Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the preferred mode of infant feeding. This article will guide you on how to breastfeed, the various positions you can use, and also highlight instances where breastfeeding is not recommended.
Finding the best position to breastfeed your child is the start of a beautiful relationship between baby and you. Breast feeding is an intimate affair, finding an ideal position that is both comfortable and easy for baby to latch on is important.
There are two ways to go about it. You may either breastfeed sitting up, or do so lying down. The key is to ensure baby and you are comfortable.
Sitting up breastfeeding
If you choose to sit up during breastfeeding, here are some positions you may find useful.
Most popular amongst mothers, the cradle hold, as the name suggests, requires you to:
- Support baby at the crook of your arm.
- With his face and body turned towards you, hold him at the buttocks to breastfeed.
(This position may not be suitable for mothers with inverted nipples.)
Cross Cradle hold
Cross-cradle hold is an intimate position where both mother s and baby s tummies meet.
- Cradling your baby in one arm, ensure his/her tummy is resting on yours.
- Keep your hand at the base of his head and ensure that his ear, shoulders and hip are in a straight line.
- Move your baby s lower arm out of the way if it is obstructing his comfort level.
- Support your breast with a free hand and place all your fingers under it.
- Rest your thumb lightly on top of your breast, above your areola.
- Stroke baby s lower lip with your nipple to urge him/her to open mouth. This may take a few minutes.
- As his mouth opens to resemble a yawn, pull him quickly onto your breast to latch on.
(This position is good for newborns and small or premature babies)
Termed the football hold because a mother may feel like she is holding a football during breastfeeding, here s how to begin:
- Position baby in a manner that his legs and body are under your arm. Your hand should be at the back of his head, and at the neck.
- Placing your fingers below your breast, hold your baby close with his nose and chin touching your breast to begin latch on.
- Remember to keep baby s body flexed at the hip with his legs tucked under your arm for optimal effect.
(This position is good when a mother has just had Caesarean and wants to avoid placing baby on her stomach. It is also good if a mother has large breasts, a small baby or when baby is fussy, restless and having a hard time latching on)
Lying down breastfeeding
If you are tired and wish to lie down while breast-feeding, the side-lying method is one way.
- Lay baby next to you, tummies facing each other.
- Bend your top leg and position with pillow under your upper knee.
- Placing your fingers beneath your breast, lift upward and pull baby close as he latches on.
(This position is good if you have someone to help you in breastfeeding, you have just had Caesarean and need to lie down)
When baby does not latch on
There could be a number of reasons behind baby s refusal to latch on.
First, check if he has:
- Difficulty breathing or coordinating sucking and swallowing.
- A tendency to throw up. This makes latching on uncomfortable.
- A sore throat from suctioning or other medical interventions.
- Sustained an injury at birth which makes latching on difficult.
What you can do
If your baby refuses to latch on, take a step back and don t try to force him. Stop breastfeeding for a few days to ease off any tension he may have towards it.
Slowly and gently begin introducing him again by:
- Working with him until he becomes comfortable in a nursing position.
- Getting him more comfortable, try to introduce skin-to-skin contact by earning baby s trust around the skin at your breast. Do not immediately try to latch him as this may cause irritation to him.
- Feeding him with a bottle when he shows signs of being comfortable at your breast. You are encouraging him to be familiar at this position.
- Offering your breast to him when he is relaxed or sleepy.
- Breastfeeding him when it is clear he associates your breasts as comfort.
Image of baby when he is ready to latch on
When breastfeeding is not recommended
While breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be an ideal mode of feeding for the first six months of a newborn s life, there are occasions when breastfeeding may not be the option.
- Breast reduction surgery
If you have just had a breast reduction surgery, you are advised to replace breastfeeding with formula-based milk. This is because tissue removal at the breast could result in milk ducts being blocked. As a result, you may find yourself producing lesser milk than it can. In such cases, it is often advisable to supplement, if you are able to produce breast milk, with formula-based ones.
- Breast implants
Women who have had silicone or saline implanted into their breasts may be advised not to breastfeed. This is because, at times, nerves are cut during implants, which result in the brain s inability to send signals to the body to generate milk.
- HIV infection
If you suspect you may be a HIV carrier, it is best to abstain from breastfeeding your child.
Supplements for those who cannot breastfeed
You may feed your child an iron-fortified milk formula made from cow s milk or soy protein if you find yourself unable to breastfeed. These alternatives provide baby with the vitamins and minerals equivalent to breast milk. It is best to seek the advice of your obstetrician for the type of milk formula that would be suitable for your child.