Here’s how to make sure the milk gets where it’s supposed to go:
- Seek some peace and quiet. Until breastfeeding becomes second nature to you and baby(and it will!), you’ll need to focus as you feed. To do this, set yourself up in an area that has few distractions and a low noise level. As you become more comfortable with breastfeeding, you can keep a book or magazine handy to occupy you during long feeding sessions. Talking on the telephone can be too distracting in the early weeks, so turn down the ringer and let voice mail or the answer phone pick up messages. You may also want to avoid watching television during feedings until you get the hang of breastfeeding.
- Get comfy. Settle into a position that’s comfortable for you and your baby. Try sitting on the living room sofa (as long as it’s not too deep), a glider in the baby’s room, an armchair, or propped up in bed. You can even nurse lying down in bed. If you’re sitting up, a pillow across your lap will help raise your baby to a comfortable height. Plus, if you’ve had a Caesarean, the pillow prevents baby from putting pressure on your scar. Make sure, too, that your arms are propped up on a pillow or chair arms; trying to hold 2.7 to 4 kg(6 to 9 lb) with our support can lead to arm cramps and pain. Elevate your legs, too, if you can. Experiment to find the position that works best for you – preferably one you can hold for a long time without feeling strained or stiff.
- Quench your own thirst. Have a drink – of milk, juice or water – by your side to replenish fluids as you nurse. Avoid hot drinks (which could scald you or your baby, should they spill). If you don’t feel like having a cold drinks, opt for something lukewarm. And add a healthy snack if it’s been a while since your last meal; the better fed you are, the better fed baby will be.
There are plenty of positions you and your baby can eventually explore while breastfeeding. But the most important one to know is the ‘basic’ position, the one from which most other positions takes form; position your baby on his or her ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line. You don’t want your baby’s head turned to the side; rather it should be straight in line with his or her body.
Lactation specialists recommend two nursing positions during the first few weeks: the crossover hold and the clutch hold. Once you’re more comfortable with breastfeeding, you can add the cradle hold and the side-lying position. So get into your starting position, and try:
- Crossover hold: Hold your baby’s head with the hand opposite to the breast from which you’ll be nursing. Your wrist should rest between your baby’s shoulder blades, your thumb behind one ear, your other fingers behind the other ear. Using your right hand, cup your right breast, placing your thumb above your nipple and areola at the spot where your baby’s nose will touch your breast. Your index finger should be at the spot where your baby’s chin will touch the breast. Lightly compress your breast. This will give your breast a shape that more closely matches the shape of your baby’s mouth. You are now ready to have the baby latch on.
- Clutch hold: This position is especially useful if you’ve had a Caesarean and you want to avoid placing your baby against your abdomen, if your breast are large, if your baby is small or premature or if you’re nursing twins. Position your baby at your side in a semi-sitting position facing you, with baby’s legs under your arms. Use pillows to bring the baby up to the level of your nipple. Support your baby’s head with your right hand and cup your breast with your left hand as you would for the cross hold.
- Cradle hold: In this classic breastfeeding position, your baby’s head rests in the bend of your elbows and your hand holds your baby’s thighs or buttocks. Baby’s lower arm is tucked away, under your arm and around your waist. Cup your breast with your left hand as in the cross hold.
- Side-lying position: This position is a good choice when you’re nursing in the middle of the night or when you need some rest. Lie on your side with a pillow supporting your head. Position your baby on her side facing you, tummy to tummy. Make sure her mouth is in line with your nipple. Support your breast with your hand as in the other nursing positions. You may want to put a small pillow behind your baby’s back to hold her close.
Whichever position you choose, be sure you bring baby to the breast – not breast to the baby. Many latching-on problems occur because mum is hunched over baby’s mouth. Instead, keep your back straight and bring your baby to the breast.