Your baby gets milk by suckling on the breast, not the nipple. It involves your baby's lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, jaw muscles, and hard and soft palates. It is good exercise for your baby and may help to develop strong and healthy gums, jaws, and teeth.
Getting your baby properly positioned and latched will help keep breastfeeding going well for you both. Good positioning and latch are also important in preventing problems later on.
While breastfeeding, you need to be relaxed, without tension in your shoulders or back. Make sure that your arms and back are supported so that you don't strain your muscles. You may want to use pillows and a footstool to help you get comfortable.
Once you are in a comfortable position, you are ready to offer your baby your breast. Many babies find the nipple easily, latch-on to the breast right away, and seem to know what to do. Others need some help. Here are some ways to help your baby latch on:
- Have your baby at the level of your nipple before you latch. Use pillows or a rolled blanket to adjust baby's position.
- Support your breast with your free hand using a C-hold. Your thumb is on top of your breast, and your fingers are underneath, well behind the areola (the darker skin around your nipples).
- Encourage your baby's mouth to open wide. To do this, lightly touch your baby's lips with your nipple. Go from upper to lower lip and back again.
- When your baby's mouth is open wide like a yawn, draw the baby close. Your nipple should be centered upward in your baby's mouth. To support a good latch and your posture, draw your baby to your breast.
- As your baby latches on, draw your baby even closer to your breast. Baby's mouth needs to cover a large part of the areola. Your baby's chin should be tucked in closely to your breast.
- Allow your baby to suckle at the first breast for as long as he or she wishes and then offer the second breast, if she is still hungry. Babies often will come off the breast on their own when they are no longer hungry or need to burp.
- If your baby takes only the nipple, gently break the suction and start again. Break the suction by placing your clean finger into the corner of baby's mouth and pressing against your breast. If you allow your baby to suckle without first getting a good latch, two things may happen. One, your nipples may get sore. Two, your baby may not get enough milk.
You need to hold your baby in the correct position on the breast for a successful latch. In the early days, the best latch is often achieved most easily using the cross-cradle or football holds. Here are some positions to try:
- baby should be tummy to tummy with you
- your hand should be at the nape of baby's neck
- baby's ears, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line
- baby's head should be tilted back slightly so his chin will be tucked well into the breast.
Clutch or football-hold position
- You may want to sit in a large armchair or sofa to give you enough elbow room for this position;
- You may find this position more comfortable if baby's head and body are well supported with pillows at the level of your breast.
- Good after c-section and for preemies.
Cradle position lying down (good after c-section, may need to prop back with pillows)
Double clutch position for multiple births
Breastfeeding should not hurt. Your nipples might be a little tender in the first week or two.
Tenderness differs from hurting. If it does hurt, keep breastfeeding often and get help right away.
Once your baby feeds for as long as he or she wants on the first breast, it is a good idea to give baby the chance to burp. Burping releases air that baby may have swallowed during feeding. Breastfed babies tend to swallow less air than bottle-fed babies and may not need to burp as much. You will learn if your baby needs to be given the chance to burp. After burping, baby may be ready to take the second breast. Baby may want one or both breasts during a feeding.
Your first milk, colostrums, is already in your breasts when your baby is born. You may have noticed some leaking from your breasts late in your pregnancy. This thick, creamy milk is very nourishing for your newborn. It is the perfect first food. Baby needs nothing else.