breastfeeding basics

Congratulations on deciding to breastfeed! It is a learned skill and gets easier with practice. It is an amazing way to bond with your baby and give them an optimum start to their development. Below are the breastfeeding basics to get you started.

Position – Get comfortable. Choose a place to breastfeed with good support for your back and bring a few pillows.

Cross Cradle: Choose which breast you want to feed from, and hold your baby with the opposite arm. Your hand will be at his neck with fingers supporting his head. Place the baby on his side so that he is facing your breast, tummy against your tummy. His mouth should be right in front of your nipple, so that you can easily bring him to your breast, without having to lean over towards him. Allow his head to tilt backwards. When the head is tilted back, it is possible for him to open his mouth wider. Hold your breast with the hand on the same side of the body as the breast you are feeding from. Ensure that your fingers are not near your areola, as they will get in the way of where your want her to latch. Tilt your breast so that the nipple is pointing towards baby’s nose. With the nipple, tap her top lip until she opens wide. As soon as she opens her mouth wide, bring her head to your breast, with her bottom jaw touching the breast first and then up and over the nipple, grasping as much of the areola as possible.

Football Hold: If you are breastfeeding on the right breast, you would hold your baby with your right arm, with him tucked along your side, just like a football. Your hand will be at his neck, supporting the head and allowing it to be tilted back. Use your left hand to hold your breast, tapping the upper lip until he opens wide. As noted above, bring him to the breast bottom lip or jaw first, and then up and over the nipple. This position is often more comfortable if you’ve had a cesarean section and sometimes easier if you have larger breasts.

Side-Lying: This position uses the exact same techniques as the previous two but starts with laying on your side in bed. While resting your head on one arm, you will use your free arm to pull your baby close to your body. Use your hand at the back of his neck and head to guide him onto the breast once he opens his mouth wide. This position is often easier once your baby has already learned to latch well and is wonderful because it allows your body to be at rest during the breastfeeding.

Latch – With a proper latch, the corners of his mouth should be separated in a “V” shape and both lips should be turned outward. If the bottom lip is tucked in, give his chin a little pull to bring that bottom lip out. A proper latch may pinch at the initial latch on, but should become comfortable after 5-10 seconds. If it is not, unlatch and try again. A proper latch is essential because not only will it prevent nipple cracks or soreness, it also allows the baby to empty the breast more efficiently and get more milk. The baby’s jaw needs to compress the milk ducts that are behind the areola to eject the milk into the nipple. A shallow latch will result in nipple pain and will not allow the baby to get enough milk. And remember that the more milk that is taken out of the breast, the more milk you will make!

Frequency and Duration – Breastfeed on demand. Signs of hunger include waking up, rooting, sucking on his lips or hands, or crying. Aim for 8-12 feedings per day, which averages out to every 2-3 hours. Empty one breast first (this often takes 15-30 minutes) and always offer the second side at each feeding. Keeping a newborn awake at the breast can be a challenge. To keep her alert, have her dressed in just a diaper or a onesie, do breast compressions during the feeding, or gently jiggle the breast in her mouth. Keep in mind that the amount of milk you produce is based on a supply and demand system. Therefore, to maintain an adequate supply, exclusive breastfeeding without supplementation is ideal (unless medically indicated).

And finally never hesitate to seek support if needed by a professional lactation consultant or family/friend. Support is key!

Image Credit: Jaclyn Kirby

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Jaclyn Kirby is a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant here on Maui since 2008. She finds joy empowering mothers and partners and is committed to integrating holistic and western practices to provide greater health care options for women. You can contact her at 808 699-1676 to discuss any breastfeeding needs.

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