Breastfeeding is something that comes easily to some folks, and can take some time for other families to find their groove. We know that breastfeeding is “natural,” but that doesn’t make either the birthing person or their brand-new baby experts by any means. It’s usually a skill that takes a little bit of practice.
With that being said, there are few things that you can do to make any breast or chestfeeding session go more smoothly, which will hopefully make your feeding journey a positive one!
First, as the feeding parent, you need to be comfortable! In the beginning, you’ll be spending a lot of time feeding babe, so ensuring that you are cozy is important. You might use pillows for positioning, and some parents like to have their feet up on a stool to raise their knees and provide more support for baby.
Next, we need to think about our eater being comfortable as well! When we eat, we usually like to face our food, and be right up close to the table. Your babe is no different. Position them so that they are facing your breast head on. We want their tummy facing your tummy, and their face facing your breast, with no turning their neck off to one side. Your baby would like to have their arms free to help stabilize and explore their food source, so try unwrapping them from a swaddle for feeding. Finally, your arm or hand on their upper back helps them to feel safe and secure, so they feel more comfortable with the idea of eating. See the photos of Poppy and Luca below to compare a comfortable latch with a not as effective latch.
Placing baby skin to skin with you can be a really nice way to get baby cozy and get your oxytocin flowing. This helps with your milk letting down from your breasts once baby starts to eat.
Once baby is feeling safe and secure, and you are feeling comfortable, it’s time to try and get baby latched!
If you hold your breast in a “c” shape, it can create a sandwich for your baby to latch onto. Try not to hold too close to your areola.
You can stimulate your baby to open their mouth reaaaaaally wide by tickling their upper lip with your nipple, or hand expressing a little bit of milk to get them interested. As baby opens up their mouth nice and wide, bring them forward onto your breast, leading with their chin. If you place their chin on your chest first, this usually ensures a nice deep latch, as well as room for your babe to breathe through their nose.
Once baby is latched on, try holding your breast in that “c” or sandwich shape for a few sucks, so that baby can draw your nipple and areola quite far back into your mouth. This is to ensure that your baby is getting more milk, and should make breastfeeding more comfortable for you.
Finally, make sure to relax your shoulders! As new parents, we can get quite tense and focused on making sure we have a good latch. Once you feel like babe is latched on well, take a deep breath, release your shoulders, and sit back and enjoy your babe.
Remember that you can use all of these steps, no matter what position your baby is in. Whether you’re feeding in a cradle/cross cradle position, football hold, laid back, or side lying position, the idea that you and baby need to feel comfortable and secure are true for each position. Sometimes babies will latch wonderfully on one breast and have a little bit of trouble with the other breast for some reason. Try all these steps, but in a different position, to see if that helps!
Always remember, you are the best parent for your baby, and you are doing an amazing job!
Loreli & Sara
Poppy (on the left) is right up close to mama, facing her food and using her hands to explore her food source.
Luca (on the right) has his neck turned to the side, isn't facing mama, and probably isn't removing milk as effectively because he isn't comfortable.