The most important part of breastfeeding is getting the baby to latch on correctly. If the baby latches on poorly, then he will be limited as to how well he will get milk. Further, by latching on poorly the baby may cause the mother to be in pain. And since the child is not receiving adequate milk supply, he will have to stay on the breast for longer periods of time, further aggravating the pain.
Thus, it is important to optimize the baby's position in the early weeks,and ensure that he or she is latched on correctly. Proper positioning will help eliminate many cases of sore nipples. Here are some basic positions to use when breastfeeding your baby. Use the ones that you find are most effective and comfortable for you.
The Cradle Position
The cradle position is most commonly used after the first few weeks and gives you the most control of your baby. Your baby should be lying on his side, resting on his shoulder and hip with his mouth level with your nipple. Use pillows to lift your baby and support your elbows so that you can bring your baby up to nipple height. This is especially important during the first few weeks.
Support your breast while your baby's head is on your forearm. His back will be along your inner arm and palm. When you look down, you should see his side and his mouth should be covering at least a half-inch of the dark area around your nipple. Be sure his ear, shoulder, and hips are in a straight line. As a newborn, your baby's head and bottom should be level with each other.
The Cross Cradle Position
This variation of the cradle position involves your baby being supported on a pillow across your lap to help raise him to your nipple level. Pillows should also support both elbows so your arms don't hold the weight of the baby or they will tire before the feeding is finished.
If you are preparing to breastfeed on the left breast, your left hand supports that breast and you support your baby with the fingers of your right hand. Do this by gently placing your hand behind your baby's ears and neck with your thumb and index finger behind each ear. Your baby's neck rests in the web between the thumb, index finger and palm of your hand, forming a "second neck" for baby. The palm of your hand is placed between his shoulder blades. As you prepare to latch your baby on, be sure his mouth is very close to your nipple. When baby opens his mouth wide, you push with the palm of your hand from between the shoulder blades. His mouth will be covering at least a half-inch from the base of your nipple.
Also known as the 'football hold,' this is an ideal position for women who have just had a Cesarean birth, since it keeps the child away from your incision. It is also used in situations when the mother has a more forceful milk ejection because it allows the child to handle the increased flow more easily.
For this position you should support your baby's head in your hand and his back along your arm beside you. Your child should be facing you, with his mouth at nipple height. Your baby's legs and feet are tucked under your arm with his hips flexed and his legs resting along side your back. The soles of his feet are pointed toward the ceiling (this keeps him from being able to push against your chair.) Pillows will help bring the baby to the correct height.
Side Lying Position
This is a comfortable position, especially at night or when you are feeling tired. With this position, both mother and baby lie on their sides facing each other. You can use pillows behind your back and behind or between your knees to help get comfortable. A pillow or rolled blanket behind the baby's back will keep him from rolling away from you. The baby can be cradled in your arm with his back along your forearm. Having his hips flexed and his ear, shoulder and hip in one line helps your baby get milk more easily. Some mothers find that practicing with this position during the daytime is very helpful.
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