What are some simple ways to make breastfeeding easier?
We don’t give our newborns enough credit. Those tiny babies—like all newborn mammals—are born with the reflexes they need to get to the breast, take it in their mouths and feed without help. Your baby knows what to do! Just get her into position and cheer her on.
Your baby’s hardwiring works best with a little help from gravity. To make it easier for her, lean back with good neck, shoulder, and back support and your hips forward. (Think about how you sit when you watch your favorite TV show.) Lay your baby tummy down between your exposed breasts. When your calm, hungry baby feels your body against her chin, torso, legs, and feet, this triggers her feeding reflexes. When her chin touches your body, her mouth opens and she begins to search for the breast.
Laid-back breastfeeding refers to both a mother’s positioning and her approach to nursing. After birth, leaning back to feed can make breastfeeding easier while you’re learning. Gravity keeps your baby against your body. Feedings are more relaxing because you don’t have to support your baby’s weight with your arms. Whatever position you use, make sure your arms, neck, head, shoulders, and arms are well supported so you can be comfortable for a long while.
Adjust for comfort
To find your best positions, first adjust how far you lean back. This is easy to do in a hospital bed. You can also adjust your baby’s position on your body. Babies can go to the breast from many angles. Your baby can lie tummy down below your breast either straight or at an angle.
After a cesarean birth, position your baby so her weight doesn’t rest on your incision. Try laying her across your breasts or use a pillow to support her at your side. You can even bring her to breast from over your shoulder.
There is no one “right” breastfeeding position. Do what feels best to you and your baby. Because women have different body types, what works well for your friend may or may not work well for you.
After you’ve had some practice with laid-back breastfeeding, you may want to try sitting upright to feed. If so, find a seat with good back support. Try a footstool and/or pillows to see if they make you more comfortable.
When sitting up, many mothers like to hold their baby in front. You can support your baby’s back and head with your forearm near your wrist. Or, you can support your baby’s back and head with your hand from the side of the unused breast. The baby can also be held along your side. Some mothers with large breasts find it is easier to cuddle their baby close in this position and enjoy having a better view of their baby’s face.
Learn to breastfeed while lying on your side so you can rest and sleep while you feed. Practice during your waking hours. No one learns best when half asleep.
In all positions, check for the following:
- Your baby’s head, shoulders, and hips are in line, not twisted or turned.
- She is directly facing the breast, no head-turning needed.
- Her body is pressed against yours, with feet, bottom, and shoulders pulled in close (no gaps).
Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers