Breastfeeding Step-by-Step

The following steps outline and help explain the general flow of a breastfeeding session.

  1. Position yourself properly.  Pillows are generally a must as your arms and back will get sore from trying to maintain the same position while your baby is feeding.  Use the pillows behind your back, under your elbows, and on your lap. If you are trying a position other than sitting down pillows are still a great way for you to help be relaxed and not have any of your muscles straining. Have your partner or a friend help you the first few times in positioning the pillows for your best comfort.
  2. Position your baby properly. Your baby should be lying on its side with the whole body facing you with knees pulled in close to your body.  Each of the different positions or hold has a different way to align the baby to you and your breast.  Take some time and practice.
  3. Hold the baby at the level of your nipple. This is so that you are not leaning forward to reach them.
  4. Offer your breast to the baby. Your thumb and for finger should form a C or U shape.  Support your breast as close to its natural height as possible.  Keep the fingers and thumb behind the areola and off the nipple so they are not in the way when your baby latches on
  5. Encourage your baby to latch on properly. If your baby turns away gently stroke the cheek on the side nearest you.  Touch their lips lightly and repeatedly to your  breast to encourage their mouth to open very wide, like a yawn.
  6. Move your baby onto the breast quickly and firmly. When the mouth open pull them to your breast so the lower jaw is as far back on your breast as possible. Once there is latch pull your baby in very close. if their nose seems blocked bringing their legs and hips closer to you will help angle out the nose.
  7. Encourage your baby to suck effectively. Your baby should take all of your nipple into their mouth and cover all or most of your areola behind the nipple with their gums.
  8. Avoid nipple soreness or pain. Breastfeeding should not be painful.  If you are feeling pain while your baby nurses or they seem to be having difficulty in sucking, gently break the suction and latch and restart.  Breaking suction can be easily done by putting a finger in your baby’s mouth and either pressing in on your breast or pulling out on your baby’s cheek.
  9. Watch for effective sucking patterns. Some babies know exactly how to suck the first time and others take a few days to learn and need a little more patience.  A baby who is sucking vigorously will be working their jaw muscles so much that you can see their ears wiggle. Once their initial hunger is met they will slow down and relax throughout the rest of the feeding.
  10. Let your baby finish and then offer your other breast. When you are first starting to breastfeed it is a good idea to offer both breasts during each feeding.  This will help with engorgement issues and also help your body adapt to the feeding needs of your child.

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