The time after a baby is born is exciting and exhausting. Knowing a little bit about breastfeeding before birth may make this time easier for you.
Use your babies hard wiring!
Babies laid tummy down on their Mothers stomachs after birth can push themselves to the breast and latch on without help. If all goes well, this usually happens within an hour or so after birth which is the ideal time to start breastfeeding. If you’re not able to facilitate this process in the first hour, you can still see your baby’s inborn feeding skills in action any time during the first months. To do this, lean back in a comfortable, relaxed, well supported position and make your breasts available. Lay your baby tummy down on your body. When a calm, hungry baby feels its Mothers body, it will move towards the breast.
The touch of the babies chin against your breast will naturally trigger a wide, open mouth for latching. Feel free to give the baby some help if needed. Gravity will help the baby take the breast deeply, which makes breastfeeding comfortable for both mum and bub. ‘Laid Back’ breastfeeding positions keeps your bodies touching which triggers your baby’s feeding reflexes. Breastfeeding is also easier and less work for you when your body supports your baby’s weight.
There is no ‘right’ way to hold a baby during breastfeeding. Do what feels good for both of you. In the early weeks, the ‘Laid Back’ positions may make it easier for you and your baby to get off to a good start. If you’ve had a cesarean birth, try laying your baby’s body across your breasts.
Laid back breastfeeding can be done anywhere just by moving your hips forward in a chair. After you and your baby master these positions, you may also want to give others a try. If you breastfeed sitting upright, find a hold that lets you relax your shoulders and arms as well as a seat with good back support. You can breastfeed your baby in front by supporting your baby’s back and head with your forearm near your wrist. Some Mothers with large breasts find it more comfortable to breastfeed sitting up with the baby along their side. It lets them cuddle close and gives them an unobstructed view of their baby’s face.
When in an upright sitting position, your baby will find it easier to breastfeed when:
- Their head, shoulders and hips are in line (not twisted or turned)
- Their whole body faces yours with no head turning needed
- Their feet, bottom and shoulders are pulled in close and pressed against you
- Their head is free to tilt back slightly
It can be helpful to learn to breastfeed lying on your side as another way to rest and sleep while you feed. Practice this during your waking hours as no one learns best when half asleep. Here are some pointers but feel free to adjust as needed:
- Lie on your side facing your baby with one pillow under your head and one behind your back. Have a small rolled up towel or baby blanket within reach
- Put your baby on their side facing you with your nipple in line with their nose
- Pull their feet in close
- Lean back into the pillow behind you until your nipple lifts off the bed to the level of your baby’s mouth
- When your baby’s mouth opens wide, it will quickly move onto the breast. At the same time, gently press the baby’s shoulders against you for a deep latch on
- Wedge the towel or blanket behind their back leaving their head free to tilt back
Some Mothers like their baby’s heads resting on their arm, others prefer their baby’s head on the bed. Do what works best for you and your baby.
As the name suggests, the football hold is when your baby is held along your arm, horizontally on one side of your body (similar to a football). If you’re feeding from the right breast, the baby should be lying along your right arm facing upwards with most of its chest and legs positioned under your right arm. Rest your arm on an arm rest or pillow and support the baby’s shoulders and neck and head with your right . The baby’s nose should be level with your nipple for attachment. Post-cesarean, this position will not place pressure on the abdomen and works well in smaller baby’s for guiding the baby’s head to your nipple. Large breasted women and mothers of twins commonly use this position.
This position looks very similar to the cradle position, but your arms are positioned differently. This position is ideal for facilitating a successful and deep latch if you struggle to achieve this in other positions. If you’re feeding from the left breast, lie your baby horizontally across your body on its side so your baby has full front of body contact with you. The baby’s feet should rest near your left elbow. Extend your right arm along the length of your baby, supporting their body, shoulders and neck. Your left arm is free to hold your left breast and assist with latching on. Your thumb and index finger of your right hand should sit just below your baby’s ears which allows for support of the head whilst allowing your baby freedom to move its own head as necessary.
This is the position most commonly associated with breastfeeding and requires you to cradle your baby’s head in the crook of your arm. Find a supportive chair that allows you to relax your back and support your arms. Alternatively, you can use this position whilst sitting up in bed as long as you have pillows for arm and back support. To avoid leaning down onto your baby elevate your feet onto a footrest, coffee table, bed etc. Lay your baby across your lap so their face, stomach and knees are directly facing you. If you’re feeding on your left breast, tuck the baby’s right arm under your breast and rest the bay’s head in the bend of your left arm. The baby should have full front of body contact across your body. The baby’s feet should be sitting somewhere near the elbow of you right arm. The cradle position works well for baby’s who were delivered vaginally. Post-cesarean, this position can place pressure on the abdomen.
Your comfort during breastfeeding also depends on where your nipple lands in your baby’s mouth and that depends on how your baby takes the breast or ‘latches on’. To understand this better, use your tongue or finger to feel the roof of your mouth. Behind your teeth and ridges it feels hard. When your nipple is pressed against this hard area in your baby’s mouth it can hurt. If you feel further in your mouth, you’ll feel where the roof turns from hard to soft. Some have nicknamed this area the ‘comfort zone’. Once your nipple reaches that baby’s comfort zone, breastfeeding feels good.
There should be no undue friction or pressure on your nipple. The easiest way to get your nipple to the comfort zone is to use the laid-back breastfeeding positions. The feel of your body against your baby’s chest and tummy trigger your baby’s natural feeding reflexes and the feel of their chin against the breast automatically triggers a wide-open mouth. Gravity helps the baby take the breast deeply in this case.
When sitting upright, getting the nipple into the comfort zone can be more work because you need to use your arms to support the baby’s weight and keep their body pressed against yours. When latching on in an upright position, be sure that the baby’s chin touches the breast to trigger a wide-open mouth and its head is free to tilt slightly backwards. Align the baby’s body with yours so their lower jaw is as far from the nipple it can be. As the baby takes the breast, give a gentle push from behind the shoulders to help them take a bigger mouthful. If for some reason you need to release your baby from your breast – perhaps it has attached incorrectly or you’re feeling pain, gently place your little finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth to ‘break the seal’. This is the gentlest way to detach for both you and the baby.
This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different, if in doubt, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.