The truth about breastfeeding
It might surprise you to learn that breastfeeding is a skill that has to be learnt and not always as simple as just brandishing a nipple near your baby’s mouth to get the whole thing going.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not always a piece of cake from the start, but on the positive side, that is usually only due to some minor adjustments being made and when they are rectified, so is the ability to breastfeed properly and happily.
Some babies (and women) take to it easily and others find it far more difficult. If you have the right support from your partner, healthcare providers and family or friends, you are going to find it a whole lot easier.
To begin with, it is important to appreciate that a baby will not receive milk properly, if he is not ‘latched on’ correctly. A baby will often know instinctively how to latch on to his mother’s breast, especially if he has been positioned properly, but if he is in an awkward or inappropriate position, then he will probably find it very hard. Some shapes of breast may make it more of a challenge for the inexperienced baby to latch on to properly, and when he cannot latch on problems arise. The baby may become frustrated because he is not receiving an efficient supply of the milk he needs to fill up his tummy and the mother may experience sore nipples and other discomfort.
Subsequently, the positioning of the baby to the breast is everything. The first thing to recognise is that the baby needs more than just your nipple in his mouth. Depending on the size of your areola (the dark skin surrounding your nipple), he will usually need to have your whole nipple and all or most of your areola inside his mouth. This means he will be latched on to quite a big section of your breast and the clamp of his jaws combined with the pull of his sucking should mean that he can access the area behind the nipple where the milk is stored.
His nose should be touching the skin of your breast. Do not think he is going to suffocate; if he is having trouble breathing, he will let you know about it. Besides, this is what he was designed to do in order to survive. It would be a bit strange if babies were put under any risk through doing the thing that ensures their survival! A baby latched on and feeding properly should have his lip pulled slightly back, with the tongue positioned underneath, rather than above, the nipple itself. In addition, his mouth should be level with the nipple and your nipple should go straight in to his mouth without becoming crooked. The best way to reach this desired position is to have your baby’s body on its side (on your lap) but propped up underneath to get to the right height with a couple of pillows.
Seven Step Summary:
- To prepare her baby for a breastfeed, the mother should first change the baby’s nappy if dirty and make sure the room is warm.
- The breastfeeding mother should prepare feeding by choosing a comfortable place to sit, preferably where her back is going to be supported by some cushions. She should ensure she has a big glass of water, a cloth to clean up any possetted milk and perhaps something to help occupy the time, like the radio.
- Next, it is crucial to get the baby into a good position. In the early days, the best way of doing this is to have the baby lying stomach to stomach with the mother, and raised up to the height of her breasts with a pillow or two underneath his body. His head should be supported by the mother’s arm but she should not hold his head.
- When the baby’s face is parallel to her breast, the nipple should be level with the baby’s nose. The baby will then root (use his search instinct) to find the mother’s nipple with his mouth.
- Once the baby locates the nipple (help if he needs you to) he should take the whole nipple and most of the skin (areola) behind the nipple before he starts sucking. This is called being ‘latched on’. If he is doing this correctly, the mother should not feel any pain and the baby’s jaw nearest his ear should move up and down as he sucks. If she does feel pain then the baby should be repositioned. His nose should touch the skin of the mother’s breast.
- Once the breast feels emptier, the mother should change breasts, so that the baby can receive the fore and hind milk from the other supply.
- The mother should start feeding her baby from the breast she last fed on. This means each breast will receive the right amount of stimulation to ensure a good milk supply. It will also enable her baby to receive the highly nutritious fatty hind milk from both breasts. In order to help her remember which breast she should be feeding her baby from next, she could place a bracelet around the corresponding wrist or tie a ribbon onto the appropriate side of her bra.
It is worth investing in three to four good feeding bras. The right support for your breasts is essential while breastfeeding as an ill-fitting bra can lead to problems such as blocked ducts and mastitis. It is also possible to buy special breastfeeding tops that have been sensitively designed in order to give you as much privacy as possible. A shawl or big scarf can help protect your modesty if you are planning on feeding in public.