What You Need to Know to Comfortably Breastfeed Your Baby
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I ran breastfeeding support groups for years, helped hundreds of mothers to reach their breastfeeding goals, and breastfed my own four children for many years. But, as "natural" (and I say this knowing that we are in a culture that isn't very nursing-friendly) as breastfeeding is for the human body, it is not always easy.
Moms often struggle to get breastfeeding to be comfortable and successful in baby gaining weight. I'm going to cover the changes moms can do that can result in much more comfortable breastfeeding and sufficient milk production.
How to Breastfeed a Baby Comfortably so that Baby Gains Weight and Breastfeeding Does Not HurtI recommend four simple steps to breastfeed comfortably and without any discomfort.
1. Use the Cross-Cradle Breastfeeding Position
Use the cross-cradle position instead of the cradle breastfeeding position. The cross cradle breastfeeding position gets baby closer to your baby; allows you to have more control over the neck/head (easier to position baby better for a good latch); and reduces the chances of wiggly baby unlatching on and off.
Do this when using the cross-cradle nursing position:
- Make sure the baby's belly is always touching your baby
- Tuck baby's legs under your elbow
- Hold the back of the baby's neck for head support
- Assure that you're comfortably sitting, using pillows or nursing pillow (I recommend this one) to support the baby's weight and not tire your arms
- During nursing, make sure to hold baby close to your baby at all times
2. Nurse Baby at Least 10-12 Times a Day
Yes, feed baby on demand, but also be mindful of how often baby feeds. Some babies don't demand breastmilk, but still need it. These babies can often go 4-5 hours between a feeding and then will do small feedings other times or feed often during the nighttime. A lot of times in our group, these babies will also have weight gain issues.
Consider nursing baby every 2 hours from the time of the beginning of the last feeding. Also, accept there are times you'll feed more often in between those two hours.
The benefits of breastfeeding every two hours:
- Baby receives sufficient breastmilk during the day.
- Maintains breastmilk supply.
- Decreases the chances of baby waking up at night often to do "make up feedings".
- Increases touch for your baby (a strong developmental need).
3. Get a Good Nursing Latch, Every Single Time
Source: North York General (it is surprisingly very hard to find a picture online of a GOOD latch, so I can see why correcting latches is something we do weekly).
It's easy to get a little relaxed about making sure that baby has a good latch each and every feed. But, I highly encourage you to continue to be vigilant about a good latch, throughout your breastfeeding journey.
Ideally, your nipple should point somewhere between the tip of baby's nose and the upper lip. Baby's head should tilt back slightly, as her mouth opens and her tongue comes forward over the gum (but not necessarily over the lip). At this point, mother should quickly latch baby to the breast.
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4. Know How to Tell if It's a Good Nursing Latch
Once baby is latched, it's important that you look for signs of a good latch.
Here are signs of a good nursing latch:
- There should be no clicking sounds from baby as she sucks.
- No cheek indentations and no milk escaping from the side of the mouth.
- The bottom lip should flange on the breast.
- The top lip should not be pulled inward.
- The jawline that is right below the baby's ear lobes should move in a rocking chair motion and not up-and-down.
If baby is not latched on correctly, gently unlatch baby and try again.
If you start the breastfeeding session as soon as baby gives you sign of hunger, you will have time to correct the latch without baby getting irritated. Make sure though, that you start as soon as baby gives you sign of hunger.
Summary of How to Breastfeed Successfully
The key to successfully breastfeed and establish a good milk supply are getting a good latch every single time, feeding baby at least 10-12 times a day, holding baby correctly in a cross-cradle position, and watching for signs of transfer with a good latch.
Expect that it will take a few times to learn these changes correctly, but once you do, you'll be able to breastfeed without discomfort and with sufficient milk supply.
How to Efficiently Pump Breastmilk
While pumping breastmilk is not always necessary, there are breastfeeding mothers that need to pump in order to supplement their baby (ie going back to work, occasional bottle, increase breastmilk supply, etc). And at times, mothers will pump to be able to offer the occasional bottle to their baby. Whatever your goals are for pumping, here are tips to help you pump as efficiently as possible.
Tips to increase your milk supply while pumping
- Pump enough (every 2 hrs you are gone from baby or when baby would’ve normally fed).
- Pump during a consistent time each day and night (if you pump at night).
- Relax and be at peace while pumping – taking a few deep breaths and looking at pictures of your baby will help get you to this relaxed state.
- Reduce stress and anxiety/worries about breastfeeding – seek breastfeeding support and believe in your body.
- Simple things like more sleep, better nutrition, less worry make a difference.
- Fenugreek, such as Mother’s Milk but taken exactly as the directions on the bottle also helps.
- Take a weekend where it’s just you and baby all day together and as much of that in bed is known to jump start your supply again.
Willow Pump is hands-free for when you need to pump.
A breastpump flange does not fit all and does not fit always
Make sure your flange is the right size for you. It’s very very common (but very very unknown by mothers) that the flange size needs to be changed during your breastfeeding journey, so even that will make a difference too.
At the breast is best for stimulation
Stimulation at the breast will increase your milk supply. If you're concerned about your milk supply decreasing, you will need to add either more breastfeeding and/or more pumping sessions.
Human milk for human babies
If you find that you need to supplement your baby with additional milk, the World Health Organization recommends supplementing with another mother’s breastmilk before considering formula. However, when choosing a formula, I recommend asking your pediatrician for recommendations and also asking other mothers for their favorite brands.
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