It might sound funny that you should have to teach your baby how to breastfeed. We like to think of breastfeeding as a natural process that happens by instinct. While that is partially true, most infants need help learning how to properly latch on to their mother’s breast. The thought that a mother’s nipples need to toughen up in order for her to breastfeed her baby is a myth. A proper latch is not painful. Learning how to properly latch your baby will insure that you have a comfortable and successful breastfeeding relationship. Following the steps below, will help you and your baby to learn a proper latch.
Form a C or U shape with the hand that is on the same side as the breast you are going to nurse with. Holding the C shape, support and cup your breast, near the areola (the dark area surrounding your nipple) and compress, as though you are holding a sandwich. If your baby will be laying on his side to nurse, hold your breast from underneath so that your compressed areola will fit into his mouth like a sandwich. Adjust your hold based on the angle in which your baby will be nursing.
With your other hand, support your baby’s head. Bring your baby in slowly toward your nipple. As you do this, your baby should begin to open his mouth. If he doesn’t, express a small amount of milk from your nipple and run your nipple across his lips. Wait until your baby has opened his mouth very wide; and then bring him onto your nipple, chin first. Make sure that his tongue is below your nipple as you do this. The goal is to get a large portion of the areola into his mouth. For most women, this will not be the whole areola, but a large portion of it. Compressing the milk sinuses inside of the areola is key for your baby to express milk from your breast.
In the beginning it may be more comfortable for both you and your baby to continue to support your breast. Eventually this will not be necessary. If you notice that your baby’s nose is being blocked by your breast, pull his body in closer toward your body. Angle your baby so that his chin in tucked into your breast and his nose is angled away from your breast.
If your baby is latched on correctly, it should not be painful. If you experience pain while nursing, gently break the suction from your baby’s mouth by placing your pinky finger in the corner of his mouth and pressing. Do not pull your baby straight off the breast to break suction, as this will damage your nipples. Once you have broken the suction, try to re-latch your baby. In the beginning it may take several tries before your baby latches on properly. Follow these steps every time you nurse, until you and your baby get the hang of a proper latch every time.
When a baby is latched on properly, his chin will be pressed into your breast. His nose will be angled away from your breast, though it may be touching slightly. His jaws will be over your areola. His tongue will be pulled over his lower jaws, between your breast and his gums. If you have someone pull down your baby’s lower lip, they should see his tongue. If any of these things are out of place, re-latch your baby to inure no damage is done to your nipple and he is properly expressing your milk.
The first several days after your baby is born are the hardest. Most women experience some degree of nipple soreness as they learn to breastfeed. Practicing a proper latch form the beginning will help to minimize discomfort.
For more information and to troubleshoot breastfeeding see the resources below.
The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding I can’t recommend this book enough. All women breastfeeding or preparing to breastfeed need to have a copy of this book. It has everything you will need to successfully breastfeed.