Recently, I had the privilege of helping a new mom. I was able to teach her how to use a breast pump and some basics about breastfeeding. I had forgotten how much I loved helping new mothers learn about breastfeeding! It has been a few years since I have had the opportunity to do this.
Part of me was appalled though: here was this brand new mother who had to undergo a c-section, and then wasn’t even taught how to successfully feed her child! She said to me that a nurse helped her baby latch, and then when her baby didn’t latch right away, (which many don’t) the nurse said “well, you will probably have to formula feed then.”
I’m sorry, but that has got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Granted, there are some moms who choose to formula feed, or might not even have a choice at all because of a low milk supply or needing to go back to work, but for someone to just tell this girl to give up before she had even started? I was so upset, and saddened, by that. Because here is what most people don’t tell you:
Breastfeeding is the most unnatural natural thing you will ever do.
Many like to claim that since mothers have been breastfeeding since the dawn of time, that it should be easy. And some moms DO have an easy time.
But most DON’T.
Because here’s the thing: even if millions of women have already done it before, YOU haven’t and YOUR BABY hasn’t. So having BOTH parties completely clueless means that there will be a lot of hard work ahead. And every baby is different too! I really struggled breastfeeding my son, but then I got it figured out (after many weeks of hard work) and I was able to breastfeed him until he was 14 months. And with my sweet little girl, even though I knew what I was doing, she still didn’t have any idea, and we both had to learn together again! And thankfully, we are both still going strong and she is 10 1/2 months.
Have I discouraged you? Gosh, I hope not! Breastfeeding may be challenging, but man, is it worth it! A few weeks of hard work equals months of (relative) ease–seriously! I don’t have to worry about paying for formula, or remembering to bring bottles places. Cause what she needs, I always have available, ;).
Again, this is not to depress the mothers who can’t, or don’t want to breastfeed, just to encourage those who are able, but unsure of how, to breastfeed correctly. Breastfeeding has so many components to it, I will do multiple posts to answer any and all questions in regards to it! So let me know if I miss anything :D.
Step 1. Holding your baby properly
Now, you can’t just hold your baby and call it good, it is a bit more detailed than that. There are many ways to hold your baby while breastfeeding her, but here are my favorites:
For newborns, I think one of the easiest holds is the football hold. This hold works best when babies are small. Breastfeeding tends to get easier the older a baby gets, so different holds won’t be an issue then. But back to the football hold. You know how when receivers are running with a football it is usually tucked into the crook of their arm and held tightly to their side? Well, you will do similarly with your baby. This will give you a lot of control holding your baby with one arm, while also being about to use your other hand for your breast.
My next favorite while just beginning is the cross-cradle hold. This is where you are holding your baby with one arm with that same hand at the back of his head and feeding off of the opposite breast. For example, you hold your baby with your right arm with your right hand behind his head, and feed him off of your left breast. This position can get uncomfortable for your back so make sure to be in a comfortable chair with a pillow for support. With this position, you will want your baby’s stomach to be against your stomach, and your baby’s nose against your nipple. You don’t want your baby to need to turn his head to get to your breast, and you don’t want him to have to crane his neck either.
Step 2. Getting your baby to latch
Once you have determined which way to hold your baby, you obviously have to get her to latch! There are four things that you need to do to help facilitate a successful latch.
1. Sandwich hold. Have you ever tried to eat a huge burger? You probably have. But you most likely had to try and squish it to get it in your mouth. That is exactly what you will have to for your baby. Look and see where his mouth is, and sandwich your breast to make it easier for him to get it in his mouth.
2. You will then use your nipple to stroke around his mouth from nose to chin. A newborn’s eyesight is very poor, but their sense of smell is extraordinary. Doing this helps your baby to smell that food is close by. This also helps him to realize that there is something in front of his face in the first place! While you are stroking, you will roll down his lower lip to try an encourage him to open his mouth.
3. Next, bring your baby TO your breast. Not your breast to your BABY. Doing this will help alleviate back and neck pain. If you are arched in an uncomfortable position for 20+ minutes to feed your baby, you are going to want to give up! So make it easier on yourself and just get some support underneath your baby to bring him up closer.
4. You now want to wait for a nice, wide open mouth. If your baby latches and only latches onto your nipple, gently remove her and try again. Only latching onto your nipple will not only make it hard for her to get milk, it will make it extremely painful for you! You want an asymmetrical latch, meaning, you want your baby to get more breast tissue below the nipple than above it. You want her chin to be touching your breast, as well as have her lips flanged outward. That means you don’t want her lips curled under, but instead rolled outward. If they are curled in, you can either try to roll them out with your finger, or just try having her latch on again.
You DON’T want to feel any sharp pain while you are breastfeeding. You also don’t want your nipple to appear pinched or creased after the feeding. Those are signs of bad latches. Another thing you want to watch for is that there is not a clicking or popping sound while your baby is eating. Those sounds indicate a poor latch as well.
Step 3. Feed for a long time and OFTEN
Please, please, please, PLEASE, don’t try to set a schedule for your baby to eat in the beginning. Babies tend to need to eat every 2-3 hours, or equaling 8-12 times during a day. But when babies are young, they go through a lot of growth spurts where they will need to eat more often. These growth spurts usually take place around 3, 6, and 9 weeks and 3, 6, and 9 months. So FEED ON DEMAND. When your baby is hungry, just feed her! With breastfeeding, you can’t feed too much, but you can feed too little.
With my son, he liked to eat for about 30 minutes at a time, and then an hour and half after I WAS DONE he wanted to eat again. I’m not kidding when I say that I was constantly feeding him for the first 3 months of his life. I got hardly anything done, but THAT IS OKAY! It is what my son needed, so that’s what I did. Trust me, your baby will be a whole lot happier if you feed her when she needs it. And the super cool thing about breastfeeding, is that your body just makes more when it senses that your baby needs more! So the more frequently you are feeding your baby, the better milk supply you will create.
Now, there is definitely a bit of a learning curve in the beginning with breastfeeding. But if you put in the work upfront, it almost always becomes second nature after the first month or two. So, stick with it, and you will grow to love breastfeeding as not only a convenient and healthy way to feed your baby, but a way to be able to bond. Now, check out my post on breast infections so you can be ready for that challenge just in case it comes!
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