Breastfeeding may be tough initially, but with support, patience, effort you and your baby will get adjusted eventually. Post delivering a baby, life can be pretty overwhelming as you are getting to know your newborn (1). When you see other moms nursing their child, you might feel ‘Oh, that looks easy!’ Trust me, it’s definitely not that easy. It doesn’t come naturally for all the new moms, and both mom & baby take their time to get comfortable with the process. When you get your hands on how to position the baby, how to know if the baby is getting enough milk, and how often to feed your baby, then you will feel more confident. Nothing can stop you now as you got past the trial and error days. Breastfeeding provides a lot of health benefits for the mom and the baby (2).
How to Hold Your Baby While Breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding hold your baby in a comfortable position that works for you and your baby (3). Below are the few postures that might help you to get comfy during breastfeeding.
1. Cradle Hold
Make your baby lie on your abdomen by supporting his head with the elbow of one hand and bottom with the other hand. Your baby should be facing your breast, and the body should be turned inward to you. Make sure to support your baby’s head until he can hold his head on his own. This posture is a common one suggested by doctors.
2. Crossover Hold
It is similar to the cradle hold, but the only difference is that you will hold your baby’s head with the arm opposite to the breast you will be nursing. Baby’s body should be turned inward to you. For example, if you are feeding on the right breast, hold his head with your left hand. This posture is suitable for babies who have trouble with latching.
3. Football Hold
In this position, you have to tuck your baby under your arm on the side of the breast you are nursing. Hold your baby on a pillow with that arm to lift him up and use the opposite hand to cup the breast. If you had a C-section, then this posture will be convenient for you.
4. Side Lying Position
Keep a pillow under your head, and lie on your side, place your baby next to you. Lift your breast to your baby’s reach so that it is easier to access your nipple. You need to keep a small pillow behind your baby’s back, which helps to hold him close. It is a good posture for late-night feeding. However, this position is not recommended by certain doctors as it might be fatal to babies and also develops the risk of ear infection.
How to Latch Baby to Your Breast?
Proper latching is very essential for breastfeeding mothers. Keep trying until you can get your baby into the right position for latching. Improper latching causes breast discomfort (4). Sucking on nipple will not compress the milk glands, and also, the baby gets less milk, which makes them hungry. It also makes your nipples cracked and sore. So to avoid these issues, make sure your baby’s mouth covers both nipple and areola. It helps to pump milk out of milk glands, and your baby gets enough milk.
Here are a few tips to get a good latch:
Keep a pillow on your lap and hold your baby facing your breast with his belly touching yours.
Place your forefinger and middle finger around your areola, thumb over the breast.
Rub your nipple over your baby’s lip to encourage him to open his mouth. If this doesn’t work, squeeze some milk on his lips.
If the baby turns away, touch his cheek with your nipple, and the reflex will make the baby turn his head towards your breast.
Once the baby’s mouth is open, bring him forward towards your breast. Do not lean forward and push your breast into his mouth.
Hold your breast as it helps the baby to grasp firmly and suckle well. It also controls the flow of milk.
The latch is proper when the baby’s chin and nose tip are touching your breast.
Sometimes babies suck only the nipple, which doesn’t pump any milk out of your breast. So watch out for the suck and swallow pattern while feeding your baby. Listen to the swallowing sound, and you will know that latch is not proper if there are any clicking noises.
Trouble with Latching
A good latch is crucial for breastfeeding as it affects how well the baby drinks milk. Poor latch causes cracked, or sore nipples so ensure the latch is proper. If not, break the suction by inserting a clean finger into the corner of the baby’s mouth. Again rub his lip to get a good latch with the nipple and areola in his mouth.
While latching, aim your nipple towards the roof of the baby’s mouth. It helps him to latch on the nipple along with some of the areola and get enough milk.
How Long to Breastfeed?
Do not set time limits for each feed and let your baby take their time. The average time for a feed takes 20 to 30 minutes. But it is based on your baby; he may take more or less time (5).
Feed your baby on one side until that breast is completely drained. For each feed, at least one side must be drained. This type of feed is very important than feeding your baby in both breasts since the last mature milk is rich in fats and calories. Don’t pull out until your baby stops, and then you can give on the other side but don’t force him to drink. It means that he is full and doesn’t want milk anymore. You can start with the other breast during the next feed.
Wait for the baby to let go of the nipple, and if he doesn’t, you can end feeding when the suck and swallow pattern slow down. Your baby will fall asleep in the middle of the feed or at the end of the first breast. Unlatch by inserting a clean finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth.
Meanwhile, make sure you feed your baby on both the breasts as feeding only one side causes chest pain and infection on the other breast.
How Often to Breastfeed?
Always try to feed your baby when they are hungry rather than on a schedule. But during the first 2 days, you have to initiate the feeding and push your baby to drink as their appetite usually picks up on the third day. If they don’t consume anything, their sugar levels will drop, and it could be risky (6).
Every 2 hours, a newborn must drink milk for the first few weeks, even if he is not demanding. On average, you need to feed your baby every 2 to 3 hours.
Feeding patterns may vary from one baby to another. If the baby is not full from the previous feed or the hungry baby might demand the next feed in an hour. Easily satisfied baby might demand every 3.5 to 4 hours. If you feed your baby constantly, that’s okay; it is temporary. If your milk supply increases and the baby gets bigger, the intervals between feed cycles will be longer.
If formula feeding babies drink milk less often, don’t be worried as breast milk digests quickly than formula milk. It empties the baby tummy faster, and their hunger increases sooner.
Hunger Signs of Babies
Breastfeed your baby when he is hungry and not when he is full. However, don’t wait till he cries as he will be uncomfortably hungry. So choose the right time to feed your baby (7). Babies will make us know their hunger by showing the following signs.
Snuggle against your breasts.
Sucks his little hand or lips.
Opens his mouth.
Pokes his tongue out.
Wakes from his sleep.
Turns his head when he feels something on his cheek.
Makes cooing noises.
Makes lip-smacking sounds.