Breastfeeding is a great gift from nature and a universal aspect of motherhood. Not only does it provide adequate and personalized nutrition for your little one, but it’s also a great way to form emotional bonds.
Breast milk has so many benefits that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, and many other organizations consistently recommended breastfeeding as the best choice for feeding infants, exclusively, for the first 6 months of life, and then until 24 months of age along with complementary foods.
Giving your baby breast milk involves learning a new skill, and that requires patience and practice. You might even need to wait a few days before your milk production is established. So don’t worry if your milk does not come out at first, once your ‘let down’ reflex kicks in, your supply will increase.
What should I do to start breastfeeding?
Begin by taking a deep breath and get your body as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Try to let things emerge spontaneously, as that promotes relaxation and helps your baby feel calm too. Choose whichever position you desire to breastfeed. You can be sitting in a comfortable chair or sitting up in your bed, as long as you keep your back straight and you and your baby are comfortable.
There are many different ways you can hold your baby, such as:
- Cradle hold: Sit down comfortably, hold your baby’s head in the crook of your arm, and have their whole body facing you.
- Cross-cradle hold: Hold your baby with the arm opposite to the breast with which you will feed them and place them in front of you.
- Football hold: Carry your baby as if you were carrying a football, tuck them under your arm and support their head with your hand.
- Reclining position: Lie down and use your upper or lower arm to cradle your baby’s head to your breast.
Whatever position you choose just make sure that your baby’s whole body is facing yours.
Steps to breastfeeding successfully:
- Settle into your favorite position making sure you have good support on your back, arms, and feet. Lean back slightly so your body helps you carry your baby and their weight is not placed solely on your forearm.
- Get your baby close to your breast and place them parallel to the orientation of your areola (dark skin around the nipple) so that your baby is completely facing your breast.
- Ensure that your baby’s nose and chin are placed in front of your areola. If you desire, squeeze your breast to make it easier for your baby to latch on to your areola. Likewise, it is advisable to hold your breast with your free hand to give it extra support and prevent your baby from pulling it down.
- When your baby opens their mouth, help them get near your breast so they can find their way to your areola. If they don’t open their mouth, gently touch their lips or cheek with your finger or nipple to awaken their sucking reflex. It is important to make sure your baby latches on properly to prevent dry and cracked nipples. To make sure their latch is correct, verify that your baby’s mouth closes around the entire areola and the nipple is pointed towards the roof of their mouth.
- When your baby latches onto your breast, they will begin to suck. Initially, it can take 60 to 90 seconds of suction until your milk begins to flow. At this moment you might feel some pain since a baby’s suction is surprisingly strong. However, the initial pain should subside after the first few minutes. If you feel sharp pain as the sucking continues, stop the suction and reposition your baby. To separate your baby from your breast, wait until the sucking stops and then slide your finger between their lips and gums. Be sure not to separate your baby from your breast without stopping the suction, as it is very strong and can hurt you!
- As soon as your baby starts receiving your milk the feeding begins. Make sure you offer both breasts at each feeding but let your baby eat all they want before offering the other breast. This way you ensure that they drink the higher fat content of the milk. When you see that the suction has decreased and your breast feels softer, remove your baby from your breast, burp them and offer them the other breast. Don’t worry if they no longer want to eat, babies have an amazing ability to recognize their hunger and satiety signals. Just remember to alternate your breasts at each feeding to ensure both are stimulated.
If you managed to have a successful feeding, congratulations! If not, remember that it takes practice before you master the art of breastfeeding. Do not feel bad if you have not yet succeeded; next time, try out different positions to see which makes you feel more comfortable.
If you find that you continue to struggle even after trying different positions and practicing, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or a lactation consultant.