Breastfeeding can be extremely challenging for first-time mothers, almost as much as giving birth. It’s also the one part of new motherhood that’s most likely to trigger postnatal depression, according to research.
Many new mums would be breastfeeding their babies happily if only they got practical help from experienced mothers or lactation professionals on the right positions for breastfeeding just when they needed it the most- with a screaming, hungry baby who was just not able to ‘latch on’.
If you are struggling with this so-called simple natural process which you should know everything about instinctively (so wish this was true), here are a few top tips on breastfeeding positions and some relevant practical advice:
Firstly, you must make yourself comfortable before a breastfeeding session as milk flows better when the mother is relaxed.
Similarly, do make your baby comfortable too- if she’s crying, rock her gently so she stops and quietens down. And if she’s sleepy, do wake her otherwise she will not be able to latch on properly.
The latch is basically your baby taking your breast into her mouth and suckling. This, as we know is a very important act that your baby has to learn with your help, in order to breastfeed effectively.
If your poppet is not able to able to latch on to your breast correctly, she may not get as much milk as she requires to grow normally and will probably leave you with seriously mangled nipples.
An inability to latch is perhaps the most common breastfeeding problem new mothers like you face, and it’s also something that professionals can help you with.
(You can read on how to establish a latch here)
Here are three correct ways to position yourself and your baby for nursing so that a latch can be established correctly:
1. Cradle hold – This is perhaps the most common position that’s comfortable for both you and your baby.
In this, you cradle her head in the crook of your arm while you sit in a chair with armrests or on a bed with lots of pillows.
Always, rest your feet on a stool so that you don’t have to lean down toward your baby, as this may lead to backaches.
Also, do extend your forearm and hand down her back to support her neck, spine, and bottom and hold her knees against your body.
This position works well for full-term babies who were delivered vaginally but if you’ve had a cesarean section you may find that it puts way too much pressure on your abdomen.
2. The clutch or football hold- In this your baby's body is tucked on the same side you are nursing from (like a handbag), under your arm with her neck supported by your cupped hand.
Your baby is facing you with her nose level with your nipple and her feet pointing toward your back. Now, guide her gently to your nipple, chin first. Don’t push her towards your nipple ever as she may arch her head and may damage her back.
This position really works if you've had a cesarean section as your baby is not resting on your stomach. And if your baby is unable to latch on, this position gives you the leeway to guide her head to your nipple. It also works well if you have large breasts or flat nipples, and if you are breastfeeding twins.
3. The side-lying position - This position allows you to breastfeed in bed. Just be sure that your baby's head and body are turned to face your breast with her mouth level with your nipple.
Also, do pull her in close to your nipple so she doesn’t have to strain her neck to reach your nipple- an infant has very weak neck muscles, you see.
Always place several pillows behind your back for support and to keep your back and hips in a straight line.
This pose is best for if you are not feeling too well after a cesarean or difficult delivery or if you are nursing at night.
1. Always make sure your baby feeds from the areola, not just the nipple to prevent painful nipples. Her gums should take in a one-inch radius around the nipple or the areola when she latches on.
2. If you feel pain or soreness, detach your baby gently and then try latching her again.
3. If your baby bites, do not pull your nipple out immediately. This may alarm her and she may not latch on the next time. Just unlatch gently.
While it's easier said than done, sometimes after trying all positions and doing everything that you humanly can, your baby may not be able to latch on and breastfeed the way you had hoped. You can use a pump to express milk and feed your baby- this is a doable thing.
It's important to not put excess pressure to 'get it right' as this won't help you at a time when you're already more vulnerable to postpartum depression.