Getting started with breastfeeding can be difficult and we are sure that you would have heard (or even experienced with a prior baby) some horror stories about breastfeeding gone wrong. Below are some tips and some useful information to get your breastfeeding journey started on the right boob (ha ha, see what we did there!).
Skin to Skin
The best thing for mom and baby immediately after giving birth is allowing them to tap into their instincts. The moment your baby is born give your naked gooey baby a cuddle on your naked chest and watch as your baby’s instincts take over. The smell of your milk will make them raise their head and inch (incredible right!) towards your breasts seeking out their first feed. Watch as your baby latches themselves on (with a little help from you if needed).
Having Skin to Skin cuddles with your baby immediately after birth (your partner will also benefit from skin to skin cuddles) will make breastfeeding that much easier. Your baby hears the familiar sound of your heartbeat, smells your familiar scent and is calm and content with all those lovely Oxytocin hormones rushing around.
Remember to be kind to yourself. You have just done something amazing and your body and hormones are all over the place. So, if your baby isn’t getting the hang of it straight away, don't try to force it. Take a deep breath, embrace the naked baby cuddles and then try again.
Getting a good latch - Burger or Spaghetti
Pre-baby you would have read (or watched) up on breastfeeding and maybe even attended antenatal classes. They all would have mentioned holding your baby in a football position and bring baby’s nose to your nipple, then having them latch on. What they might not have mentioned is that your baby’s chin should be towards your breast, so their head is tipped back, the tip of their nose pointing up to the ceiling, and you should be able to see up their nostrils. So It should really be called nostrils to nipple!
Sounds so simple doesn’t it? But how do you know if you are doing it right. Here’s an easy trick: does it look like your baby is enjoying a delicious burger or slurping up some spaghetti?!
Spaghetti (or nipple feeding) latch almost always results in excruciating pain as your baby’s sharp gums are gnawing on your sensitive nipples. Yikes!
Burger (proper breastfeeding) latch, your baby should have a mouth full of nipple and areola (this is the darker colored area surrounding the nipple) which hurts a lot less and once your nipples have become accustomed to the process it won’t hurt at all.
If you are struggling with the nose to nipple technique try this:
- have baby’s cheek rest on your breast (like a lovely pillow) and let them smell the milk.
- hand express some colostrum if they are sleepy. Wait for them to open their mouths as wide as they can.
- pop a big mouthful of areola and nipple in there by holding your breast like a burger. Be confident and quick!
Remember it always helps to have baby skin to skin when breastfeeding in the beginning as it calms them and triggers their instincts. If you continue to struggle to get a good latch reach out to your local Health Visitor, breastfeeding support peer or other mums for help and don’t forget to ask them to check that your baby doesn’t have a lip or tongue tie.
There are lots and lots of different nursing positions you can try, below we have listed the most common ones
Holding baby in the crook of your arm on the side you will be nursing on
Hold your baby in the crook of your arm (head resting in the bend of your elbow) with your hand supporting the rest of baby’s body (on the side you'll be nursing on). With your other hand hold your breast, placing your thumb above your nipple and areola and your index finger an inch below the bottom of your areola – just like a burger. Lightly compress your breast and when your baby opens her mouth wide – pop it in.
Crossover hold - Holding baby’s head with the hand on the opposite side you will be nursing on
Hold your baby's head with the hand opposite to the side you’ll be nursing from (if nursing from the right hold the head with your left hand). Rest your wrist in the middle of the baby's shoulders with your thumb behind one ear and your other fingers behind the other ear. With your free hand hold your breast as you would for the cradle hold.
Football hold - Holding baby under your arm like a football
Hold your baby at your side, facing you, with baby's legs tucked under your arm on the same side as the breast you're nursing from. Support your baby’s head with the same hand and use your other hand to hold your breast as you would for the cradle hold.
Laid-back position (“biological nursing”) - leaning back and holding your baby tummy-to-tummy
Making sure you are well supported by pillows, relax back on a bed or couch and place your baby tummy-to-tummy onto your body with her head near your breast. Your baby can rest on you in any direction, as long as the whole front of baby’s body is against yours and can reach your breast. Your baby will be able to naturally latch on in this position (or with a little direction from you).
Side-lying position - Lying down on your side with baby tummy-to-tummy
Both you and your baby should lie on your sides, tummy to tummy. Use your hand on the side you’re not lying on to hold your breast if you need to. VERY IMPORTANT – make sure there is no excess bedding around baby. Look at our breastfeeding at night article for more information.
Upright Koala hold - Baby sits, with spine and head upright, straddling your thigh as your baby nurses
Baby sits, with spine and head upright, straddling your thigh as baby feeds (newborns will need plenty of support). Brilliant for babies who suffer from reflux or ear infections.
Nursing in a sling - Baby sits in sling as baby nurses (best for babies who are experienced at nursing)
Ensure that baby is lowered in the sling for a good, deep latch and that you can always see your baby’s face and your baby’s chin is not pressed against her chest.
Nursing on the loo - nursing baby on your lap when nature calls
Nature calls and your baby cannot wait to nurse. Sit down on the loo ensuring you have loo paper within reach of your free hand. Position your baby in the cradle hold position and fantasize about the day that you will be able to go to the loo by yourself (it will be years away).
This position is also useful for when nature calls and baby has fallen asleep nursing, however it does require a skillful one handed pull down (and up) of your knickers.
Eating and nursing position - Baby positioned in either football (as shown with a pillow), cradle or upright koala hold with a muslin (or napkin) draped across their heads (to avoid crumbs) as you eat your breakfast/lunch/dinner
Your baby innately knows when you are about to sit down and have something to eat and will decide that they need to eat as well (even if they just nursed 5 minutes ago!). Wait for your food to cool down a bit. Position baby in either cradle or upright koala hold with a muslin draped across their heads, to avoid crumbs and ensuring that you can still see your babies face. Position your head as far to the side as possible trying to minimize food dropping on baby. Have your partner cut up your food into small bites and master the skill of eating with one hand.
Answering the door while nursing - baby positioned in an adapted one arm standing up hold.
Delivery services always seem to know when you have just sat down comfortably with your baby in a good nursing position and that’s when they decide to knock at the door. You will need to speedily adapt your current hold into a one arm standing up hold while ensuring that your baby remains latched. Cradle, cross cradle or football hold works best for the adaptation.
We hope that this has been informative (and a bit lighthearted) and made you feel more confident about breastfeeding. And can you spot which of our cartoons are wearing their Bshirts?!!