Last Updated on November 2, 2021
You’ve just given birth to your precious bundle of joy and you’re wondering how to breastfeed. Whether it’s the first time or not, breastfeeding can be a difficult task for some moms. You may have heard that it is hard work – well, that’s true! Breastfeeding takes practice and patience but with these tips, you will soon find yourself mastering this skill like a pro!
Understand your milk flow
Breast milk is like a complete meal for your little one, containing all the ideal nutrients he needs in his first year of life. Understanding different stages of breast milk will help you create an effective breastfeeding schedule that works best for both mommy and baby.
The very first thick substance you produce after giving birth is called colostrum. This “liquid gold” has so much good stuff packed inside, including antibodies that protect your newborn baby against illnesses and infections. Colostrum is also rich with nutrients that help your newborn adjust to life outside of mommy’s belly. It has very little fat but it contains high amounts of protein, vitamin A and other essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium – all perfect food for your baby.
However, colostrum is not like milk. It does not flow easily because of its thick consistency. The trick to getting things flowing smoothly and without pain is all in the positioning. To encourage let-down, place your baby on his tummy at the top of the breast. You can also try using a warm compress or having a massage with oil to help release more milk faster.
Once you’ve established breastfeeding and are comfortable with it, your transitional milk will come in about two to five days. You will now notice your breast milk is thinner than the former and has a more water-like consistency. This type of milk comes with higher fat content (about 50% more fat than colostrum) to help your baby’s brain grow fast as he learns how to think and do new things every day! This is the milk you will feed your baby for 1-2 weeks until you reach your mature milk.
Your breast will start to produce this type of milk around the second or third week after birth. Mature milk is creamy, watery than transitional, and has white color which comes from its high concentration of beta-carotene (the same nutrient found in carrots). It also contains the perfect amount of fat, lactose (a sugar found in milk), protein, and vitamin C that enhances immune system function while iron-rich. It helps with proper brain development – more good stuff to help your baby mature and grow!
How to position baby when breastfeeding
Baby’s lips will naturally come to the breast when you position the baby close enough for them to latch on. Then they can keep sucking with the strength of their gum. Make sure that baby is in a comfortable position and not squished or held too tightly into place by mom, there needs to be some give. Try supporting the baby with pillows if needed, but make sure they are positioned properly so as not to interfere with breastfeeding.
Keep one hand under the baby’s neck and shoulders while cradling their back with your arm – this provides support without restricting movements of arms & legs which may occur instinctively during feeding time. Baby’s feet should touch the bedding below you; an active leg reflex can be triggered by placing baby’s legs in a frog-like position (heels touching) and allowing the knees to fall open.
How to breastfeed
1. Latch the baby onto your breast
2. Position your nipple in the baby’s mouth
3. Make sure you are holding the baby correctly and that he or she is not falling off of you
4. Keep a good hold on both breasts, as one may leak while feeding
5. Watch for signs that the baby is getting enough milk or full
6. When finished breastfeeding, unlatch by slowly pulling back from the breast so as not to cause discomfort to either party involved
How long & How often to breastfeed
The nursing session can last from 15 to 45 minutes. This varies from woman to woman and depends on the child’s age, weight & how much milk they need at each session. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing sessions lasting for around 15-20 minutes per side every few hours during the day and before going to bed at night or as needed if your baby shows signs of hunger such as rooting (turning their head towards you when hungry), mouthing, smacking lips, etc.) In terms of frequency, it will be easier for mom if she breastfeeds ‘on demand’ meaning whenever her child wants rather than adhering to strict feeding schedules. If this is not possible, nursing sessions should take place every two to three hours.
How to tell if the baby is getting enough breast milk?
Breastfeeding moms can tell if their baby is getting enough milk when they see these signs
- The baby latches more gently. They will be satisfied after only 20-60 minutes of nursing or less if they are not sucking too fast. Sometimes, they can even unlatch themselves from the breast.
- They might fall asleep within a few minutes after feeding.
- The sound of swallowing is not as strong as before. They might even be making a clicking noise while trying to draw milk from the breast.
Additionally, if you notice your baby’s diapers are wetting at least six times in 24 hours and have a yellow tinge it means that baby’s urine output has increased because of breast milk intake which indicates adequate hydration.
How to breastfeed premature babies
Premature babies are born before they weigh 2,500 grams or measure 37 inches in length. Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your low-birth-weight baby. The most important thing you can do for your breastfeeding relationship with a premature baby is to be patient and gentle. A good starting point for feeding time is every 3-4 hours during the day and every 4-6 hours at night.
Your milk supply will increase as your baby gets older so it’s okay if he doesn’t nurse as often as a full-term infant would. To establish a good latch, try to find a position that feels comfortable for both of you, and remember not to pull on his head too much when latching him onto the breast. The baby’s mouth should be open wide enough so that the nipple and at least the first of his gums are inside.
Do not hold him too tight like a straight line or force him to eat more for gaining weight. That will definitely make the baby cry more. Sometimes, you have more milk for breastfeeding but please do understand when your baby has enough milk and want to fall asleep. The baby learn to feed himself day by day, so be more patient.
Common breastfeeding positions
Breastfeeding can be done in any position that is comfortable for both the mother and baby. Breastfeeding basics include place your infant on his or her side facing you and keep them aligned properly while keeping gravity working. Here are some positions for you to consider and know how to breastfeed with full instructions.
