Last Updated on January 1, 2023
You’ve just given birth to your precious bundle of joy, and you’re wondering how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding can be difficult for some mothers, whether it’s the first time or not. 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 needed in his first year of life. Understanding the different stages of breast milk will help you create an effective breastfeeding schedule that works best for both mommy and baby. Let’s take a closer look:
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 mummy’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. Place your baby on his tummy at the top of the breast to encourage a let-down. 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 as he learns how to think and do new things daily. This is the milk you will feed your baby for 1-2 weeks until you reach your mature milk.
Your breast will produce this type of milk around the second or third week after birth. Mature milk is creamy, watery than transitional, and has a white colour 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, enhancing immune system function while being iron-rich. It helps with proper brain development – more good stuff to help your baby mature and grow.
How To Position Baby When Breastfeeding
A baby’s lips will naturally come to the breast when you position them close enough 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; there needs to be some give. Try supporting the baby with pillows if needed, but ensure they are correctly positioned 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 and 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: 6 Easy Steps
Now you know a little about milk flow and the correct position, let’s take a look at the basics of how to breastfeed a newborn:
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 they are 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 is 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 and How Often To Breastfeed
A typical nursing session can last from 15 to 45 minutes. This varies from woman to woman and depends on the child’s age, weight and how much milk they need at each feed. 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. This can vary 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 a mother to breastfeed ‘on demand’, meaning whenever her child wants, rather than adhering to strict feeding schedules. If this is not possible, nursing sessions should occur every two to three hours.
How To Tell If Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk?
Breastfeeding mothers can tell if their baby is getting enough milk when they see these signs:
- The baby sucks more gently.
- They are satisfied after around 20-60 minutes of feeding and, sometimes, unlatch themselves from the breast when they’ve had enough.
- 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, suppose you notice your baby’s nappies are wetting at least six times in 24 hours and have a yellow tinge. In that case, the 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 2.5 kg 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 ages, 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 comfortable position for you both, and remember not to pull on his head too much when latching him onto the breast. The baby’s mouth should be wide enough so that the nipple and the first of his gums are inside.
Do not hold him too tight, like a straight line or force him to drink more to gain weight. Sometimes, you have plenty of milk available for breastfeeding, but please understand when your baby has enough milk and wants to fall asleep. Babies learn to feed themselves day by day, so just be patient.
Common Breastfeeding Positions
Breastfeeding can be done in any comfortable position for both the mother and baby. However, here are some positions for you to consider and know for reference, with full instructions.
The cradle hold
The cradle hold is one of the most popular breastfeeding positions. It’s commonly used by breastfeeding mothers all over the world. This position allows you to support the baby with one hand, leaving the other free to hold the other breast or adjust how the baby latches.
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, its chin should rest on the breast with its 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.
The football hold
The football hold is another popular breastfeeding position. It 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 mum since it encourages her to lean forward slightly.
To get into a 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 and resting your elbow on a table or arm of the chair.
If you are in a football hold position when breastfeeding and want to switch sides, simply change how the baby is positioned. Just transfer them from one hand to another without taking their head off your breast.
Laid-back breastfeeding is a comfortable position with several benefits for both mama and baby. It can help you to relax and let down your milk. If you have ever joined a breastfeeding class, they’ll recommend this as an excellent way to start your baby off for 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 position for mothers who have had a cesarean section or other surgery that limits their movement in the uterus. Still, it can work well with babies after birth because of its many benefits.
Laid-back breastfeeding means the mother’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 the baby’s head to tip forward and away from your breast, so there is less weight pulling on them while nursing.
If you need to reposition baby, try the cross-cradle hold. This position works well if the 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 nursing pillow or cushion under his 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 its mouth. You can also control how much the baby leans forwards or backwards and prevent sore nipples in case they tend to suck your nipples too hard.
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 method is using a pillow or rolled-up towel for extra support. This allows new mothers to find comfort and stability while bonding with their child.
Simply place the rolled-up towel or nursing pillow between your legs on your side. Then, hold your baby at nipple level, nose opposite one breast with their mouth wide open so that mummy can rest her arm around them comfortably and attach quickly before they start rooting again for food. This position is great because it supports mum’s back while allowing them to enjoy their baby.
Side-lying position (also known as the clutch)
The clutch is a great breastfeeding position for most babies. This is also comfortable for the 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 in other positions. Once the 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 Replacing 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 it contains all essential water-soluble vitamins and minerals needed for your child’s 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 major decision.
If you have a low milk supply, you can choose to introduce some infant formula to their diet. However, if you have a low milk supply you can try doing a few of the below simple things to increase it gradually:
- Expressing milk more frequently: The let-down reflex can be mimicked when you use breast pumping. Your body will get the same signals as a baby swallowing. Breastfeeding your child more frequently also increases milk let-down 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, fibre, proteins and good fat.
- Skin-to-skin contact: Increasing naked contact between mother and baby releases hormones that promote a better milk flow.
Learn more about how to increase milk supply.
There are many different ways to breastfeed your baby. Some mothers nurse their babies in the traditional way, while others use bottles or cups and serve mothers milk from an expressed session. The best approach is whatever works for you and your little one. As long as both parties seem relaxed and comfortable, it’s all good.
If you know how to breastfeed now but face common problems like dry nipples and breast engorgement, you can check out our other articles, providing further tips on making this process easier.
Sophie is a former primary school teacher and passionate about parenting. She enjoys writing, reading, cooking, and making memories with her family.