Breastfeeding for Beginners
Mothers have breastfed their babies since the beginning of time. But this illustrious history doesn't necessarily help a first-time nursing mom. Not only has she never breastfed but neither has her baby. And even a mother who's breastfed before is dealing with a nursing novice when she attempts to feed her newborn. No wonder breastfeeding can take weeks to master. Among the things you'll need to learn are the four basic nursing positions: the cradle hold, the cross-cradle hold, the football hold, and the side-lying position. "Each has its advantages," says Jan Barger, a lactation consultant in Wheaton, IL. "The best position is the one that makes you and your baby the most comfortable."
This position feels the most natural for many mothers, and because it keeps breast exposure to a minimum, it's ideal for public nursing. Cuddle your baby with her head resting in the crook of your arm and her tummy against yours. Her lower arm should be tucked out of the way.
Positioning your baby in this way allows for good control of her head, so it's useful with a newborn who's having trouble learning to nurse. As in the cradle hold, position your baby tummy to tummy, but hold her head with your hand and use your elbow to support her bottom.
A good choice for mothers recovering from c-sections, this position minimizes pressure on the incision. It's also practical for those nursing twins simultaneously. Lay your baby along your side so that her back is supported by your forearm and her head is cradled in your hand, the way a running back would carry a football.
This option lets Mom rest and perhaps even doze while nursing -- a good thing for those middle-of-the-night feedings. Lie on your side with your head on a pillow. Nestle your baby close to you, with her head in the crook of your arm, her mouth level with your nipple, and her tummy against yours.
HOW TO GET BABY LATCHED ON
When you and your baby are comfortably situated, you'll need to get her latched onto your breast correctly. If she isn't, she won't be satisfied with her meal, you may develop sore nipples, and your breasts won't produce adequate amounts of milk.
First, bring your baby to your breast, not your breast to your baby. Make sure she has a good deal of your areola -- the dark area around your nipple -- in her mouth. "Don't be afraid of blocking her nose," says lactation consultant Barger. "Babies can breathe well even if the tip of their nose is compressed." If your baby has trouble latching on because your breasts are engorged, express some milk (by hand or with a pump) until they soften.
- When you offer your breast, support it with your fingers underneath and your thumb on top. Then stimulate your newborn's rooting reflex by tickling her lower lip with your nipple until she turns toward it with her mouth open wide.
- Making sure that your baby's tongue is down, center your nipple in her mouth and pull her close to you. Her mouth should cover the entire nipple and about an inch of the surrounding tissue; her lips should be splayed around your breast.
- When it's time to switch sides, slide your pinkie between your breast and your baby's gums to break the suction. When you hear a soft pop, extract your nipple from her mouth and position her on the other breast.
Technical adviser: Nancy Held, R.N., C.L.E.