Breastfeeding can truly be a joyous and beautiful time for mothers to bond with their baby. Unfortunately, some women find breastfeeding to be more difficult than it looks. Rest assured that this is completely normal. Breastfeeding is a delicate process that needs to be practiced, learned and often adjusted. To make breastfeeding a pleasant experience, it’s important to develop a true understanding of what works best for you and your baby. Many women initially find breastfeeding to be quite a frustrating process. By focusing on the key components of breastfeeding, you and your baby will find what works best for you and soon be in a harmonious breastfeeding relationship!
Find the Right Position
Finding the perfect position for you and your baby may take a bit of experimenting. Everyone has different preferences! So do not be discouraged if a position doesn’t work well; just try another! Pillows are fantastic tools to help you get into a constructive and comfortable breastfeeding position. Before you begin, make sure to position the pillows around yourself so that you are nice and comfortable. Babies can nurse from 5 minutes to 45 minutes so being comfortable is crucial if you have a long feeding session. If you are comfortable from the start, you can avoid the need to shift positions while the baby is already in position.
Once your head, back, legs and arms are fully supported, you can position the baby close to you. Pillows are not only helpful for supporting you, but also for supporting the baby. They are particularly useful for keeping the baby level with your nipple, thus preventing them from having to reach. You can purchase circular pillows specifically meant to support the baby when breastfeeding, but normal pillows work well too- it all depends on your preference! When bringing the baby up to your breast, make sure that his or her entire torso is facing you. That way, the baby does not have to strain their head and/or neck to reach your nipple.
There are many breastfeeding positions that you can utilize throughout your breastfeeding experience. The most common are the Laid-Back position, the Cradle position, the Cross-cradle Position, the Clutch (or Football) Position, and the Side-lying Position.
The Laid-back position involves the baby lying face down on your stomach as you lean back. In this position, it is important to have pillows supporting your back so that you can stay comfortable throughout the feeding session. The baby does not need any pillows in the Laid-back Position since he/she has you supporting their precious little body.
In the Cradle position, you lay the baby across your lap, supporting their back and head with the arm on the same side as his or her head (e.g. if they are sucking on the right breast, support them with your right arm). Pillows for the baby are especially helpful in this position since they keep them aligned with your nipple.
The Cross-cradle Position is very similar to the Cradle Position, but instead of laying the baby straight across your lap, you lay them diagonally across your lap so their legs are extending under one of your arms. Once again, pillows are very useful in this position for keeping the baby level.
In the Clutch (or Football) position, you position the baby alongside your body as you sit up or lean back (whichever you prefer). The arm under which the baby is lying is used to support their head and back. Pillows again are useful in bringing the baby up to your nipple and keeping them level. This position is especially good for women who have had a C-Section because it positions the baby away from the incision.
The Side-lying position is a relaxed position that allows you and the baby to snuggle up together. In this position, you and the baby each lie on your sides facing each other. You can place an arm around the baby to hold them close and support their back and head. Due to the relaxed nature of this position, many mothers enjoy utilizing it in the evening, particularly when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night. If the baby is sleeping in a crib right next to your bed, this position will allow you to simply roll over and begin breastfeeding.
Get a Proper Latch
Another important element that leads to breastfeeding success is a proper latch. When the baby is ready to feed, hold your breast with your hand in the shape of the letter “c”. Be sure to avoid putting your fingers on the areola (that way the baby can get as much areola in his/her mouth as possible, ensuring a solid latch). Once you’ve got a secure grip on your breast, make sure to bring the baby to the breast (and not vice-versa). When the baby opens his/her mouth, try and aim your nipple towards the roof of their mouth so it ends up touching their back palette. If the latch is good, the baby’s lips will be flared around the nipple, resembling a fish. To make sure you have got a proper latch, listen for sounds of swallowing milk. When the baby is finished feeding or you need to readjust, it is important to unlatch safely. Simply stick your pinky finger in the corner of their mouth and gently break the suction.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Throughout your entire breastfeeding experience, remember to stay relaxed and patient! If you and/or the baby are not calm from the start, a session of breastfeeding might end up being quite unpleasant. Always try and go into a breastfeeding session with feelings of love and tranquility. It is also important to remember that breastfeeding is not an exact science. You may have some bad days, but do not give up! If you keep at it, you and your baby are sure to have a truly wonderful breastfeeding experience.
If you would like to consult professional help with breastfeeding, check out the resources below or ask your pediatrician!
La Leche League International
Founded in 1956 by seven women who had successfully mastered nursing their own babies, La Leche League International (“la leche” meaning “the milk”) is the only organization with the sole purpose of helping breastfeeding mothers. It now has 8,000 leaders and 3,000 local groups in the United States alone. La Leche groups meet regularly in communities worldwide to share breastfeeding information and mothering experience. Telephone counseling is available 24-hours a day, along with access to an extensive library of breastfeeding literature. When a woman joins the La Leche League, she enters into a mother-to-mother helping network, a priceless resource for breastfeeding and parenting help, support, knowledge, and inspiration. The information that couples or single parents can receive and the friends they make often carry over into helpful support during the early years of parenting. Visit http://www.lalecheleague.org to find your local branch of La Leche League as well as other fantastic resources.
It can be helpful for newly nursing mothers to arrange a meeting with a lactation consultant a day or two after birth to obtain personal, professional assistance about breastfeeding. A lactation consultant (LC) is a specialist who is trained in helping mothers by providing accurate breastfeeding information and solving common problems. The name of an LC can be obtained from your local La Leche League, pediatrician's office, or the yellow pages. Mothers may want to meet with an LC before birth as well, to prepare themselves mentally, physically and emotionally for breastfeeding an infant.
"How Do I Position My Baby to Breastfeed?" LLLI.com. La Leche League International, 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 04 May 2013. <http://www.llli.org/faq/positioning.html>.
"How to Breastfeed: A Visual Guide." BabyCenter.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2013. <http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-breastfeed-a-visual-guide_1439783.bc>.
Last Updated 12 May 2013