Breastfeeding a Baby - Techniques, Positions & more

How to Breastfeed a Baby?

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Dr. Shruti Kainth (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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Doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for every newborn, as breastmilk is said to provide the best nourishment to the baby. Besides, the hormones released during breastfeeding help the mother by speeding up postpartum recovery. However many mothers find it difficult to breastfeed their newborn because of various reasons, and one of the reasons is a lack of knowledge on the correct way to breastfeed. It is important to know the correct way of doing so in order to address other common concerns that arise during breastfeeding.

Video: Best Breastfeeding Positions

How To Get Started?

Strange though it may sound, both baby and their mother may need some guidance as they try to start nursing. Here are a few tips to help you get started. How to Sit It is important that you make yourself as comfortable as possible so that you can focus completely on your child. Use pillows for support and place your body in a natural and comfortable position. If you are recovering from a C-section, doctors might also advise you to lie on your side and place the baby next to you. Irrespective of the position you choose to breastfeed in, remember to not get your spine in an awkward bend while sitting or lying down as it will lead to pain and discomfort. Once you are ready, it is time to feed your baby and the first step towards doing so is to ensure a good latch. Latching refers to the way your baby places her mouth on your breast. A good latch is vital because it ensures a good sucking action and a steady flow of milk. It is also necessary as it stops air from entering your baby’s food pipe which could potentially cause stomach issues or even colic.

How to Latch Baby on the Breast?

The first step is to hold the baby on her side so that she is facing you and ensure her belly is touching yours. Use pillows to prop up the baby, if required.

  • Cup your breast and then try to place thumb and fingers around your areola.
  • Keep your nipple between her nose and upper lip. An alternate way is to gently touch your baby’s cheek with your nipple. This usually makes her instinctively turn towards it with her mouth open, helping her to get close to it.
  • Tilt your baby’s head back and slowly use your nipples to tickle her lips so that she opens the mouth.
  • Help your baby scoop the breast into her mouth by placing her lower jaw first. Ensure that her latch begins well below the nipple.
  • Gently lift her head forward. This automatically places her upper jaw firmly on the breast.
  • Make sure that the entire nipple and at least 1 1/2 inches of the areola are latched in the baby’s mouth.

The baby’s natural feeding instincts are strong and she is likely to respond to the encouragement given by you. However, in case your baby does not respond to this practice, you can try the following techniques.

Latching Techniques for Successful Breastfeeding

In the beginning, it might take a few attempts to get your baby into the right position. Here are some more latching techniques for breastfeeding:

  • If your baby isn’t reacting by opening her mouth, try to squeeze some drops of milk onto her lips from your breast.
  • In case your baby turns away from the offered nipple, gently stroke the cheek on the side nearest to you. This makes babies turn towards the stimulus and start sucking (rooting) motions. This is also known as rooting reflex and it makes the baby turn her head toward your breast thus aiding in the breastfeeding process.
  • When your baby is looking for the breast with her mouth open, remember to always hold her up and close to your breast instead of leaning over her.
  • Ensure that the latch is correct by confirming that your baby’s mouth is covering both your nipple and the areola.
  • A correct latch helps in the smooth flow of milk whereas an improper latch results in sucking on just the nipple which makes nipples sore and cracked and restricts milk flow.
  • It is a good latch if you feel your baby’s chin and the tip of her nose touch your breast. Do check and ensure that baby’s lips are flared outwards.
  • During feeding in the initial days, keep checking the latch from time to time to ensure that the baby isn’t sucking on her own lower lip or tongue.
  • As the baby starts feeding, you should be able to see a steady pattern of suck-swallow-breath-repeat. It is also visible through a similar rhythmic motion in baby’s cheek and jaw. You can also hear some sounds of swallowing or gulping.
  • If the latch-on hurts or if the child is having trouble latching on, break the suction. A baby’s latch can be very strong and one should never force her off her mother’s breast. The latch is broken best by gently putting your little finger between your baby’s gum and you breast. The little one is most likely to cry for the loss of supply of milk but don’t worry about that and start the latching process afresh.

How to Ensure That the Latch is a Good One?

After practising the above techniques, it is important to double-check if the latch is good and whether or not your baby is comfortable. Following are some signs you may observe to ensure the same.

  • You can hear your baby swallowing with ease.
  • Pull down your baby’s bottom lip gently and if you are able to see her tongue properly, it is indicative that your baby is latching just fine.
  • If you do not hear clicking or smacking sounds, it is a sign of a good latch.
  • Your baby’s chin is touching your breasts.
  • Your baby comes off the breast without leaving your nipple flattened or distorted in shape.
  • At the end of the feed, your baby makes any indicative gesture or sound of satisfaction.

Infographics: 5 Best Breastfeeding Positions

5 Best Breastfeeding Positions

Positions That Work While Breastfeeding

Along with the correct latch, it is also important that the mother and child are both positioned correctly for feeding. Both need to be comfortable and relaxed. Here are some positions to try:

1. Cross Cradle Hold: Use This Hold for Early Feeding

This position is quite common, and perhaps the most helpful for new moms as it allows them to latch their babies correctly right after their delivery. It could seem a little awkward; however, practising this position correctly can prove to be very helpful and beneficial in the breastfeeding process for both the mom and the baby.