1. The cradle hold
The cradle hold is one of the most popular breastfeeding positions. It’s commonly used by breastfeeding moms all over the world. This position allows you to support baby with just one hand, leaving the other free to hold other breast or adjust the way the baby latch.
In this position, your baby’s body will be cradled around yours by one arm and neck. While supporting the head with an open hand or a fist, cradle them against your chest so that baby’s mouth is near your nipple. When your baby is positioned correctly, their chin should rest on the breast with their nose pointing towards the nipple. Their ears should be level with the nipple and their lips should be turned out.
The cradle hold offers good support for your back and allows you to breastfeed in different positions. For example, while sitting up straight or leaning slightly forward.
2. The football hold
The football hold is another popular breastfeeding position. This position allows you to support your baby’s head, which can help prevent injuries like ear infections and blocked milk ducts that might arise if their chin rests on the breast during feeding. It also helps with good posture for mommy since it encourages her to lean forward slightly.
To get into football hold, bring your baby over one arm like a football and support them under the chin with an open hand or fist. Their nose should not touch your breast as they feed. Support your back by leaning slightly forward, resting your elbow on a table or arm of the chair.
If you are in football hold position when breastfeeding and want to switch sides, simply change the way baby is positioned. Just transfer them from one hand to another without taking their head off of your breast.
3. Laid-back breastfeeding
Laid-back breastfeeding is a comfortable position which has several benefits for both mom and baby. It can help you to relax and let down your milk. If you have ever joined a breastfeeding class, you would be told that this is a good way to start your baby off while they are learning how to latch on and get used to the positioning of their mouth over your nipple.
Laying back, or reclining in an armchair with support behind the upper part of your back will make it easier for gravity to drain the blood from your heart into the placenta. Lactation consultants do not usually recommend this positions for moms who have had a cesarean section or other surgery that limits their movement in the uterus, but it can work well with babies after they are born because of its many benefits.
Laid-back breastfeeding means mom’s needs come first and baby gets to enjoy skin-to-skin time while still getting the nourishment they need. It can be a great position to use if you have sore nipples, because it allows baby’s head to tip forward and away from your breast so there is less weight pulling on them while nursing.
4. Cross-cradle hold
If you need to reposition baby, try the cross-cradle hold. This position works well if baby’s nose is partially or fully obstructed because it allows for easier breathing during feeding.
To do this, place baby on the same side as baby’s nose facing up and bring it across baby’s chest so that your little one is cradled in your elbow with their opposite cheek resting against your forearm. Use your opposite hand to support baby’s head. If baby is too far away from you, use a pillow or cushion under baby’s chest for better positioning. You are just holding a little weight and have a free hand to adjust the nipples in baby’s gums and support latching when baby opens their mouth. You can also control how much baby lean forwards or backwards and prevent sore nipples in case the baby is older and tend to suck your nipples too hard.
5. Cradle position with a pillow or rolled-up towel for extra support
There are many ways to support breastfeeding throughout the nursing session. A common way is using a pillow or rolled-up towel for extra support. This allows new mothers to find comfort and stability during this time of bonding with their child.
All you need to do is place the rolled-up towel or nursing pillow between your legs on your side. Then you will want to hold your baby at nipple level, nose opposite one breast with their mouth wide open so that mom can rest her arm around them comfortably and attach quickly before they start rooting again for food.This position is great because it supports moms back while allowing them to enjoy their baby.
6. Side-lying position (also known as the clutch)
Clutch is a great breastfeeding position for most babies. This is also comfortable for mother because it keeps her head propped up slightly higher than when she lays flat on her back, which helps keep fluid from building up in the ear canal (a common reason women get plugged ears during breastfeeding).
Baby feeds in this position easily by coming up onto an elbow so he can see you better while feeding. There is not too much pressure around his neck like other positions do. Once baby has latched, pull the breast fully in closer to baby’s body. You can place your hand on top of his head for support, or prop it up with a pillow if you are more comfortable that way.
When to consider replace breast milk with infant formula?
Infant formulas are the only products that can replace breast milk for babies under one-year-old when lactation doesn’t work out the way you want it to. Though contains all essential water-soluble vitamins and minerals needed for your child health, only give up on this way of biological nurturing when your milk production is not working or you are on medications. Do not forget to consult your lactation consultant before making any decision.
If you have less milk than the amount your baby eat, you can choose to add on some infant formula while do few below simple things so that your milk supply increases gradually:
- Expressing milk more frequently: The let-down reflex can be mimiced when you use breast pumping. Your body will get the same signals like baby swallowing. stimulated at least every two hours. Breastfeeding your child more frequently also increases milk letdown and the amount of milk produced, so make sure you nurse on demand (not after a predetermined number of feedings).
- Having a balanced diet: Do not forget to eat enough food with enough carbohydrates, fiber, proteins and good fat.
There are a lot of different ways to breastfeed your baby. Some moms nurse their babies in the traditional way, while others use bottles or cups and some mothers pump milk for later feeding. The best approach is whatever works for you and your little one. As long as both parties involved seem relaxed and comfortable, it’s all good!
If you know how to breastfeed now but facing common problems like nipples dry, breast engorgement, you can check out our other articles providing further tips on how to make this process easier.