Successful breastfeeding is rewarding for both mother and baby and is recommended as the complete source of nutrition for the first six months of life. Demand feeding (on average about eleven times a day) is also recommended in order to encourage a good supply and achieve desirable growth for your baby. The secret to good milk transfer is the ability to achieve a deep, asymmetrical latch - taking in some breast at the bottom (where the baby's tongue is) as well as the nipple.
There are some strategies that can assist good, painless attachment but the most important one is positioning baby for an asymmetrical latch. If you feel that your latching technique is correct but you are still suffering from painful nipples or baby is unsettled, windy or not gaining weight as expected consider making an appointment for a full assessment of your breastfeeding, including oral restrictions.
- Relax to minimise the release of adrenaline while at the same time promoting the release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin. This will aid your supply and letdown.
- Make yourself comfortable, preferably in a semi-reclining position, with good back support. If seated more upright in a chair a footstool may be required.
- Unwrap baby to permit as much body contact as possible for stimulation. Skin to skin is ideal if you are experiencing difficulty latching.
- Always bring baby to the breast - never the breast to the baby.
- If possible bring baby to your breast in the prone position which is also known as the 'biological nurturing' position. This provides good support for baby's body and gives the opportunity for baby to 'self-latch'.
- If using the ‘cradle hold’ or 'cross cradle hold' where baby is side lying, ensure baby approaches square-on to the breast. Support baby’s shoulders firmly and symmetrically, keeping your fingers below baby’s ear level to allow baby’s head to tilt back a little in a comfortable ‘swallowing’ position.
- Never force baby to the breast by using a hand on the back of its head as this will cause baby to push back away from the breast.
- With baby’s body facing you snuggle baby’s chest firmly into the base of your breast – no gaps! Allow baby to place a hand on each side of the breast for guidance and stimulation.
- Centre your nipple above baby’s top lip.
- Bring baby to the breast chin first and offer the breast BELOW the nipple i.e. baby’s bottom lip near the outer edge of the areola.
- Wait for baby to open its mouth widely (Special K style) then quickly ‘pop’ onto the breast. This will be an asymmetrical latch with a bigger ‘bite’ underneath the nipple (where baby's chin is positioned) than above.
- You may need to ‘shape’ the breast, thus narrowing the dimensions, to make it easier for baby to take a big bite. Keep the breast shaped until baby is firmly latched.
- Always align the baby's mouth with the narrowed breast - think of eating a hamburger.