There is nothing more natural than a mother breastfeeding her baby. It’s what Mother Nature intended. That said, natural doesn’t always correlate with simple. There are women who were scared to death of breastfeeding and found out it was the easiest thing in the world. There are women who’ve looked forward their entire lives to breastfeeding their babies – and then experience a breastfeeding struggle and then some.
You just never know.
The more you know about breastfeeding the more successful you’ll be
We will say this – it’s so worth it to work out any kinks that pop up along the way. If you do – we guarantee you’ll be able to find a healthy breastfeeding balance for yourself and your baby. Escalating publicity about the wonders of breastfeeding, increased information for both breastfeeding mothers and their partners, and plenty of lactation support are all on your side.
Here are 5 of the most important breastfeeding tips we have for new moms.
Attend a La Leche League Meeting
If you can attend a La Leche League meeting before your baby’s born, we highly recommend it because it will put you in face-to-face contact with women who know the ropes. If not, that’s fine – try to get to a La Leche League meeting as soon as you can in your post-partum life. Babies are welcome to the meetings of course, and breastfeeding in multiple forms abound. In addition to meeting new moms and learning more about breastfeeding in general, you’ll have a built-in support community to turn to.
You can visit the La Leche League website to find an active group in your area. If there isn’t one, keep the contact information handy because you can access it to find lactation consultants if you need them down the breastfeeding road.
You’re going to be spending hours and hours and hours breastfeeding your baby. Make sure your body can find a comfortable, ergonomically supported space and position. This requires back and leg support – as well as cushions/pillows to support your arms. The more comfortable and relaxed you are, the easier nursing will be once you get the hang of it.
Learn all you can about latching
When it comes to comfortable breastfeeding, it’s almost all about “the latch.” You’ll be hearing, talking about and analyzing your baby’s “latch” from almost the moment she’s born.
We’ll tell you a handful of things to look for when your baby’s latching on – but we also think a good image can work wonders. Since women’s nipples and areolas come in all shapes and sizes – looking at pictures of women nursing can be helpful – or not. However, an image of what’s going on inside the baby’s mouth, with relation to your breast, is enlightening. Click Here to see a picture of what we’re describing below.
For a good latch, your baby should:
- Be tummy to tummy with you
- Come to you rather than you leaning into it (strains the back and neck). If you feel yourself leaning forward, reposition and bring the baby all the way into your body.
- Have his/her nose opposite your nipple.
- Approach the nipple from the upper part of the mouth, rather than the middle or lower portion.
- Have both lips flared out around the nipple (a lip that’s tucked in affects suction and can cause friction that leads to sore nipples).
- Open wide to receive the nipple. If the baby doesn’t open wide, don’t shove the nipple in. Instead, reposition and start again.
- Have her/his head tilted back slightly, rather than tucked at the chin, and the chin should indent your breast.
- Have his tongue resting along the bottom side of the areola (if you gently move the lower lip down, you’ll see the tongue on the outside of your breast – not in the baby’s mouth).
See why we recommend looking at the picture? It says almost all of the above in a single image. Here it is again.
Signs of a good latch are:
- A baby who is swallowing rather than smacking or clicking.
- The ears are wiggling a little.
- The jaw moves a little in a circular motion, rather than up-and-down.
- Any discomfort disappears quickly once the baby is latched on.
- The nipple is not flattened or misshapen overmuch when the baby comes off the breast (although it might be seriously elongated for a quick minute).
- A baby that falls asleep and pops off the breast, that seems very relaxed and satisfied when he/she voluntarily finishes or who sighs with bliss in a milk coma, with milk dribbling from the side of the mouth when the meal is over.
Any serious pain or discomfort that lasts beyond the initial latch, or beyond that first week or so of breastfeeding should be evaluated by your midwife, doctor or a lactation consultant. Odds are there’s a bad latch.
A brief word about tongue-ties
Tongue-ties occur when the connective tissue that anchors the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, or the connective tissue that connects the upper-lip to the gums doesn’t allow the tongue or upper-lip to move as it should. While we aren’t sure how common they are, we do know tongue-ties are common when breastfeeding latches are a continual struggle.
In most cases, a single visit to the doctor’s office will do the trick. They can snip the connecting tissue and that’s that. In rare cases, treatment might be more involved. Again, a visit to the pediatrician and/or a visit from your lactation consultant or midwife can help you identify if tongue-tie is an issue. Left untreated, tongue-ties can lead to breastfeeding issues, erosion of enamel on the front teeth and even speech impediments.
Learn the range of breastfeeding holds
The “traditional” image of a mother holding her breastfeeding child usually depicts the cradle hold, or the cross-cradle hold. There’s also the football hold, the side-lying hold and laid-back breastfeeding (this latter position is interesting, and some newborns can find this position on their own. Click HERE to watch a fantastic video showing several newborns and their instinctual ability to scoot in place for laid-back breastfeeding.)
Read, How Do I Position My Baby to Breastfeed for detailed information about the most popular breastfeeding positions. Most babies, however, do need a helping hand – and different mother/baby teams prefer different positions so the more you’re familiar ahead of time, the better.
Good luck along your own breastfeeding journey. Never, ever hesitate to seek help, support or answers to your questions from healthcare providers, lactation consultants and other breastfeeding moms. We’re all here to lend a helping hand whenever we can.