This week is World Breast Feeding Week!
There are lots of various benefits to breastfeeding your baby, particularly for the first six months of life. It is a skill that can take time to master, however once learned it is often the easiest way to feed your baby.
Breast milk offers babies tailor-made vitamins and minerals that can help with their growth and development. It can also reduce the risk of several diseases, for both baby and parent. There is also evidence that breastfeeding can contribute to the bonding process, however that doesn’t mean that it can be easy. Below is a guide on how to breastfeed.
The first stage of breastfeeding is latching on; this is how baby attaches to the breast to feed. Although it is often assumed that this comes naturally, it can take some practice to get good attachment.
The best time to breast feed is when your baby and you are both relaxed and comfortable. Your baby shows signs of hunger by sucking their fists, licking their lips, and wriggling and opening their mouths as if searching for milk. It is also important to feed fully from each breast when possible, as this helps baby to get the fattier milk towards the end of the feed.
The first step of latching on is to hold your baby’s body close to your chest, with their nose level with your nipple. Then, let your baby’s head tip back to allow their top lip to brush against your nipple, which should prompt your baby to make a wide, open mouth. Once your baby’s mouth is in position, their chin should be the first to touch your breast. This allows their tongue to reach as much breast as possible.
To check that your baby is now in position, see that their chin is firmly touching your breast, their nose is clear, and their mouth is wide open. You should be able to see more darker nipple skin above your baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip, and their cheeks will look rounded as they feed.
In terms of frequency, feeding your baby will seem constant at first. As your baby adjusts and becomes more efficient, they will need to feed less often. There is no such thing as breastfeeding your baby too much, and newborns tend to be fed at least 8 times in a period of 24 hours.
Another important aspect of breastfeeding is the positions. It is wise to have a thirst quenching drink close by and ready whilst you breastfeed. This will help you be more comfortable.
The four most popular breastfeeding positions are:
The Cradle Hold - this is the most popular breastfeeding position. Lie your baby across your lap, facing you. Place your baby’s head in your forearm, and use your hand to guide their body towards latching. Place baby’s lower arm under yours, and check to make sure your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip are in a straight line.
Lying on your side - this position is good if you have had a caesarean. Lie comfortably on your side, with your baby lay facing you tummy-to-tummy. Again, make sure baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip are in a straight line. Put some pillows behind you for support, and a rolled up blanket behind baby. Tuck the arm your’e lying on under your head, and use your free arm to guide baby to latch on.
Laid-back nursing - to do this, lean back but not flat on a sofa or bed, propped up with cushions or pillows to feel supported. Once comfortable, place baby on your front with their tummy either resting on yours, or have them lay to one side. Make sure you are upright enough to look in baby’s eyes, and support them whilst guiding baby to latch on.
Rugby hold - also known as the clutch, can be used to feed twins at the same time. For this, sit in a chair with a cushion or pillow along your side. Position your baby to the side, under your arm with their hips close to yours. Your baby’s nose should be level with your nipple as you use the palm of your hand to support their neck. Gently guide them to feed.