A Motherlode of Breastfeeding Information
A successful breastfeeding relationship starts with a proper latch. To latch on your baby, means to get her mouth attached to your nipple. If your baby is latched on improperly in the first days, it can ruin your breastfeeding relationship from the start. A baby can be nursing very well, yet not getting enough milk due to an improper latch. Your baby uses his tongue and jaw movements to squeeze the milk from the breast sinuses, which are holding tanks right behind your nipple and areola. If your baby's mouth is not properly latched onto your nipple, she won't be able to express the milk from the sinuses. This can also cause you great pain in your nipples. Let's face it, if you are in pain, you won't want to breastfeed. Breastfeeding should not hurt. When your baby latches on in the early days, it will be uncomfortable, sensitive and possibly irritating, but it shouldn't hurt. If you are feeling a pinching feeling or stabbing pains, more likely than not, you are experiencing an improper latch.
Getting breastfeeding started can be quite simple. Your baby may latch right on and start nursing away. Congratulations, you are one of the lucky women for whom breastfeeding came easily. There are many other women who don't have it so easy. It is the baby's job to remove the milk from your breasts. Like any worker, your baby needs to be shown what to do.
Getting started in the first hour after birth helps to take advantage of the natural, alert period that your newborn experiences right after the birth. (This may not occur if you or your baby received pain medications during labor and birth.) Having your baby placed on your belly immediately after birth helps you both to become connected. Once the baby is born and you can get comfortable, you can attempt to get your baby latched on. Gently stroking her cheek with your nipple will activate the rooting reflex. (This causes your baby to turn toward your nipple and open his mouth.) [You can also stroke down, touching only the baby's bottom lip, to make him open his mouth. But make sure not to stroke up and down or the baby won't know whether you want his mouth open or closed.] You can then, when your baby's mouth is wide, bring your baby in close and place the nipple in her mouth. When the nipple hits the back of his mouth, his mouth will close. Make sure that his lips are well past your nipple and onto your areola part of your nipple that is flat and surrounds the protruding nipple portion. His lips should look like the bill of a duck, turned out upon the breast. Her chin and nose should be touching your breast. (Don't worry, the shape of your baby's nose allows her to breathe while still touching your breast.) Some women have very large areolas and others are small. Many books say to make sure most of the areola is in the baby's mouth, but this just isn't possible with some women's large areolas. Just make sure that your baby's lips are at least an inch past your nipple. You want your nipple far into his mouth. This allows her to use her tongue to squeeze the milk out of your breast.
It is important in the early days of breastfeeding to be comfortable and calm. If you are in an awkward position or are stressed, it will be difficult to get your baby latched on. Get comfortable; this means where you are comfortable. Many women with extensive tears or other birth issues will have a very difficult time sitting for the first days. Breastfeeding lying down can be more challenging, but with lots of pillows and an extra set of hands, it can be accomplished.
The first days of breastfeeding are a unique time. Your hormone levels are shifting greatly, you are recovering from the birth, and you may be quite exhausted. This is a time to spend concentrating on your new baby. Get to know him, undress him and check him all out. When getting breastfeeding started, it helps to have a lot of skin-to-skin contact. Undressing your baby to her diaper and placing her against your bare belly and chest will help to give you and your baby the stimulation needed to get breastfeeding started. Feeding a new baby can be stressful, especially if your baby is upset. It is very important to get yourself and your baby calmed down before trying to get started.
Take your time, your baby will wait the few extra minutes that you need to get comfortable. Have your partner carry and soothe your baby while getting ready. When you are comfortable, have your partner bring you your baby. If you are sitting up, make sure that you have a pillow on your lap. This will help to bring your baby to your nipple, instead of leaning to your baby. (This can cause quite a backache.) Place your baby's tummy next to your own, wrapping your baby around you. If your baby likes to wave her arms a lot, swaddling might be necessary. Wrapping your baby's arms against his body with a blanket will help prevent him from causing an untimely break in the suction. If you do need to break the suction to re-latch, use your finger to break the suction before pulling baby off. If you don't break the suction first, you can damage your nipples.
If your baby is reluctant to latch on, you can help to entice her in different ways. Expressing a few drops of breastmilk onto your nipple can help him to be more interested. Tickling her lips with your breast also encourages her to open her mouth. A sleepy baby can be difficult to deal with in the first days, but take heart, it will get easier. Keep trying, be patient and get some help if it doesn't seem to be coming together. There is no shame in needing some guidance in the early days. Get involved in your local La Leche League, mother's support group or get in contact with a board certified lactation consultant. Don't give up. It can be difficult, but it is well worth the effort. Your baby will thank you for your persistence.
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DISCLAIMER: This web site is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for medical attention, or diagnosis. If you are having breastfeeding difficulties, please contact an IBCLC near you for assistance. If you have any questions consult your family's health care provider. In some instances, the information represents opinion or judgment. Neither the information providers nor the Site owner guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information in this website nor will they be responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. The Site owner and the information providers will not be liable or responsible to any person(s) for any loss or damage caused whatsoever by the use of information or ideas referenced in this web site. Your participation in this service therefore is solely at your own risk.