Becoming a new mom for the first time can be exciting and terrifying all at the same time. What could be more wonderful than bringing a new life into the world? And, what could be more frightening than being expected to know how to care for the defense of this tiny human who is totally dependent on you? Even with all of the manuals in the world, this is true on-the-job training.
Your new baby will likely seem hungry from the moment of birth, and you may be operating by the false belief that breast feeding will just “happen”, naturally and instinctively. This sets many young mothers up for a very difficult time. Breast feeding is a skill that must be learned. This is true for mother and for baby. Once the two of you become pros, the process will seem natural, and you will be able to breast feed and do other activities at the same time. In the beginning, however, it will be important to pay attention to how the baby is positioned to minimize problems with soreness, proper milk flow and adequate nutrition.
Breast Feeding Positions
Every mother and baby will find the variations of positions that will work for them. The lucky ones will have lots of older relatives hovering around with advice. As much as we sometimes believe we don’t want that, it’s the way that mothers in all cultures have always learned how to be mothers. The trick will be to listen and then find what works best for you and your baby. Some common positions that work for many and may be helpful include:
- The Cradle Hold – one of the most traditional positions, also known as the Madonna Hold. The baby should be supported on the arm that is on the same side as the breast that will be used with the hand on that side supporting the rest of the body. It is important the baby’s head is aligned with the rest of his body rather than turned to the side. Cup the breast with the other hand, with your thumb just above the nipple and areola as close as possible to where the baby’s nose will touch your breast. Compress the breast using your index finger so that the nipple points slightly toward your baby’s nose. At this point the baby should now be ready to latch.
- The Cross-Cradle Hold – this one is a variation on the cradle hold. Position the baby’s head with the hand opposite to the breast you’ll be nursing from. Rest your wrist between your baby’s shoulder blades, your thumb behind one ear, your other fingers behind the other ear. Again, be sure to rotate your baby’s entire body so it faces you and his mouth is lined up with your nipple. Use your other hand to cup your breast in the same way as the cradle hold. This can be a useful position if the baby has difficulty latching properly, because it will be easier to guide the head.
- The Clutch Hold – also called the football hold, this position keeps the baby’s weight off the abdomen, so it can be a good choice following a cesarean birth. Imagine a football player running down the field, protecting the ball by holding it to his side — that is the basic position you will want to use. Position the baby at your side, facing you, with the baby’s legs tucked under your arm on the same side as the breast you will be nursing from. Place a pillow or something under your elbow for support and then using the hand on that side to support your baby’s head, the other hand can cup your breast the same as in the cradle hold.
- Reclining or Laying Down –this one is good for moms who have smaller breasts. Use pillows for support while leaning back on a bed or couch. Place the baby on top of your body so that you are tummy-to-tummy and the baby’s head is near your breast. Your baby can rest on you in any direction, as long as the whole front of the body is against yours within easy reach of the breast. You may or may not have to assist in directing the baby to the nipple, but once that is done, this position can provide a very relaxing experience.
These are just a few of the variations on breast feeding positions. Every mother has had to use a little trial and error to find what works best for her and her baby.
If you would like to learn more, please watch the following video: