like a lot of pillows, but the support and comfort for you and your baby are worth the effort.
Getting Your Baby Ready and Comfortable
Your baby will be ready to eat once she is awake and alert. If she is sleepy, undress her so that you have skin-to-skin contact. Talk to her, and stroke her skin. Move her gently from a lying-down position to an upright position and talk to her until she wakes up and is alert. If your baby is crying or is just fussy, rock, walk, sing, or talk with your baby to calm her down before offering her your breast.
The Cradle Hold
If you’re sitting, use the pillows and the footstool to raise the baby to the level of your breast. Don’t strain or lean over. Get another pillow if you need to raise the baby higher to your breast. Cradle her in your arm and have her turned sideways towards your breast with her head at the bend in your elbow, her back along your forearm, and her buttocks in your hand. Rest your arm and your baby’s weight on the pillow. Make sure your baby’s head is higher than her tummy. So she isn’t straining and isn’t falling away from you, keep her close to you and facing your breast. Tuck her lower arm down along the side of her body, not trapped in between the two of you. Her upper arm should be alongside her body. You may want to hold it down with the thumb of the hand holding her buttocks if her arm is flailing around. Wrap your baby close around you, which should relax her and her sucking muscles. Place your other arm in between her legs, with her top leg over your arm and the lower leg between your arm and the pillow.
The Football Hold
To use the football hold, sit up in bed or in a comfortable chair. Place a pillow behind you and one or more pillows at your side, or wedge one between you and the arm of the chair. Place your baby on the pillow with your baby facing your breast. Tuck her body under your arm along your side. Hold the nape of her neck in your hand and have her legs resting upward on the pillow behind you or against the back of the chair. Don’t hold the baby’s head in your hand –– this causes some babies to arch their back and pull from the breast. Once your baby is latched-on and sucking well, you can prop another pillow under the arm and hand holding the baby to give you more support. This extra support will also help you from straining and becoming hunched over your baby instead of bringing baby to your breast.
The Side-Lying Position
The side-lying position is almost like the cradle hold, except that you and your baby are lying in bed on your sides and facing each other. You should put two pillows under your head, a pillow behind your back and your baby’s back, and one under your top leg. Your baby should be nestled in the crook of your arm with her face level with your breast.
Remember, there is no one “right way” to breastfeed. Just use the position or positions that work best for you and your baby. Here are some other helpful tips:
• No matter what position you are using, your baby’s entire body should be turned toward you with her head facing directly toward your breast.
• You can support your newborn’s back with blankets or pillows.
• Your baby’s head should be in a natural position, not bent forward or backward, or extended.
• Undressing your baby down to her diaper lets you see her position best, and keeps her awake while she feeds. She will be warmed by your body heat. You can use a light blanket over her legs and feet.
• Your baby will feed better if her legs are flexed and her body forms a “C” around your body.
Support Your Breast While Feeding
The easiest way to support your breast is to hold your breast with your fingers and palm below it and your thumb on top. Keep your fingers and thumb away from the areola where your baby will be sucking. Firmly roll your thumb and fingers towards your nipple until some milk comes out to get your baby to open her mouth. Brush your milk-covered nipple across and down on your baby’s lower lip until she opens her mouth wide like a little bird. Once your baby latches on, return your hand to the supporting position. Don’t squeeze your breast, just support it.
Latch-on is the phrase used to describe how your baby will feed from your breast in the right way. It’s simple but there is a trick to it. To start with, remember that babies should feed on your areola, not your nipple. This is because your milk sinuses are behind your areola and your baby has to compress these sinuses with her tongue pushing against the roof of her mouth to get enough milk. If your baby’s mouth is around only your nipple and not your areola, it will hurt you and she will not be sucking the right area to get the milk out.
Successful latch-on is done in a simple, three-step motion:
• Tickle and press on your baby’s lower lip with your nipple to get her to open her mouth wide.
• Aim your nipple at the center of her mouth and a little upward towards the roof of her mouth.
• Using your arm, quickly bring your baby to your breast. Don’t hesitate after your baby’s mouth is opened wide or she will begin to close her mouth and she might get only your nipple in her mouth.
