It can take some time to get the hang of breastfeeding. It may be natural, but it's also something that is learned.
Getting a good attachment to the breast and finding one or more breastfeeding positions that work well for you and your baby helps to reduce the chance of sore nipples. It also helps your baby to get the milk from your breasts.
If you're learning how to breastfeed, here are 5 key steps to help get breastfeeding working well for you and your baby:
How To Breastfeed Step #1: Recognise Your Baby's Feeding Cues
When your baby is calm and showing early feeding cues, he is more likely to attach and feed well.
Feeding cues are things your baby does to tell you he’s ready for a feed. For example, he will:
- Stick his tongue in and out
- Turn his head from side to side with his mouth open
- Bring his hands near his mouth
- Wriggle around
- Make squeaky sorts of noises
Feeding your baby whenever he shows these feeding cues will help him to get what he needs. It's common for breastfed babies to feed 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. You might like to read our tips for coping with ‘cluster feeding‘.
How To Breastfeed Step #2: Getting A Good Attachment
Getting a good attachment is very important. An incorrect latch can result in pain and breastfeeding troubles, including milk supply issues. Seven common breastfeeding problems can be caused by an incorrect latch.
Here's how to get a good attachment:
1) When your baby is ready to feed, find a position that works best for you and your baby. Many mothers use the cradle or cross-cradle hold:
- For the cradle hold, hold your baby across the front of your body along your forearm – left arm for left breast, right arm for right. Your baby’s head rests in the crook of your arm
- For the cross-cradle hold, hold your baby across the front of your body along your forearm – left arm for right breast, right arm for left. Support your baby's neck and shoulder blades with your hand and wrist
2) Hold your baby in close so that his chest is touching yours (skin to skin is great for milk supply and oxytocin production)
3) Make sure you bring your baby to your breast and not your breast to your baby, or you may end up with a very sore back
4) Bring his nose directly opposite your nipple
5) As he tips his head back, his top lip brushes over your nipple. This encourages him to open his mouth wide
6) When his mouth is wide open, bring your baby to your breast, aiming for your nipple to be pointing towards the roof of his mouth
#3: How To Tell If Your Baby Is Attached Well
Your baby is attached well to your breast when:
- He has a large mouthful of your breast in his mouth
- His chin is in touching your breast
- His nose is free, or just touching your breast
- His lips are turned out, not sucked in
- More of your areola is showing above his top lip as compared to his lower lip
The video below shows you how to tell if your baby is getting milk:
#4: Nipple Pain Is Common In The Early Weeks
It is common for some mothers in the early weeks to feel some nipple pain that goes away after the initial attachment. If you have nipple pain that lasts beyond the initial attachment, you can try reattaching your baby. To do this, insert a clean finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth, between his gums. Gently but firmly press down on his lower gum to break the suction.
Many mothers find that any early nipple pain resolves after the early weeks and go on to breastfeed for months or even years.
If you continue to have nipple pain beyond the initial attachment or have any nipple damage, be sure to seek help straight away. For example call to speak with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or see a lactation consultant. Also read our article on 10 causes of painful breastfeeding.
#5: How To Tell If Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
It is common for mothers to worry if their baby is getting enough milk. Fortunately there are reliable signs to tell if your baby is getting enough. For example, if your baby is getting enough milk, he will:
- Put on enough weight. For around the first 3 months, breastfed babies put on an average of 150-200g per week (although there is wide variation)
- Have at least 3 poos every 24 hours for at least the first 6 weeks. Older babies might poo less often
- Have at least 5 very wet disposable nappies or 6-8 very wet cloth nappies every 24 hours
Many new mothers worry about milk supply and wonder if they have enough milk. Reading this article from the beginning of your breastfeeding journey may help to save you lots of stress and worry.
All the best for a rewarding breastfeeding journey!