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Positioning and latching

posted Mar 26, 2015, 4:46 AM by Melissa Bugeja   [ updated Apr 10, 2015, 3:02 AM ]
An important lesson every mother must learn when just starting to breastfeed is that you must be comfortable and relaxed before you attempt to go any further.  Breastfeeding newborns usually takes a lot of time so being comfortable will help your baby to be comfortable and being relaxed will get the milk ejection reflex to occur and the baby to latch on easily.
Once your body is comfortable and relaxed it is time to position your baby.  In whichever position you choose to nurse, there are three rules of thumb to keep in mind:
  1. The baby must be tummy to tummy
  2. The baby's nose must be in line with you nipple
  3. The baby must have the head lined up with the body
The Cradle hold is the “classic” breastfeeding position.  The mother will be either sitting or semi reclining and the baby lies tummy to tummy with her while resting his head in the crook of his mother’s arm.  If needed the mother may place a pillow in her lap to support the baby’s body. 
The Cross-cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold except that instead of the head resting in the crook of the mother’s arm, the mother’s opposite hand supports the baby.
The Football hold gets its name from the sense of tucking something under your arm.  The mother tucks the baby under her arm and supports the back of the head and neck to bring the baby to the breast.  The baby’s body may rest on a pillow to raise him to the needed height.
The Side-lying hold is the most restful position especially at night time if co-sleeping.  When the mother lies down on her side, her baby can also lie on his side facing her and feed.  The baby’s head can rest flat on the bed or on the mother’s arm.  The baby’s body should be tucked close to his mother so as not to arch his back. A small pillow placed at the baby’s back and another between the mother’s knees might be helpful.
Another important lesson every mother need to learn is how to latch the baby effectively.  If the connection between baby and breast is poor, the baby is less likely to get enough milk and you are more likely to feel pain.
Once you are in position, your baby will most likely seek the nipple himself.  However if your baby is sleepy or quiet, you may lightly brush your nipple to his lips or even express a few drops of milk on his lips to tempt your reluctant baby.
The baby’s mouth should be wide open- like a yawn- before you try to bring him onto the breast.  Tickling his lips with the nipple often encourages your baby to open wide.  If the mouth is not open wide, your baby may not be able to grasp enough of the areola to form a proper teat in which case, it may rub painfully against the hard palate when the baby suckles.
Lastly, guide the baby’s head forward onto the breast.  Most babies dislike having the back of their head pushed firmly to guide them to the breast.  So use just enough guidance to help the baby along.

Signs of a good latch
• The baby’s mouth is open very wide
• The lips are flanged out like the mouth of a fish
• The cheeks are plumped out 
• There is no lip-smacking or sucking noises 
• The muscles in front of the baby’s ears can be seen to ripple in pulses as the baby suckles
If the latch is not right, gently detach the baby by inserting your little finger into the corner of the baby’s mouth and pulling down lightly on the baby’s chin and try latching him on again.  You might need to latch on several times in the beginning but the process will become more natural by time.

References: Kelly Bonyata
                    Martha Sears R.N & William Sears M.D The Breastfeeding Book
                    Jan Riordan Breastfeeding and the Human Lactation