Intro to Breastfeeding
Today we are talking about breastfeeding - positions, how to and answers to some of the other most popular breastfeeding questions.
Read on to find out more!
Questions we will address in this blog...
How do I breastfeed?
What are the best breastfeeding positions?
How long should I breastfeed for?
As you hold your little one in your arms for the first time, you can feel your heart grow (literally it may seem).
Your amazing little miracle is finally here. And they are even more beautiful than you could have imagined.
Their perfect skin. Their tiny little fingers and toes. Their adorable faces as they sleep.
You have been blessed with this perfect little human. And now you need to feed them.
Breastfeeding should be easy, right? I mean, it’s natural, isn’t it? Don’t I just hold my baby and they’ll figure it out?
Not quite... but don’t despair! You are not alone.
If you are finding breastfeeding to be a struggle, you are not alone. Most women struggle in some way with breastfeeding. And 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to*.
With my first son, my nipples were cracked, I had milk blisters and I had mastitis (a breast infection) four times in his first year.
But with my second, it got SO much better. Knowledge and support were key factors in changing my experience the second time around.
So let’s review some tips and tricks to help you have the best chance of success with breastfeeding.
What are the best breastfeeding positions?
There are quite a few different ways you can hold your baby while breastfeeding.
The most important thing to note? Choose the one that you and baby find the most comfortable and will be the most relaxed in.
#1. Reclined breastfeeding position
For this position, you can be gently reclined, maybe with some pillows behind you. This position is especially helpful if you have a strong letdown or large breasts.
This is often the position you will start with after your baby is born. When they are placed on your chest, they will do what’s called the ‘breast crawl’, searching for your nipple to latch on to.
Remember: skin-to-skin contact is so important for you and your little one. It can help your baby to initiate that first feed and it can bond you to your baby.
#2. Cradle hold
This is what we call the ‘classic’ breastfeeding position. It’s what you’d think of when you imagine what breastfeeding looks like.
In this position, you are sitting upright, your baby is on their side with their head resting on your forearm and baby’s tummy-to-mommy.
A pillow or support of some kind under your arm or under your little one is very helpful in this position! Otherwise, your little one might not have enough support and your arm and back might get tired and sore.
#3. Cross-cradle hold
The cross-cradle hold looks similar to the cradle hold, except your arms switch roles. Your baby’s body lies along your opposite forearm. This nursing position helps support baby’s neck and shoulders and allows her to tilt her head prior to latch.
In the early days, make sure you don’t hold your baby around her head as you could push her chin into her chest, causing a shallow latch and sore nipples for you.
#4. Rugby ball hold
Picture a rugby player running up the field with the rugby ball tucked safely under their arm. Now switch the rugby ball out with a baby and you’ve got the rugby ball hold!
This position requires a pillow or support of some kind.
Your baby will be resting on your forearm with his body tucked along your side, his feet towards the back of the chair.
This position, also known as the underarm or clutch) is helpful if you’ve had a c-section or have large breasts.
#5. Side-lying position
This was often my go-to position for middle-of-the-night feeds when I was too exhausted to sit up.
In this position, you and your baby lie on your sides facing each other. I’ve always found this to be a very relaxing position.
*Caution: this can be a very comfortable position, so be careful not to fall asleep as you could roll on top of your baby. Also make sure there aren’t blankets or bedding near your little one.
#6. Upright breastfeeding (aka. The koala hold)
This position works really well when your little one gets older. With time, our babies get distracted as they are feeding and they can’t seem to sit still.
For the upright breastfeeding position or koala hold, your baby sits straddling your thigh and has her spine and head upright as she feeds.
The upright breastfeeding position allows your little one to look around and feel like they have more control and can move their legs and arms more easily than some other positions. This position is also helpful for babies who prefer to be upright, whether they are struggling with reflux, ear infections or whatever other reason.
Personally, I find this position more comfortable as my baby gets older and can sit unaided. It’s helpful to use this position when I’m out in public and I don’t have a pillow or support for my arm. It saves my back!
#7: Dangle Feeding
The dangle feeding position is not as common, but some moms claim it is more comfortable when they are dealing with mastitis or blocked ducts and don’t want pressure against their breast while nursing.
Some moms have also used this position when their baby is struggling to latch.
Be cautious in this position not to hurt your shoulders and back. You can use cushions or pillows to prop yourself up in this position.
#8: Nursing in a Sling
This type of breastfeeding position typically works best if your baby is more experienced with breastfeeding and can hold their head up by themself.
In this breastfeeding position, it’s important to always make sure that you can see your baby’s face and that her chin is not pressed against her chest.
Nursing in a sling can be convenient when you’re out and about, or when you’re looking after older children at the same time.