You can help your baby to open her mouth wide and to keep it open by using your index finger that is supporting your breast to press firmly down on your baby’s chin as you pull her onto your areola. Don’t apply pressure to your breast while you are supporting it; this can interfere with latch-on. Also, remember that in all positions, if you pull your baby’s buttocks close to your body or gently lift your breast, this will cause your baby’s head to drop back slightly, giving her plenty of room to breathe.
You’ll know your baby has latched-on correctly if:
• Your baby’s lips are rolled outward
• You don’t hear any clicking or smacking sounds
• There are no dimples in baby’s cheeks; cheeks are equally close to the breast
• Your baby’s chin and nose are touching breast
• All of the nipple and part of the areola are covered by baby’s mouth
• More of your areola is covered by lower lip than upper lip
• The angle at the corner of your baby’s mouth is wide
• When your baby’s lower lip is gently pulled away from the breast, the tongue can be seen over lower gum line
Trouble Latching On
If your baby does not latch-on right or latches-on but doesn’t suck, this is a problem for both you and your baby. Also, if your baby has not latched-on within the first 24 hours after birth, you should begin expressing your breast milk and feeding your baby the expressed milk. In either case, you should get help from a hospital maternity nurse or lactation consultant.
Bottle-fed babies need to burp a lot because the fast flow of milk from the bottle forces babies to gulp in some air when they breathe and swallow in between sucks. They need to be burped to get the air out. Breastfed babies control the flow of breast milk. They usually suck more slowly and they don’t take in nearly as much air when they breathe and swallow, so they don’t need to be burped as much. But if your baby is a fast feeder or if you have a strong let-down reflex, you will have to burp your baby. Look for these signs:
• She balks at going to the other breast
• She squirms
• She makes a face like she’s in pain
You can burp your baby in one of these ways:
• Over Your Hand –– Sit her on your lap leaning forward over your hand. Her chin should be resting on the top of your hand. Pat her back gently on the back.
• Over Your Shoulder –– Put her high up on your shoulder so her tummy rests on your shoulder. Rub or pat her back.
• Other Methods –– You can drape your baby over your thigh while sitting, straddling your forearm while walking, or over your hip while lying on your side during night feedings, and pat or rub her back to get up the air.
A good way to keep a sleepy baby awake long enough to get the rich hindmilk from each breast is to switch breasts. Start with the first breast and when your baby begins to suck lightly before she falls asleep, take her off the breast, try to burp her, and then switch her to the other breast. The movement should help her wake up and begin to actively suck again. When her suck begins to weaken again on the second breast, take her off and help her to become alert again, and then put her back on the first breast to get the hindmilk. Finally, put her back on the second breast to finish up the hindmilk from that breast.
Breaking The Suction
When your baby is finished feeding, you can remove her from your breast by inserting your finger into the side of her mouth. This will gently break the suction and prevent injury to your breast tissue. Remember, clean hands will prevent germs getting into your breast through your nipple.
Supplemental bottle feedings are not a good idea for mothers who want to be successful at breastfeeding for a few reasons. During the first month, your baby may get confused by how to feed from your nipple and the bottle nipple. Also, if you are filling up your baby with bottle milk, she will nurse less often at your breast which reduces your milk supply. This becomes a cycle. The less she nurses from your breasts, the less milk you make, the more she will need bottle milk, and so on. So in order to keep up your milk supply, which gives your baby the most nutritious food (breast milk), avoid supplementing with bottles.
More about Breastfeeding for Beginners
• Overview of Breastfeeding
• When to Feed Your Baby
• How to Feed Your Baby
• Breast Care While Breastfeeding
• Breast and Nipple Problems While Breastfeeding
• Expressing and Storing Breast Milk
• Keeping up the Milk Supply
• Nutrition While Breastfeeding
• Breastfeeding in Special Situations
• Returning to Work While Breastfeeding
• Resources for Support While Breastfeeding
Tip From Baby:
• Let’s not rush this, I want to enjoy every last drop.
• Since I’m used to you cradling me in your arms, the cradle hold seems very natural to me.
• The football hold is good if I have trouble latching-on, or if I arch my back, squirm, and pull away a lot. Also, if I’m small.
• I’d rather have your breastmilk than bottle milk any day!