The image of a mother breastfeeding her baby is a picture of calmness and joy. But most new moms will tell you that, initially, there’s nothing easy or natural about breastfeeding. In fact, it takes time and patience as you get to know what suits your baby. Many moms give up too soon because they’re frustrated about getting it right, and suffer the side effects of feeding incorrectly.
Registered nurse and midwife, Anelle Greyling, and enrolled nurse Delena Strydom are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. They have six shortcuts to help you get things flowing.
Finding the right position
It’s important to have your baby in the right position. This basic technique will also enable him to latch correctly.
- Sit comfortably with back supported and bring baby level with your breast.
- Put your baby on his side with tummy facing you.
- Support him with a pillow.
- His body should always be in a straight line position to yours.
- Make sure his bum’s close to you and there’s no gap between you and him.
- Hold him by the shoulder blades so he can lift his chin and open his mouth.
- This will also keep his nose open for easy breathing while feeding.
- Use a cross-cradle hold where he’s held with the arm opposite to the feeding breast.
- Encourage him to latch by placing your nipple against his nose. He should open his mouth widely but if he doesn’t, try again.
A vital requirement of breastfeeding is getting your baby to latch correctly. Incorrect latching puts major strain on the nipple and breast, causing pain. This usually is the first problem. Latching takes continuous practise and will improve as you feed. If you struggle, then ask a lactation consultant to help you.
- Put your baby in the basic feeding position as described above
- He’ll tilt back his head and open his mouth to latch onto a large part of your breast once alerted
- His mouth should cover a large part of the areola and not just the nipple
- Using his jaw, he’ll suck when the nipple finds the junction of the hard and soft palate deep inside the mouth.
Another tip is to know when your baby is hungry. Babies have natural feeding cues and it’s important not to watch the clock but to be on the lookout for your baby’s cues. It’s far easier to latch your baby when he shows you that he’s hungry – and he’ll feed better too.
The cues include:
- Your baby looking for the breast with his mouth (rooting),
- sucking his hands, or putting his hands to his mouth.
- Crying is also a cue but one of the last. By the time your baby is crying, it will be more difficult to feed him. He’s likely to be frantic, have depleted energy, and struggle to suck properly.
If baby is sleepy owing to either your pain meds or jaundice, he might not give you feeding cues. Keep in mind that you’ll have to wake him to feed, especially in the early days and if his weight gain isn’t good. Express some milk into a teaspoon and give it to him. It will cause his sugar levels to rise, which should wake him to feed.
Try to practise frequent feeding from day one. Feed him as much as possible and not at prescribed times. It boosts your milk supply, prevents jaundice, and encourages bonding.
Breast milk digests quickly and a baby’s small stomach needs to be fed regularly. The more you feed the less chance of engorgement and mastitis because of the constant milk flow.
If your baby is kept in a nursery hospital, he might only be brought to you every four hours for feeding. But this isn’t enough; you need to feed more regularly.
Keep him close
Try to keep your baby with you all the time. This will encourage frequent feeding.
Use skin-to-skin contact as much as possible; for example, when he only has on a nappy and lies against your bare chest. While sleeping on your chest he’ll alert you when he’s hungry.
Besides the technical aspects of breastfeeding, try to remain patient and persevere through the challenges. Believe in yourself, trust your body, and listen to your maternal instinct.
Be careful of listening too much to conflicting advice. Remember that breastfeeding isn’t supposed to be painful. If you experience ongoing problems, then contact your local lactation specialist for assistance.
By Claire Barnardo