Breastfeeding Techniques

Breastfeeding Techniques

Advice for comfortable, successful breastfeeding.

Nature provides a wonderful system for feeding babies, but there is a bit of a learning curve involved. Here are four different positions you can try when breastfeeding, plus other tips to keep in mind.

The Cradle Hold

This is the classic position where the baby lies on her side with her belly against yours and her head resting in the crook of your arm. If you’re nursing on your right breast, your right arm is doing the cradling, while your left hand supports your breast.

The Crossover Hold

Similar to the cradle hold, the crossover hold switches the roles of your arms. If you’re nursing on your right breast, your left arm holds the baby. This position might be good for small babies or those who have trouble latching on.

The Football Hold

In this position, you hold the baby tucked under your arm like a football, on the same side you’re nursing from. Support her back with your forearm and hold her to your breast face-up, with her nose level with your nipple. Gently cup your breast and guide her to it, chin first. Moms who’ve had C-sections or twins, or have large breasts or flat nipples often find this position helpful.

The Reclining Position

If you want to nurse while lying on your side in bed, this is the position for you. Support yourself well with pillows, and keep your back and hips in a straight line. Hold the baby close to you on her side, her head even with your breast. Use either your top or bottom arm to cradle her — whatever’s more comfortable. You may need to put a folded blanket under her head to position her higher and closer.

Getting a Good Latch

You’ll want to gently grasp your breast with your thumb above the areola and fingers below, and tickle baby’s mouth with your nipple until she opens her mouth wide. Then, quickly hug her to your breast. She should have areola in her mouth as well, not just your nipple itself. If she’s latched on properly, she’ll have long, slow jaw movements as she sucks, full-looking cheeks (as opposed to hollowed-out), and you’ll see small movements in her temple, lower jaw, or ear. You’ll probably hear her swallowing, too. If it’s not a good latch, ease your finger into her mouth to break the seal she has on your nipple, and start over again.

Tips for Any Position

You’ll be nursing for hours each day, which is why it’s so important to find a way to make it comfortable. Here are a few tips to help make this time relaxing and enjoyable for both you and your baby.

  • Sit in a supportive chair and keep lots of pillows and folded blankets nearby to support yourself and the baby. Some moms like having a footstool, too.
  • Be conscious of how you’re holding yourself. Hunching forward toward your baby or holding our shoulders too high will quickly get painful.
  • Try to use both breasts during a feeding. If baby empties one but not the other, start with the fuller breast at the next feeding. You’ll be able to tell either by the way it looks or feels, or you can wear a reminder, such as a loose rubber band around your wrist on the side last nursed.
  • Take good care of your nipples to avoid painfully chapped or cracked skin. Use lanolin cream designed for nursing mothers, or even vegetable shortening; you needn’t wipe them off before nursing. Let your nipples air dry after nursing, and avoid getting soap, lotion or rubbing alcohol on them.

Remember to drink plenty of fluids to keep up your milk supply.

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