  • Sit straight in a chair which has armrests.
  • Hold your baby such a way that your tummy should in contact with your baby and she is across your body.
  • Use the crook of the arm which is opposite to the breast you are feeding the baby from to cradle her, using the palm to support the back of the head.
  • Use the free hand to support your breast from the underside using a u-shaped hold, and guide it to the baby’s mouth.

2. Cradle Hold

A cradle hold can be practised once your baby is a few weeks old and you are more used to holding her while breastfeeding.

  • Sit straight and hold your baby on her side across your lap with her face and body towards you.
  • Try to cushion your baby’s head, back and bottom with the help of your arm.
  • Hold your breast with the opposite hand and press it gently so that the nipple is directed at baby’s nose.

3. Football Hold

This position is inspired from the American football or also fondly known as rugby. This position works well if you have had a C-section or if you need to breastfeed twins. • Hold your baby with your arm under her. • Hold her head and neck with your hand. • Let your baby spread her feet towards your back on the same side from which you are feeding. • You can opt for a pillow to support your arm, and use your free hand to direct the baby’s mouth towards your breast.

4. Side-Lying Position

This position is particularly beneficial after a caesarean delivery or if your body feels sore after delivery.

  • Lie on your side with your baby on her side so that you and the baby face each other.
  • Try to position your baby’s head at your lower breast, head in line with your nipple.
  • Use your lower arm to support her head and the free hand to cup your breast, if required.

5. Reclining Hold

This position is again very useful for moms who are recovering from a C-section or those who find sitting up a little uncomfortable. Moms who nurse their babies in bed can also practice this hold.

  • Lie back comfortably on a couch or bed. Use pillows for support ensuring that your upper back, neck and head are comfortable.
  • Make your baby lie on her tummy, straight on your chest with the mouth just below your nipple.
  • The baby will naturally seek out the nipple. If required, you can encourage her further by cupping your breast and pointing it towards the little one’s mouth.

Best Tips for Breastfeeding a Toddler

By the time your baby enters toddlerhood, she would have already become accustomed to certain breastfeeding positions. At this stage, most babies enjoy acrobatic breastfeeding where they try to breastfeed upside down, with their feet in the air, supported by one foot, wiggling and twisting and turning and much more. Some of the breastfeeding tips for toddlers are:

  • Instead of letting the baby try different silly positions, you can give her something to hold on and play with while nursing. You can also try wearing a nursing necklace to bring your baby’s attention on something other than acrobatics.
  • You may also try speaking to your child or perhaps read a book. Songs or finger play might also help to some extent.
  • If you don’t want your baby to change positions frequently, just be firm and tell her, but keep your voice low. Even a hug could work to make your point. You may also warn her that you will stop the feeding by putting the baby down and explaining the reason to her again.
  • It is best to breastfeed a toddler before leaving home for a public place. Always carry a snack or juice which you can offer when your baby cries or screams for a feeding.

How Long to Breastfeed a Newborn

Typically, one session lasts 20 to 30 minutes when you first breastfeed a newborn, but it could even stretch to 60 minutes. Remember that each baby is different and you can’t really fix any time limit on each feed. Normally, there is a need to feed for longer in the beginning and during growth spurts. It is easier to feed your baby on demand rather than following a breastfeeding schedule. Once your baby is skilled at nursing, she may just take five minutes at your breast. Here are some signs that would help you understand if the baby is well-fed:

  • If your breasts feel softer after the feeding session, and your baby seems relaxed and satisfied then it should mean she is well-fed.
  • Sometimes, babies sleep when the mother is feeding them. If this happens, just tickle under the baby’s arms, on the feet, neck or ears to wake her up during the feed. You may also switch breasts and also burp the baby to stop her from taking a nap.

How Long Should I Breastfeed?

It is recommended that you breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months, and steer clear of any food or water. Post that, breastfeeding can continue alongside a solid diet for as long as the baby wishes. Breastfeeding is more than just providing milk—it is a way to strengthen the bond between the mother and the baby and a source of security to the child. Continue for as long as you are both comfortable.

How Often to Breastfeed a Baby?

Babies aren’t hungry at birth, and their appetite grows only around the third day. Therefore, initially, the demand will be less, and you will need to initiate or push for the process. In the first few weeks, your baby needs to be breastfed every two-to-three hours. This means that over 24 hours you would need to nurse almost 8 to12 times. However, many people believe that newborn breastfeeding should take place on demand and only when your baby is hungry instead of following a schedule. We recommend that you consult your doctor and a lactation expert and follow what he/she says. As the baby grows, her stomach grows too. With time, she will start taking longer feeds, and the frequency will come down. If you need help, follow the above tips and trust your instincts for a rewarding nursing experience. Happy nursing!

Also Read: Breastfeeding for Beginners Breastfeeding at Work Breastfeeding Myths and Facts

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