Part 4- Advice from the Lactation Consultant: Latching and Feeding Positions, Practice Makes Perfect
Breast feeding is a wonderful way to provide nutrition and immunity, comfort, and attachment to your baby. There are many benefits to breastfeeding, as we’ve discussed before. It is considered a “lifetime gift” from mom to baby.
As we’ve talked about in other posts about feeding, it is certainly not the only way to nourish a newborn, but if it is at all possible, we recommend you try to breastfeed.
A lot of new moms find it challenging initially and sometimes feel worried, frustrated, or defeated. We strive to give you every possible chance for success. To this end, we are doing a series of posts on advice from the lactation consultant here at Troy Beaumont: Beth Meeker BSN, RNC, IBCLC. Please review her previous posts on Skin-to-Skin Contact, Preparing for Breastfeeding During Pregnancy, and General Recommendations and Resources on Breastfeeding.
One of the principle concerns in successful breastfeeding is the baby latching well on the mother’s nipple.
Here are Beth’s recommendations on successful latching.
Know that infants are born to breastfeed. Unless there are health/anatomy concerns that makes it difficult for your baby to latch/suck, most can do it with some encouragement and teaching.
It is important to allow the baby time, on average 70 minutes after delivery, to seek out a nipple and latch for the first time. Nurses will encourage skin-to-skin contact between the mom and baby immediately or shortly after delivery, which will allow the baby to start to search for the nipple and latch for him/herself. Those babies who are able to latch on initially after delivery, are more likely to continue to feed often (“on demand” feedings).
Most infants have natural ‘rooting reflexes’ that are stimulated by touching the cheeks, which help infants locate the nipple. Infants have instinct to suckle when the palate on the roof of their mouth is touched, either by a nipple tip or fingertip. Sometimes fussy infants who are not latching on the nipple well will suckle on the mom’s fingertip for practice.
Most infants need help during the first few days/weeks as they learn the task of breastfeeding. After some time, it will become routine and natural and they will not require as much assistance establishing latch.
In those first days/weeks, here is how you can best help baby succeed in establishing a strong latch (not superficial- more productive for baby and easier on mom’s nipples).
Steps for a successful latch:
- Place infant on a pillow, with belly facing mom’s chest
- Mom’s hand will scoop behind infant’s neck
- Mom’s other hand will scoop or “c-hold” the breast
- Mom should move infant’s head forward touching the nipple
- Mom can move the nipple up and down tickling the infant’s lips
- Pull baby back some, watching for baby to start sticking out his tongue
- Once the infant’s mouth opens wide, swiftly move infant onto the nipple
Don’t be discouraged if it takes 4-6 times going through all these steps before the baby latches on well. Practice, practice, practice!
While the baby is learning how best to form a latch, the mom is also learning how to make feeding easiest and most comfortable for her. Find positions and pillows that support your back. Moms have different body types, breast size, and personal comforts. You might find you are more successful in getting a strong latch in certain positions. Try them all and see what works best for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding holds/position options most recommended by lactation consultants:
- Laid Back (mom reclining)- baby lies across your chest. This is best for just after delivery.
- Cross-Cradle (mom sitting up, baby lies across mom’s abdomen, arm supporting baby)- most common position practiced in hospital
- Football/clutch (mom sitting, baby is to the side of mom with feet toward mom’s back)- preferred by this lactation consultant for newborns as they liked to be in that flexed position, the weight of the baby is off the tender belly of the mom, and it is easier to observe the baby’s mouth position to evaluate suck
- Cradle Hold (mom sitting, infant head in crook of mother’s elbow)- works best when baby several weeks old, with better head/neck control
- Side-lying (mom on her side with baby lying on bed next to her)- safety is a priority, so mom must be awake and alert and able to support baby’s head in this hold
We hope these ideas help you establish a good breastfeeding routine with your baby. As most breastfeeding moms will tell you, once you get through the first few weeks, you both have the hang of it and it becomes routine.
Please direct any questions about your health, your baby, or your breastfeeding efforts toward your provider. You can always call Troy Beaumont’s Lactation Consultant line at 248-964-6455 with questions they can answer over the phone, too.