Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby. It’s a special mommy-baby time that you two should enjoy. However, many mothers, especially first-timers, find it the most painful procedure due to nipple cracks and pains. That should not be the case if your baby latches on properly.
Alongside minimizing nipple soreness and eliminating the painful cracks, proper latching also helps your baby get enough milk, gain weight correctly, and minimizes mastitis risks and blocked milk ducts. So how do you do it correctly? This guide gives you five easy steps to ensure that you and your baby savor these best moments of your lives together.
1. Gain Information
Before your baby arrives, learn as much about breastfeeding as you can. You can take a breastfeeding class. Most hospitals and birthing centers offer video and doll-demonstrated illustrations to help you gain knowledge and build your confidence. Joining moms and moms-to-be forums will also give you enough support, make you comfortable, and ground you with knowledge from the first-hand experience. There’s no problem if you didn’t do that since it’s never too late to start learning.
2. Ensure You and the Baby are in the Right Position
Whichever breastfeeding position you choose, ensure that you and your baby are comfortable and relaxed before you start. Experts advise on a reclined position (preferably 45 degrees). You should also ensure that baby’s head, neck, and spine are in one line and that his chin touches your breast. You can support your arm, back, and baby using cushions and pillows if necessary.
3. Latch Your Baby
Once you have your baby in the right position, encourage him to open his mouth wide before you slip in the nipple. The goal here is to ensure that your child takes in as much of your areola as possible— not just the nipple.
Your mammary glands are behind the areola. That’s why most of the lower part and some of your areola’s upper part should be inside your baby’s mouth to stimulate milk production while he suckles. To attain this, you may start by:
• Placing your thumb over the nipple and areola, exactly where the tip of your baby’s nose gets contact with your breast. Then put your index finger where his chin touches.
• Hold your baby close to the breast, lightly stroking his cheeks to arouse rooting reflex (baby moving his head with an open mouth ready to feed).
• Tease his lips with your nipple until he willingly opens his mouth wide (as if yawning).
• Quickly but gently bring your baby to your breast, carefully without squashing or pushing his head.
• Let him swallow as much of your areola and nipple as he can.
If you notice that the baby’s mouth is too small and he can’t take in your areola, compress your breast gently, making their shape closely resemble the baby’s mouth. This will reduce the surface and make it easy for your baby to attach.
Why is My Baby Not Taking In My Areola?
It’s very normal if your baby doesn’t cover the entire dark part of your breast. Women have varying breast sizes, and your areola may be wider for your child. Similarly, maybe the baby’s mouth is relatively small. As long as he grabs a decent part of it, you are comfortable while he suckles, and he gets into the rhythmic suck-swallow-breathe pattern, there’s no cause for alarm.
4. Check if Baby Attaches Well
The first sign that the attachment is correct is when the tip of your child’s nose and his chin touch your breast. Similarly, his lips should appear flanged outside. If they are tucking in, the baby’s attachment to the breast isn’t correct, and you’ll probably feel pain. As a result, it’s advisable to detach him and start again.
Additionally, you should be feeling your nipple against his mouth’s roof, with his tongue slightly cupping. A proper latch should feel comfortable and painless. You should only feel a pulling or tugging sensation.
Also, listen to your baby’s suckling pattern. He should start with quick, rapid sucks to arouse glands to produce more milk. Once there’s enough milk, your child should get into the rhythmic suck-swallow-breath pattern, and pausing at times.
5. Check For Possible Problems
Soreness will probably be present but should only last a few minutes after breastfeeding. Similarly, the discomfort you feel while your baby latches on shouldn’t last an entire feeding session. You should catch up and be comfortable after a short while. Also, check how your nipple looks after the feeding session. If they look compressed, are bleeding, or cracked, it may be a bad sign.
Flat or inverted nipples, or if the baby’s jaws are tight, can compromise how your baby attaches and his feeding habits. If you notice anything off, seek help from your doctor, lactation consultant, or pediatrician. They know how they’ll help correct the situation and improve the quality of your feeding sessions.