Although most mothers assume breastfeeding is a natural instinct requiring no instruction or intervention, sometimes babies and moms need a little coaching to get the hang of nursing.
How do you know when you need to teach your baby how to nurse? If breastfeeding is painful or your baby seems frustrated and fussy while breastfeeding, you may need to evaluate how you are latching him on. Despite what you may have been told, you shouldn’t have to suffer while your breasts “toughen” up. And, don’t let people who tell you breastfeeding “should just come naturally” detour you from learning proper breastfeeding techniques.
By following the few simple steps listed below, your baby can learn how to latch on properly.
Step 1 – Position your breast
Proper breast positioning can mean the difference between nursing success and frustration. To position your breast, form a C or U shape with the hand on the same side as the breast you will be nursing from. As you hold the shape, cup and compress the areola (dark area surrounding your nipple).
If you lay baby on his side to nurse, cup your breast from underneath to ensure your compressed areola will fit inside his mouth like a sandwich. Adjust your hold depending on the angle baby is nursing at.
Step 2 – Get baby to open wide
To fit in as much of your areola as possible, you want your baby to open his mouth as wide as possible. To make sure he opens wide, take your free hand and support your baby’s head. As you bring his head and mouth towards your nipple, he should begin to open wide. Place his mouth over as much of your areola as possible.
If your baby does not open his mouth, express a small amount of milk from your nipple and run your nipple across his mouth. Wait for your baby to open his mouth very wide and then bring him onto your nipple, chin first. As you do this, his tongue should be below your nipple.
Step 3 – Adjust your hold
As you and your baby become more comfortable with breastfeeding, you may not need to support your breast anymore while nursing, and can experiment with different holds and positions. However, in the beginning stages of breastfeeding, it may be most comfortable for you both to continue to support your breast.
Don’t Give Up
As mentioned above, breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are experiencing pain while breastfeeding, break your baby’s latch by gently pressing your pinky finger in the corner of his mouth. After breaking his latch, try latching your baby on again following the steps mentioned above. You may need to execute these steps a few times before your baby is latched on correctly. However, the key to success is to not give up!
Please keep in mind: some women do experience nipple soreness the first few days of breastfeeding. Practicing a proper latch will help to minimize any discomfort associated with nursing. For more information about breastfeeding, please visit the La Leche League’s website and browse My Organic Company’s blog postings.