Best Position for Breastfeeding
Is there really a best position for breastfeeding? Although there is truly no “wrong or right” way, there are ways that have been tried and tested. These can make your breastfeeding experience a heck of a lot easier. At the bottom of this article you will find a glossary of terms that may be useful to you.
Breastfeeding can be such a rewarding experience for both you and your baby! Besides satisfying the baby’s hunger, it also helps nurture the bond between the two of you. Everyone from doctors and nurses to family members and friends may have something to chime in about breastfeeding and although they may all mean well, it’s best to remember that not everyone has the same sized or shaped breasts or the same sized or shaped nipples. One-advice-fits-all does certainly NOT apply to everyone!
Does Size Matter?
Let’s get one thing out the way – the size or shape of your breast has nothing to do with how much milk your breasts make. Larger breasts do not produce more milk than smaller ones. Milk production in the breast is directly related to the milk producing glands within the breast as well as the baby’s suckling and appetite. The size and shape of your breast is solely due to how much fatty tissue it has. The only factor size has in breastfeeding is how large or small your areolas are.
Ideally, you want the nipple as well as part of the areola inside the baby’s mouth. A smaller areola should fit inside baby’s mouth entirely while a larger areola will have less of it. Nipples are not the only area of the breast where milk is made from; there are ducts on the areola as well that secrete milk. Both need stimulation therefore both the nipple AND the as much of the areola as possible should be given to the baby.
The most important thing in breastfeeding is getting the baby to latch properly. Latching means simply the way baby attaches to the breast. Depending on what position you hold the baby will be what part of the breast he or she latches on from. Rotating positions will help in alleviating sore breasts. Improper latching can lead to cracked nipples, decreased milk supply and a very hungry baby! There are several positions you can try breastfeeding from. Namely, they are:
This position entails nursing the baby while holding him (or her) in a cradle embrace and supporting the baby’s head in the nook of your arm. It’s important to note that you should not bend to give the baby your breast but rather bring the baby UP to your breast. To make it more comfortable, sit in a chair or bed that has supportive arms or pillows and prop your feet up if possible.
This position is a variation of the Cradle. Instead of resting the baby’s head on your arm, you place the baby on a pillow and bring the pillow up to your breast while holding the baby’s head with your hand to help support his head while feeding. This also allows the pillow to serve as a resting area for your elbows.
Laid Back Position (Biological Nurturing Position)
This is a way of breastfeeding in which you find a comfortable way to nurse your baby and you can both relax and enjoy each other. This involves dressing comfortably and positioning yourself in a reclining position (not flat) on a couch or bed and placing baby on you, stomach down. This is best for more experienced nursing moms who feel more at ease with breastfeeding.
Side Lying Position
This position is most commonly used at night so mom can rest while nursing although it can be used at any time. Here mom and baby lie down sideways facing each other. The baby can be cradled on moms arm while moms head and/or knees are supported with pillows or rolled up blankets or mom can simply lay down with one arm lifted over her head and resting on a pillow to give the baby better access to latch on the breast. Mom can sleep in this position or just relax. Mom can also lie sideways and prop herself up on one elbow while nursing.
Football Position (Clutch Position)
In this position mom holds the baby on her side with his feet tucked under her arm. His head is cradled in her hand. This is the best position for moms who had a c-section. It keeps baby off of the incision and makes nursing more comfortable. This is also great for moms who have a more forceful letdown as it helps newborns handle the flow of milk much more easily.
Caring for Your Breasts
As mentioned above, nipples can become sore and cracked. The breast overall may become a ball of pain and harden if milk is not expressed when the breasts are engorged with milk. The key here is to feed baby every couple of hours or at least pump the breast to let the milk out. For starts wear a supportive (not too snug) cotton nursing bra that will allow your breasts to breathe and not sweat. If milk leaks out from your breasts when not nursing the baby, you can wear breast pads to control the leaks but be sure to change them often to avoid dry, cracked nipples and thrush.
When bathing, wash your breasts with water only. Do not use soap. It is very drying and it removes the natural oils your Montgomery glands make. Make sure baby latches on properly to avoid plugged milk ducts and mastitis. Nipples can become sore and cracked. Its best to use a lanolin or hydrogel based pad to alleviate the soreness and provide some moisturization to the nipple. Do not use any creams, lotions or sprays as the baby will ingest these as he or she feeds and it may be harmful. These may also cause your ducts to clog or even irritate your skin.
Are You Doing it the Right Way?
As long as baby is happy, fed, gaining weight, peeing and pooping then congratulations are in order! You are doing it the right way. Bottom line, whatever position or method makes you comfortable and your baby happy then that is the best breastfeeding method of all!
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Glossary of Terms
Areola – the area of pigmented skin surrounding the nipple
Montgomery Glands – sebaceous glands located on the areola that secrete oil. These are located on the breast surrounding the nipple and sometimes appear as bumps on the areola
Let Down Reflex – a signal that tells your breast to release the milk in the ducts involuntarily
Latching – the act of attaching to the breast
Thrush – a fungal infection that occurs on the nipple when infected and that can also develop inside the baby’s mouth. It can be quite painful for the baby and cause the baby not to want to feed
Plugged Milk Ducts – Happens as more milk is being made than is let out. Leads to a blockage that causes painful hardening of the breasts
Mastitis – occurs when the mammary gland becomes infected due to a bacterial infection in the nipple