Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to breastfeed: a visual guide

To breastfeed successfully, it doesn't really matter where or how you sit or lie. All that matters is that you are comfortable and able to bring your baby to your breast easily. 

The relationship between your baby's mouth and your breast, called latching on or the latch, is what really matters. Here are some ideas and pictures to help you latch your baby onto the breast.

How do I get started?

breastfeeding baby supported on pillowSit comfortably, so that your back is supported and you are not leaning back. 
Raise your feet if you need to, so that your lap is flat. 

You could use a pillow to take the weight of your baby, so that your arms are not doing all the work. Once you have had more practice, you can do without the pillow.

How do I latch my baby onto my breast?

baby latching on
To feed well, your baby needs to use his tongue to scoop in a big mouthful of your breast. 

Your baby's bottom lip and tongue need to get to your breast first, and touch your breast as far from the base of the nipple as possible. 

Bring your baby to your breast with his head tipped back. He should be leading with his chin. With his head tipped back, let his lips touch your nipple.

breastfeeding baby

Your baby will respond by dropping his lower jaw. 

Move him quickly and smoothly to your breast, aiming his bottom lip as far away from the base of your nipple as you can.

How does latching on work?

baby feedingScooping in a big mouthful of breast lets your baby draw your breast deeply into his mouth. 

Your nipple will then be right at the back of his mouth, where the hard roof of his mouth gives way to the soft area. 

With a mouthful like this, your baby will be able to use his tongue smoothly and rhythmically against the under surface of your breast. This action removes milk from the ducts. 

Your baby's jaw will move up and down, following the action of his tongue, and he will swallow your milk as it flows to the back of his mouth. This should be painless for you, because your nipple will be so far back in his mouth it will not be squashed or pinched by his tongue. 

Your baby's lower gum will never touch your breast, as his tongue will always be between them, and his top jaw does not move. 

Are there any tips to help me?

Support your baby in whichever of the following ways works for you: 
  • By putting your palm behind your baby's shoulders and your index finger and thumb behind his ears.
  • By cradling your baby's head in your whole hand and directing with the heel of your hand.
  • By using your forearm to support your baby's shoulders.
You can trigger your baby's reflex response by letting his mouth brush your nipple. Your baby will find your breast by touch, not by sight or smell, although these senses probably play a part. 

Start to move your baby as you see his lower jaw start to drop. Don't wait until your baby's mouth is at its widest before you begin the movement. Once it is fully open, all it can do is start to close, and your baby will be unable to draw in the biggest mouthful. 

As you move your baby, watch his lower lip, not his top one. Try not to worry about his top lip, and whether it will get over your nipple. Provided his bottom lip makes contact well away from the base of your nipple, his chin will indent your breast. 

When your baby's chin indents breast, your nipple will move downwards slightly and be covered by his top lip. You will not see this happen, but you will know it is right by the way it feels and the way your baby behaves. Read our article How do I know if my baby is latched on correctly? if you're not sure. 

If you find it difficult to keep your baby's hands out of your way, try wrapping him in a blanket so that his arms are lying at his side. You will be able to get him closer to your breast. 

If you are supporting your breast with your hand (and most mums do this), keep your hand as far away from your nipple as you can, preferably back on your ribcage. Once your breast is supported, keep it still, and only move your baby.


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** These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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