As a post natal doula, I have seen many breastfed babes and heard the cries of frustration from both baby and mom when breastfeeding is not working well.  It wouldn’t be over-stating it to say that the number one issue of a bothersome breastfeed – is The lack of a good Latch! If you’d like to avoid sore, cracked, odd-shaped nipples and a frustrated baby on the breast, take a look at the guide below:

First things first!

1. Make sure you’re in a comfy spot!

Sit comfortably and in a well-supported position.  You can master the array of breastfeeding positions later, however, lets focus on the basics first.

Remember too, that you’ll be here for a while… so pop a comfy cushion behind your lower back, grab a glass of water and ensure you have your feeding pillow ready.

2. Relax your shoulders

This is essential.  If your shoulders are up around your ear-holes, your breast shape is distorted and baby will not attach properly.  So, RELAX! ( I know.  I make it sound terrifically easy)

3. The Latch!

  • Prop your holding arm and baby up with your feeding pillow, rested across your lap.
  • Hold the baby on her side so her tum, is touching your tum. She should be lying horizontally across your body.
  • Relax your shoulders. RELAX, I SAID!!!! tee hhee he..
  • Hold the back of the baby’s head and neck, firmly but gently, with the hand that is opposite to the breast you will be starting your feed from.
  • Place your thumb and fingers around your areola.
  • Hold baby behind the head and tilt her head back slightly and ‘bait’ her bottom lip with your nipple, until she opens her mouth up wide. Resist bringing your breast to the baby.  Instead, guide baby’s head to your breast.
  • Watch her mouth ‘scoop’ all of the nipples, most of the areola and some breast into her mouth, by placing her lower jaw on your breast first, and then the rest of her mouth. This needs to be quite a swift motion.  Her lips should be wide and her bottom lip well splayed.
  • If you are engorged, expressing a little, to soften the area around the areola, may allow baby to attach more easily.

You will know that you have a good Latch, when:

  • Your baby’s chin presses into the breast and her nose is free or just touching the breast a little.
  • Your baby’s lower lip will be turned out (flanged) against the breast. It is normal for the upper lip to rest in a neutral position against the breast.
  • Your baby will have most of the areola in her mouth and her chin will be touching the breast well.
  • You may notice your baby’s whole jaw move as she sucks. Her ears may even wiggle a little.
  • Your baby won’t be sucking in air, have hollow cheeks or be slipping off the breast.

Different ways to ‘hold’ baby

There is an innumerable amount of ‘positions’ in which to feed baby, but once you’ve mastered the Cradle Hold (above), you might like to try two other more common holds.  Take a look:

1. Football Hold

This position is perfect if you’ve had a C-section, as there’s no weight applied to that tender tummy. This hold is also good for large breasted women.

Place your feeding pillow to the side of your body.  Rest your arm on the pillow and bring your baby’s mouth up to your breast; again, support her head with your hand.  your baby will be lying perpendicular to your body!  Watch that her latch is the same as outlined above.

2. Side-Lying Hold

This position is also great if you’ve had a C-section, or if you want to rest while feeding baby.

Lie on the side you will be feeding from.  Make sure your neck is not strained, by resting your head on your arm or your feeding pillow.   Draw baby close to your chest, using your arm to support her bottom.  Her body will be lying parallel to yours.  You might need to guide your breast to the baby’s mouth, in this instance.  Your baby’s latch will remain the same.  Ensure she gets a good mouthful of breast.

Some common questions…

1. Should breastfeeding hurt?

It is common for new moms, in the first few weeks to experience some nipple pain.  But if there is any pain beyond the first few sucks, insert a clean pinky finger into the corner of her mouth to release the suction she has on your breast.  NB.  Don’t EVER pull your baby to get her off your breast.  Her suction may be even stronger than you think!  Once baby is removed from the breast, you can start the latching process again.

2. What is that tingling sensation I get, after a minute or so?

The tingling or prickling sensation, experienced by the breastfeeding mom is known as the ‘let down’ reflex.  You may feel a sudden fullness in your breasts and perhaps even see some milk dripping down from the breast you’re not feeding from.  This is where your breast pads come in handy!

The sucking of the baby stimulates the production of Oxytocin (a hormone) that causes the breast to push out milk, making baby receive it easily. Cells around the areolae contract and squeeze out the milk, pushing it down toward the nipple for the baby to drink.  Incredible, hey!?

The funny (and sometimes inconvenient!) thing about the let-down is that it can be triggered by simply touching your breast and nipple area or simply hearing or thinking of a baby! (any baby!)

You may notice that your baby’s sucking pattern changes from a quick suck to a rhythmic suck-swallow pattern as the milk begins to flow freely.

3. How many times do I breastfeed in a day?

This varies a lot.  A mom could feed anywhere between 8-12 times within a 24 hour period.

The only true way of working out how many feeds are required by your baby, is to watch and respond to her feeding ‘cues’.  I know they can cry a lot, but you’ll become familiar to which cries mean what.  Baby language is incredible.

The number of feeds baby receives largely depends on: baby’s age, the mom’s breast storage volume and how hot a particular day is.  It’s important to understand too, that babies need breastfeeds as a form of reassurance and ‘connection’ with their mothers.  Remember moms! Breastfeeding is more than just a conveyor belt to food.

Mom of six fabulous kids and foster-mom to numerous others. Event manager, doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, owner of Sydney Birth Support, Mamaway Advocate and an encourager of all moms out there giving it their best crack!

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