Whether you're pregnant and researching, or currently trying to improve your nursing experience, here are some basic tips for all nursing dyads!
Disclaimer: These tips do not cover ALL possible issues, and do not guarantee outcomes, nor should they be used to replace a comprehensive breastfeeding class or lactation evaluation. Should you or your baby be struggling with bleeding/cracking nipples, signs of infection, low/slow weight gain, or any other issues not resolved by these tips, please contact us for a virtual or in-home appointment!
Positioning is a crucial basic need for nursing newborns. While older nursing babies and toddlers may be able to nurse upside down and while bouncing around, newborns are a little bit more sensitive to nursing positions while they are still learning.
Babies should be flat against your body, whether that is tummy to tummy in cross-cradle hold, in football hold, or in Koala hold. Their head and neck should be aligned so that a butt isn't hanging down, or a shoulder and arm isn't leaning outwards. and that baby is looking forward directly. This will make sure that their throats are not restricted while swallowing. A simple way to check this is if one cheek or ear is closer to one shoulder than the other.
You can bring your palm across the back of baby's shoulders, with thumb by upper ear, and second/third fingers are below to the lower ear. This way the head is supported, but does not block baby's natural tilting & seeking movements.
Tip: Turn your head to the side and swallow. Much harder than if you're facing forward, yes? Keep this in mind when nursing your baby.
2. Nipple to Nose!
One common issue we see see is that the nursing parent will start the baby off with the nipple aimed directly at the baby's mouth.
Your baby should be positioned slightly away from the nipple so that baby is looking up at the nipple, with it touching your baby's nose & upper lip area. When a baby is positioned to look up at the breast, it brings the chin off of the chest, giving the jaw a lot more room to open for a wider mouth. A significant portion of the mouth is filled with the tongue, and so we actually want the nipple in the upper portion of the mouth so that it can be pulled back far into the mouth by the tongue.
Tip: look straight ahead and see how wide you can open your mouth, then tilt your head back and see how much further your mouth can open.
3. Bring Baby to Breast!
One common issue we see is families tend to set baby on the nursing pillow, then try to put the breast into their mouth. This may inhibit baby's alignment, and ability to open their jaw wide open. Also, once you let go of your breast, or relax after latching, the breast has then moved away from the baby possibly creating pulling, can cause pain and a shallower latch. This is why we want to make sure that we are bringing baby to breast, not breast to baby.
Once you're comfortable in your seating, have your baby positioned properly across your body and with baby looking up at the nipple pointing to their nose, the next step is to wait for your baby to open wiiiiiide open and then move your baby across and onto your nipple. Make sure that when you move baby onto breast that the bottom lip touches first and then bring head in close so cheeks are touching the breast. During this maneuver of latching, when baby's mouth opens wide, their head shoulder tilt back so don't block the back of their head. When the tilt happens, the bottom lip should be touching the breast,and then baby's head tilts over and onto the nipple. Once baby is latched you can fill the gaps with pillows for support
These 3 tips should help you achieve a deeper latch. Should these tips not help you in achieving a deeper, more comfortable & more effective latch, please reach out to a lactation professional for evaluation.
Is one ear closer to a shoulder than the other? Adjust positioning to make sure baby is looking straight and forward.
Do you see pinching at the corner of your baby's mouth or a dimpled cheek? Baby's mouth likely was not wide open upon latch, or closed before a deep latch was achieved. Unlatch and try again.
Bottom Lip tucked in? Ensure that the bottom lip is touching the breast first when latching.
Lips don't flare, ever? Continued pain/ nipple damage despite all attempts for a deeper latch? Have your latch evaluated, baby evaluated for a tongue/lip tie or other body restriction, by a skilled practitioner.
Babies are typically natural nursers. If all of this information is A LOT then tune into your baby's instincts. Remember back to when baby was freshly born and skin to skin with you? They often bobbed their head and were looking for a nipple. You can mimic this by leaning back on a couch or bed (supported by pillows for comfort), have baby tummy to tummy on you, and let them seek and latch onto the breast. This is called Laid Back Nursing or Natural Nursing. Babies can feel your stress and anxiety as well, so take a few deep breaths, relax your jaw and shoulders, and let your baby take the lead.