Breastfeeding Techniques 101
The advantages of breastfeeding are well known and vast, and include fewer infections and a reduced risk of chronic disease (for both baby and mother), improved intelligence, lower risk of obesity, and more. Did you know breastfeeding may even reduce the risk of colic because it’s easy to digest and gentle on baby’s gut?
In order to get breastfeeding off to a good start, you’ll need to be sure you get the best positioning and latch for baby to effectively remove milk from the breast. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make sure you are comfortable. Prop yourself and your baby with pillows, put your feet up or even lay down…do whatever feels best for that feeding.
- Holds might include the traditional cradle hold, a modified cradle hold (sometimes called cross-cradle), the football hold, side-lying, “laid-back breastfeeding,” or the “koala hold.”
- No matter how you hold your baby, keep his head at breast level, and make sure the rest of his body is well supported.
- Baby’s tummy should be against your body, and his ear, shoulder and hip should be in line. Be sure his chin isn’t tucked against his chest – if so, he won’t be able to swallow.
- Support the breast with one hand while latching and throughout the feed if necessary, keeping your fingers well back from the areola and making sure you’re not pulling the breast out of baby’s mouth. Sometimes a rolled towel or blanket under the breast adds support, especially for large-breastfed mothers.
- Support his head and neck, but do not push on the back of your baby’s head while latching as this may cause him to struggle against the breast.
- With the baby’s nose opposite your nipple, tickle the baby’s lips with your nipple, and wait for a wide-open mouth. Then bring baby in for a tight latch.
- When you look down at your nursing baby, the corner of his mouth should make an angle greater than 90 degrees. You might see his chin pressed into the breast tissue and his nose just touching the breast. If you have a good asymmetrical latch, baby should have more of the lower breast in his mouth than the upper breast.
- When latched well, baby should have his lips flanged out on the breast, and should have his tongue over his bottom gums. If he is sucking either of his lips in, gently tug them out again.
- Baby-led latching – getting your baby to the breast in any position then letting him find the nipple and latch on his own can be a good, unstructured approach for some moms. Sometimes just letting go of the “rules” leads to a better nursing experience.
Once baby is positioned and latched, look for signs of milk transfer:
- Expect bursts of quick sucking, then slow sucking and swallows, followed by a pause to rest.
- Swallows sound like a soft “kah” sound when baby is nursing. You may also notice swallows as a pause in sucking, and should see movement in the jaw and temple as baby nurses.
- You may feel your milk let-down, or you may hear many swallows or gulps in a row as your baby manages the strong flow of milk.
- You may feel relaxed, drowsy or thirsty, and you may have tingling in your breasts. These are great signs that your hormones are at work. For the same reason, you may feel some contractions in your uterus, or your other breast may leak milk.
- Baby shouldn’t be making any clicking or smacking sounds, and his cheeks should be full (not be “sucked in”) when nursing. If this happens, unlatch and try again. If it continues, have your baby evaluated by his doctor or work with a lactation consultant to determine the source of the problem.
- Sometimes baby can get too much milk too fast. Often they choke and sputter when the flow is the strongest. If this is the case, lay back and place your baby atop your breast so that gravity works against him. This can reduce excess intake and spitting up, too.
Next, you’ll want to build a strong milk supply.
- Colostrum, your first milk after birth, is perfect for the newborn baby. It is low in fat and high in carbohydrates, protein and antibodies. If you express colostrum, it will be thick and yellowish. Think of colostrum in terms of teaspoons, not ounces.
- Feed early and often, as soon as possible after birth and every one and a half to two hours around the clock.
- Eight to twelve feedings per 24 hours is expected, though these feedings may not follow a regular schedule. “Cluster feeding” – many closely spaced feedings followed by a longer stretch without eating – is normal.
- Some experts recommend avoiding pacifiers and bottles, at least in the first 4 weeks, as they believe it can cause nipple preference and cause parents to miss early feeding cues altogether. It’s especially important for babies who have difficulty latching.
- Use formula only if medically necessary.
- Expect your milk to “come in” two to five days after the birth. As your milk increases in quantity, some engorgement is normal. This shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. Prolonged engorgement may be a sign that baby is not getting the milk.
- Feed at the earliest signs of hunger. Learn your baby’s hunger cues: hands to mouth, sucking movements, sticking tongue out, smacking lips, soft cooing, sighing sounds or stretching. Crying is a late sign of hunger; don’t wait until then!
- Watch the baby, not the clock. Rather than feeding on a set schedule every so many hours, follow your baby’s cues and feed when baby shows signs of hunger.
- Let your baby decide when to end a feeding, by falling asleep or coming off the breast spontaneously. If your baby falls asleep before even feeding, though, you’ll need to wake him to get a good nursing session completed.
So, how will you be able to tell baby is getting enough?
- Your baby is nursing at least eight times in 24 hours.
- Your baby is no longer showing signs of hunger after a feed, and his body and hands are relaxed for a short time after the feeding.
- Your baby has at least three bowel movements per day after day four. The bowel movements will change from black to green to yellow as your milk comes in. These yellow, seedy, non-formed stools are normal for breastfed babies.
- Your baby has six heavy, wet diapers each day after day four and the urine is clear or pale yellow.
- Your baby has adequate weight gain – he has regained his birthweight by 14 days, and gains four to seven ounces per week thereafter.
If breastfeeding hurts, if you don’t feel your milk “come-in” two to five days after birth, or if you don’t hear your baby swallowing, you should get help from someone trained in breastfeeding support. This might be a local peer counselor or a La Leche League Leader, or it might be a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). Most problems can be overcome with the right help. Once you get in the groove, breastfeeding should become an effortless and enjoyable part of your babycare routine.
Listen to the Boob Group.com podcast as they conduct an interview with Colic Calm and Tummy Calm founder Jacqueline on how Colic Calm/Tummy Calm was started, and the benefits of each for your new born baby and child.