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Three Basic Pillars of Breastfeeding:

You are probably already aware breastfeeding is the most ideal way to feed your baby.  There are multiple benefits to breastfeeding for you and your baby.  Buuuut, that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is easy and it doesn’t always come “natural”. In fact, many women struggle with breastfeeding.  It takes time, effort and patience to learn the mechanics of breastfeeding, but a majority of the time (not all of the time) once you get the basics down you are well on your way.  Here are three basic pillars to understand and practice as you begin your breastfeeding journey:

Pillar one: RECOGNIZING EARLY HUNGER CUES

close up photo of baby breastfeeding

Your baby will demonstrate movements and behaviors when they are starting to get hungry.  These movements may include:

         A. Rooting- turning head side to side

         B. Flexing of legs and arms 

         C. Mouthing, sucking motions

         D. Bringing hand to mouth

         E. Sucking on hands/fingers/tongue/lips

         F. Sticking tongue out

a newborn baby crying

*It is when you see these cues that you should offer your baby the breast.  At this point, Your baby will be interested in latching and feeding but will not be so overly hungry that they become frustrated creating a stressful unproductive event for you and themselves.

**Crying is a late hunger cue. At this point baby will be so hungry they may become frustrated if they are not able to latch immediately or if the let down of colostrum/milk takes too long or comes too fast.

Pillar Two: THE HOLD

There are multiple different ways to hold your baby to gain access to the breast.  Your ideal hold is not the same as everyone else’s and you may find one hold is most comfortable at the beginning of your breast feeding journey but another hold more convenient as you mature in your breastfeeding skills.  It is key to find one that works for both you and your baby which may require a trial and error approach at the beginning.  Here is a brief overview of holds:

               *Football hold -baby is along the side of you with your arms propped up with pillows. If you are feeding from the right breast the baby should be along your right side and vice versa. This hold can be particularly helpful for c-section mamas.

               *Cradle – In this position the arm supporting your baby is the same side as the breast the baby is feeding on. So, if you are feeding on the right breast, your right arm is under the baby supporting the baby’s body.

               *Cross cradle – In this position the arm supporting your baby is opposite the breast the baby is feeding on. So, if you are feeding on the right breast, your left arm is under the baby supporting the baby’s body.

               *Side lying – in this position you are laying on your side with your baby tummy to tummy with you feeding on the breast closest to the side you are laying on.

               *Reclining – in this position you are semi-reclined backward and your baby is laying on you tummy to tummy. May be helpful for women who experience an oversupply of milk.

Pillar Three:   THE LATCH

Latching baby to the breast can be the hardest part for many mom/baby dyads.  Both maternal and baby’s anatomy can affect the ease of latching.  Ineffective latching can lead to frustration, pain and damage to the nipple.  Your hold can also affect the latch, so finding the ideal hold for you and your baby is important to aid in the latch.

newborn baby breastfeeding

        *The basic mechanics of the latch:  

           Start “nose to nipple”. Line the baby’s nose up at your nipple and allow baby’s mouth to gape wide open as head tilts back.  Gently support the head but avoid forcing the baby’s head into the breast.  The baby’s lower lip and tongue seal first against the breast, then the upper lip.

This is the basic start to your breastfeeding journey. It is ideal that you consult with a lactation consultant within the first 24 hours after birth to help identify the best holds for you and your baby as well as practice the latch. If you are pregnant and planning for your postpartum journey, meet with a lactation consultant before birth so that you have an established relationship and are well prepared for breastfeeding when the time comes.

Breastfeeding is a rewarding yet often frustrating and exhausting journey. It is not for everyone and all who birth will not be able to breastfeed exclusively. I encourage you to give yourself grace and be patient with the process. Ask for help and surround yourself with people who will support you in your journey.

You’ve got this mama!!!!

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