Your Baby and Breastfeeding
Here are some signs that your baby
is breastfeeding well:
- Your baby shows readiness (cues) for feedings
- Your baby is in a good feeding position
- Your baby latches-on deeply at the breast
- Your baby transfers milk from the breast and into his or her
- Breastfeeding is comfortable for you
Your baby has to wake up and let
you know that he or she wants to eat. This is called showing feeding cues. A baby should
show they are hungry 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Watch your baby and begin
breastfeeding when you see your baby:
Making sucking movements
Bobbing the head against the mattress or your neck or shoulder
Bringing hands to face or mouth
Crying is a late feeding cue. Many
babies have problems latching on once they become frustrated and begin to cry. Try to
feed your baby before he or she cries. If your baby does cry and can’t latch on, calm
your baby before trying again. Put your baby skin-to-skin away from the breast or let
him or her suck on your finger. Or have someone else hold the baby for a while so your
baby can calm down. Then offer to nurse again.
It will be easier for your baby to
latch-on if he or she is snugly and in a good position for feeding. The most common
feeding positions include:
Cradle. The baby is held in
the crook or elbow area of your arm on the same side as the breast to be used for
feeding. You support your breast with the opposite hand. Your baby’s body is
rolled in toward your body so you are belly-to-belly. You should not be able to
see the baby’s arm that’s closest to your body. And your baby’s chin should not be
down against his or her chest in this position.
Cross-cradle. The baby’s head
is supported by your hand that is opposite the breast to be used for feeding. You
support your breast with your hand. The baby is rolled in toward your body
belly-to-belly. As in the cradle hold, you should not be able to see the baby’s
arm that’s closest to your body.
Football or clutch. Baby’s
head is supported by your hand that’s on the same side as the breast to be used
for feeding. Your baby’s body is supported on a pillow. The baby is tucked under
your arm on the same side as the breast to be used for feeding. Many women who
have had a cesarean-section delivery prefer this position. It keeps pressure off
Side-lying using modified cradle.
Your baby lies next to you. Your bodies are facing each other. If a pillow
under your arm is uncomfortable, try placing your baby in the crook of your arm.
This position also keeps the baby’s head at a good angle to bring baby and breast
together. The baby’s head is also higher than his or her tummy. This can be
helpful for babies who are more likely to spit up.
Laid-back breastfeeding. You
are leaning back in a recliner or reclining in bed. Your baby is lying on his or
her stomach on top of you. You can support the side of your baby’s head if your
baby can’t hold it up. In this position, both you and your baby can relax. You can
let your baby explore your breast and latch on at his or her own pace.
For all positions, bring your baby
to the breast. Don’t bring your breast to the baby. Start getting in a good position
before you try to latch. It can help to sit in a roomy and comfortable chair or sofa.
Some women find it comfortable to use a pillow on their lap to raise the baby to the
breast. Your baby must be held in good alignment if he or she is to suck, swallow, and
breathe during feedings. When in good alignment, you should be able to draw a straight
line down your baby’s body from earlobe to hip no matter which feeding position you use.
For you, being in a comfortable position means that your feet are supported, your back
is supported, you are sitting up straight and not leaning over your baby, and your
shoulders are relaxed. You may find it more comfortable to put a pillow under your arm
or behind your back.
To help your baby get a deep latch,
support your breast from below with your hand. Here are 2 holds to try:
C-hold. Place your thumb on
top of your breast and your fingers under your breast, at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches
behind the nipple. A C-hold gives good support for the cradle or cross-cradle
U-hold. This is a variation
of the C-hold. It’s often used when a baby is placed in the football (clutch)
position for feeding. For a U-hold, slide your hand so your thumb is on one side
of the breast and your fingers on the other.
You may not have to keep using a C-hold or U-hold if your breasts are smaller. But
mothers with larger breasts often use these holds for the whole feeding.
Once you are both comfortable and
your breast is supported, you are ready to help your baby latch. To help your baby
latch-on correctly, use your nipple to stroke the baby from the nose to the lower lip in
a downward motion. Wait for him or her to open wide. Then bring the baby and your breast
together in one quick motion. The baby should have a big mouthful of your breast. And
his or her chin and nose should be touching your breast. Your baby’s lips should be
flanged outward like a trumpet or fish lips. The lips should not be pursed or rolled in.
If you were to roll down your baby’s lower lip, you should see baby’s tongue gliding in
front of the lower gum. The tongue should also cup your nipple and areola.
Don’t press down near the areola
with your thumb. You may think this will help your baby breathe. But this will pull your
nipple from the back of your baby’s mouth, where it needs to be. Babies’ noses are
designed to press against their mother’s breast as they feed. That is why their noses
are flat. This lets them latch on deeply to the breast but still be able to breathe. If
you are concerned about your baby’s ability to breathe, pull your baby’s lower body in
closer to you. Or lift your breast rather than pressing down on your breast.
It is called breastfeeding, not
nipple-feeding, for a reason. Sometimes a baby’s latch is shallow. This means it is not
deep onto the areola. The baby may seem to be hanging on the nipple tip. When this
happens, your baby won’t be able to remove milk from your breast very well. This would
decrease the amount of milk your baby drinks. So feedings may take more than 45 minutes.
And your baby may not gain weight as he or she should. Also your nipples are more likely
to get very sore or cracked. Try the different positions outlined above if you are
worried your baby doesn’t have a deep latch. Or if you have sore or cracked nipples. If
this doesn’t work, contact your baby’s healthcare provider or a certified lactation
consultant for help.