Here I am going to explain in, hopefully, easy terms exactly how to breastfeed, so that a tired, emotional new mum can make sense of this information even in the dead of night.
I remember the early days when I was trying so desperately to latch my baby to the breast without success, taking her off and starting again, desperately hoping this time it wouldn’t hurt so much. I had bruises all around my nipple, open wounds and severe engorgement that left me with mastitis. I was crying in desperation and felt that I was useless, completely unable to do the most natural thing in the world.
If I had known back then, the things I know now, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. As I write this I have a daughter who will be one in three weeks and whom I still breastfeed. I still have difficulties now, but they’re very different, for example the little cow finds it completely hilarious when she bites down on my nipple causing me to screech in agony.
Anyway, a step by step guide on how to latch my baby on may have been a saving grace for me when I was close to giving up in the first few weeks, so I’m hoping this little document helps out even just one poor suffering mum.
All of these steps are assuming your baby is well, born naturally and around their due date as I am aware there are many complications that affect your ability to breastfeed. And lets assume we’re feeding from the left boob. Oh, and meet Maggie, my demo doll who is perfectly primed to breastfeed!
The easiest and best way to hold your baby is in the cross cradle position.
Do this with your right hand:
Position your hand when it’s in this shape around the back of your baby’s neck, so that your index finger is roughly around your baby’s right earlobe and your thumb is roughly around your baby’s left earlobe.
The palm of your hand should be supporting the baby’s back, right between the shoulders.
Pull your baby in as close to your body as possible, supporting him in a straight line with your forearm like this:
Now, this next part is the important bit. It feels unnatural and you will question whether this will work or not, but it is the best thing to do for your baby to get the best latch possible.
If you need to support your boob because they’re on the larger side then do so, but your boob is not a bottle. Do not take your breast to the baby, or push the nipple to the baby’s mouth. It’s not comfortable. Bring your baby to you.
Think about this:
Imagine your hands are tied up, but someone is about to pour some water into your mouth from a bottle because you’re thirsty. Where would they hold the bottle to ensure you successfully get a drink?
With the opening of the bottle by your chin? Level with your lips? Or slightly higher so you can tilt your head back?
Yes, slightly higher, usually about level with your nose. This allows you to tilt your head back, open your mouth and take the water in easily and comfortably.
This should be no different for your baby.
Make sure your nipple touches the baby’s nose, that means your baby needs to be a lot further down from the breast than feels right, but trust me this will work!
Your baby will smell the milk and be able to feel where the nipple is as long as you are holding him close and his instincts will tell him to open his mouth nice and wide to reach the nipple.
Once the baby’s mouth is wide open push firmly with your right hand (which should still be supporting baby’s shoulders). Remember, your baby was ripped from your nethergeions by her head; she can cope with a firm push onto the boob. If you’re too slow or gentle she will grab and suck whatever she can get hold of, and that’s usually your nipple. This is breastfeeding girls, not nipple feeding.
By pushing the baby firmly against the breast your nipple will reach the back of the baby’s mouth where it’s nice and soft and squidgy and this won’t hurt when she feeds.
Stay in this position for a few minutes, allow your baby to stimulate your milk to release and once she is having nice deep suck motions and is swallowing, then adjust your arms and get comfy.
How to tell when your baby is latched on well
- Nice round full cheeks (the baby’s not yours) No dimples and cheeks should not be drawing in and sinking with each suck
- Chin indenting the breast
- Mouth wide open
- Nose free to breath (in most cases; if you’ve got really big boobs you may need to hold the skin back to let him breath)
- Jaw is able to move freely up and down with each such
- Baby is content, calm and lying still
- But screw all that, the most important thing for you is it feels comfortable!
I hope this is a useful article, let me know down below if you have any additional tips or advice that you feel would benefit another breastfeeding mum. Speak soon!