The secret to successful nursing – maximal milk with minimal pain – is getting a good latch. Here are a few tips:
Get ready: Before you begin breastfeeding, make sure you are comfortable. Many women like to sit in a padded yet supportive chair. And keep a few pillows handy. Though there are a host of styles and types of pillows made specifically for use when nursing, when it comes right down to it, any pillow will do. Choose whatever works for you. Some women find that putting their feet up on a low footstool – so that their knees are slightly raised – helps them support the baby while nursing. Then unswaddle your baby and place him or her against your own bare skin. The skin-to-skin contact can help with milk letdown.
Find the right position: Though there are many different nursing positions you can try, a good one to start with is the cradle hold. You and your baby should be belly to belly, with your baby on his or her side straight across your body. Hold your baby at breast level, using pillows for support as needed.
Get your baby to open WIDE: Cup your breast from below, with your thumb on top. Then brush your baby’s lips gently with your nipple to entice her to open her mouth as wide as possible, as if yawning. Then, when your baby’s mouth is at its widest point, bring her mouth to your breast as quickly as possible, pulling her into you with the arm that is holding her. It’s best to bring the baby to the breast, rather than the breast to the baby.
Check for a good latch: When your baby is latched on properly, she should really have a good mouthful of breast. Her gums should completely bypass the nipple and cover about an inch of the areola or breast tissue. The baby’s lips should be turned out (or everted) rather than tucked under (inverted). If either lip is inverted (most often the lower lip), try pressing on the baby’s chin to turn the inverted lip out and into the proper position. Her nose should be resting against your breast. If you’re worried about her getting air to breathe, just tuck her body in a bit more closely to yours, which should help create a gap between her nose and your breast.
If the latch isn’t good, break it and start over: If your baby didn’t manage to take in a big mouthful of breast tissue the first time around or does not seem to be sucking correctly – or if you feel pain beyond the first few seconds – break the latch by slipping one of your fingers into the side of her mouth to release the suction. Then try again. Don’t just suck it up when there’s a bad latch: It can lead to sore, cracked nipples and may prevent your baby from getting enough milk.
Give it time: Once you have a good latch, allow your baby to nurse on one breast until she releases the breast on her own – happy and satisfied – before you offer her the other breast.
Get help, if you need it: Breastfeeding may not be easy at first, and it can take your body a little while to get used to it, but it shouldn’t be painful. Pain – beyond the first 30 or 60 seconds of initial latch-on discomfort – is often a sign that your baby is not latching on well. Consult a certified lactation consultant or other knowledgeable source for help.