This position is also handy if your baby doesn’t like being put down or if they feed frequently.
#9: Double Rugby-Ball Hold
Are you in the 3% of women who have twins? Congratulations! Your hands (and heart) must be very full :)
This breastfeeding position can be helpful for mothers of twins as you can feed your babies at the same time and still have your hands relatively free.
For this breastfeeding position to work well, you will likely need a specially designed breastfeeding pillow for twins, especially when your babes are quite young. These pillows provide extra support for both babies and also minimize pressure on your belly if you’ve had a c-section.
With twins, you could also try a double upright breastfeeding position (when they can sit unaided), double laid-back, one twin in a rugby ball hold and one in a cradle hold, or both in cradle position crossed across one another.
#10. Dancer Hand Nursing Position
“If your baby struggles to stay latched on or has low muscle tone – perhaps because he was born prematurely, has a condition such as Down’s syndrome, or has an illness or disability – try this hold to support both his head and your breast.4
Start by cupping your breast with your hand underneath, fingers on one side and thumb on the other. Then edge your hand forwards so your thumb and index finger form a ‘U’ shape just in front of the breast.
Your three remaining fingers should continue to support the breast underneath. Rest your baby’s jaw on your thumb and index finger as he feeds, with his chin at the bottom of the ‘U’, your thumb gently holding one of his cheeks and your index finger the other.
This hold gives your baby plenty of support and you control over his position, as well as a great view of his latch.” (https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/breastfeeding-positions)
Now that you’ve learned about some of the breastfeeding positions you can choose from, you might be asking the question,
“How long should I breastfeed for?
In terms of each breastfeeding session, the recommendation is about 20 to 45 minutes per breastfeeding session.
With my first son, he needed a full 20 minutes per side in order to get in a full feed; whereas, with my second son, he was able to get a full feed in 10 minutes per side.
More important than counting the minutes of each breastfeeding session, is to look at the signs that your baby is getting enough milk.
“How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?”
“You will know your baby is getting enough breast milk if:
Your newborn has frequent bowel movements.
- Typically, the stools are loose and change from black to brown to mustard-yellow in color in the first five days.
- Breastfed babies vary in stool patterns, but by their third day of life, they will usually have at least 2 to 3 stools in a 24 hour period. At five days old, most breastfed babies have at least four yellow, seedy stools per day. Older babies vary. Some have a bowel movement every day, while other babies have bowel movements every few days.
- There are also wet diaper patterns:
- Day 1 = one wet diaper
- Day 2 = 2 wet diapers
- Day 3 = 3 wet diapers, and so on
- Day 6 and older = 6 to 8 wet diapers in a 24-hour period. (After your milk increases, the urine will soak the diaper.)
- Your baby's urine is pale in color.
- You can hear your baby swallowing the milk.
- Your baby is calm and relaxed after eating.
- Your baby is gaining weight. Many babies may lose up to 7 to 10 percent of their birth weight during their first days of life. Babies are born with fat reserves and usually regain the weight by two weeks of age. Frequent around-the-clock feedings will help prevent a major drop in weight.
- Your breasts feel softer after feeding.
Many breastfeeding mothers find that keeping a diary can be very helpful in determining if their baby is getting enough milk.” (https://www.sutterhealth.org/health/newborns/breastfeeding-frequency)
You may also be wondering,
“How many months or years should I breastfeed for?”
The recommendations on how long you should breastfeed for vary.
According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), infants should be exclusively breastfed for about their first 6 months and then should continue to be breastfeed alongside complementary foods for 1 year or longer.
WHO (the World Health Organization) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for up to 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or longer.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Many mothers are unable to breastfeed the full 2 years for various reasons. According to the CDC website, “mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their children for at least 1 year.” This is likely due to the fact that “the longer an infant is breastfed, the greater the protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases.”
They also discuss the fact that women receive greater health benefits the more months and years they breastfeed (combined breastfeeding of all her children).
What if I’m still overwhelmed?
Where to get additional help with breastfeeding
We realize that this information can feel overwhelming. There are many great breastfeeding resources and supports out there. Here are a couple of them:
- Breastfeeding support groups (e.g. La Leche League)
- Lactation consultants (in the hospital, or you can hire them privately as well)
We wish you all the best in your breastfeeding journey. Whatever the outcome is for you, you are doing an AMAZING job, momma!
Additional Tips & Tricks
- Having proper maternity and nursing bras and clothing can be helpful in your nursing journey. Nursing bras without underwire can help you to feel more comfortable and can help prevent blocked ducts and breast infections.
- Being prepared with nursing-friendly clothing can also be helpful so that you can feel comfortable to easily nurse your baby wherever you go.