Breastfeeding Tips

Overview

Breastfeeding can be a joyous and beautiful time for a mother to bond with their baby. Unfortunately, some females 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 is important to develop an understanding of what works best for you and your baby. Many females initially find breastfeeding to be a frustrating process, but by focusing onthe key componentsof breastfeeding, you and your baby will find what works best for you and soon be in a harmonious breastfeeding relationship!

 

Initial Complications

There are a few types of complications that can occur very early in the breastfeeding process. These complications are not permanent and can often be solved by simply waiting or by trying certain techniques.

Type of Birth

One complication that can arise is from birthing drugs. Some birthing drugs can get into the breast milk and make the baby drowsy, which will make breastfeeding more difficult at the beginning. Having a cesarean section can also impact breastfeeding because having a major surgery makes it more difficult to take care of an infant.1 Difficulties due to a cesarean section or birthing drugs do not mean that the baby does not like breastfeeding or that breastfeeding will never work for you and your baby. As time passes, these complications are likely to fade. If it is possible for you and your baby, having a natural birth is the best way to avoid these types of initial complications.

Latching

Another type of complication can be due to the infant’s difficulty extracting milk from the breast. The newborn will need to hold the breast properly in their mouth in order to extract milk. This means taking more than just the nipple into their mouth: the infant will need to take in some of the surrounding breast as well to put pressure on the underlying ducts that carry the milk to the nipple. This is not always done seamlessly at first, and the newborn may need assistance at the beginning.

 

Get a Proper Latch

A proper latch is an important element of breastfeeding. Many babies will attach to their mother’s breast instinctively, but some babies need assistance. When your baby is ready to feed, hold your breast with your hand in the shape of the letter “c.” Avoid putting your fingers on the areola (that way the baby can get as much areola as possible in their mouth, ensuring a solid latch). Once you have a secure grip on your breast, make sure to bring the baby to the breast (and not vice-versa). When the baby opens their mouth, try to aim your nipple toward the roof of their mouth so that it ends up touching their back palette. If the latch is good, then the baby’s lips will be flared around the nipple, resembling a fish. To make sure you have a proper latch, listen for sounds of the baby 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.2

The breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby that takes place in the first hour is especially critical. The amount of early breast milk that comes out will help your body to determine how much milk to make in the future, so it is crucial to make sure milk is coming out, even if your baby hasn’t learned how to properly latch yet.1 A new mother can push the milk out herself to encourage more milk development in a process called hand expression. 

Hand Expression

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Hand expression involves pushing on the breast in a way that helps the flow of milk. Begin by holding the breast in a “U” shape position with the thumb and index finger around the areola. Slowly push your fingers together to put pressure on the underlying ducts, while pulling in toward your chest rather than pulling outward. Repeating this process helps to soften the breasts and push the milk out. If your baby needs assistance, you can repeat this process while your baby is trying to feed from your breast, or push the milk onto a spoon that you can then drip into your baby’s mouth.3 Early breast milk, called colostrum, has very important nutrients for the newborn, so it’s important for them to eat this milk even if it’s not straight from the breast. 

 

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 does not work well; just try another. Before you begin breastfeeding, make sure you are comfortable; babies can nurse for anywhere between five minutes and forty-five minutes. Pillows are fantastic tools to help you get into a comfortable breastfeeding position. If you are comfortable from the start, you can avoid the need to shift positions while the baby is breastfeeding.

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 that are specifically meant to support the baby during breastfeeding, but normal pillows work well too. When bringing the baby up to your breast, make sure that their entire torso is facing you. That way, the baby does not have to strain their head 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.4

Laid-back Position

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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 because you are already supporting their body.

 

Cradle Position

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In the Cradle position, lay the baby across your lap, while supporting their back and head with the arm on the same side as their head (e.g. if they are sucking on the right breast, then support them with your right arm). Pillows for the baby are especially helpful in this position since they keep the baby aligned with your nipple.

 

Cross-cradle Position

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The Cross-cradle position is very similar to the Cradle position, but instead of laying the baby straight across your lap, lay them diagonally across your lap. In this position, their legs will extend under one of your arms. Once again, pillows are very useful in this position for keeping the baby level.

 

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Clutch Position

In the Clutch (or football) position, hold 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 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.

 

 

Side-lying Position

woman and baby lying on bed

The Side-lying position is a relaxed position that allows you and the baby to snuggle up together. In this position, you 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 next to your bed, this position will allow you to simply roll over and begin breastfeeding.

 

Keep a Positive Attitude

Remember to stay relaxed and patient throughout your breastfeeding experience. If you and/or the baby are not calm from the start, then a session of breastfeeding can end up being quite unpleasant. Always try to go into a breastfeeding session with feelings of love and tranquility. Breastfeeding is also not an exact science. You may have some bad days, but do not give up! If you keep trying, you and your baby are sure to have a truly wonderful breastfeeding experience.

 

Extra Resources

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 an 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 La Leche League, she enters into a mother-to-mother helping network, which can be a priceless resource for breastfeeding and parenting help, support, knowledge, and inspiration. The information that couples or single parents can receive and the friends that 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 great resources.5

Lactation Consultants

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 to help 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.

 

Concluding Remarks

Breastfeeding can initially be frustrating, but achieving a proper latch and using a feeding position that works for you and your baby are two of the best ways to ensure successful breastfeeding. If you use the tools and methods that work best for you, breastfeeding can be a successful and rewarding process.

 

References

  1. University, Stanford. “Early Initiation of Breastfeeding.” Stanford Medicine, 2018. Web.
  2. University, Stanford. “A Perfect Latch.” Stanford Medicine, 2018. Web.
  3. University, Stanford. “Hand Expression of Breastmilk.” Stanford Medicine, 2018. Web.
  4. Medela. “Breastfeeding Positions.” 2007. Web.
  5. La Leche League International. “History.” La Leche League, 2019. Web.

Last Updated: 05 March 2019.

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