How to Get a “Feel” for Breastfeeding
Modern breastfeeding advice often ignores that breastfeeding is an interactive experience, dependent on communication between babies and mothers. It’s not a matter of placing Point A (baby’s mouth) over Point B (mother’s breast) and commencing breastfeeding. It’s much more like a dance that engages the whole body. Each breastfeeding duo sets its own rhythm and pace. In this article, you’ll learn to get a “feel” for you and your baby’s rhythm.
Instinct is still the key.
Some things are processed better by the intellect, others by experience. Breastfeeding falls under the latter. Mothers and babies have physiological responses that draw them to each other, encourage them to look at each other, touch each other, and interact. The right side of the brain guides much of this instinctual behaviour. We need to listen to and trust this more.
Take an instinctual approach to breastfeeding.
First, take some deep breaths and let go of those worries about doing things “wrong.” Instead of thinking of breastfeeding as a skill you need to master, think about breastfeeding as an expression of you and your baby’s relationship. As you spend time with your baby, you’ll become more adept at reading their cues. As you hold your baby, they will become more comfortable seeking your breast.
Breastfeeding will flow naturally out of your affectionate relationship. And your body dynamics can make breastfeeding easier or harder. Here are some specific things you can do to help:
Watch for early feeding cues.
These cues could include turning their head when someone touches their cheek or a hand-to-mouth motion. Take note of when baby starts smacking their lips or putting their hands to their mouth. This is an ideal time to try breastfeeding.
Start with a calm baby.
One mistake that many women make is waiting until their baby is screaming to try breastfeeding. Do you learn best when you are upset? Probably not. The other reason to start with a calm baby comes down to physics. When a baby is screaming, their tongue is on the roof of her mouth. You will never get your breast in their mouth when their tongue is there.
Unfortunately, it may not always be possible to catch your baby in the early hunger stages (such as when you’re sound asleep!), and you will have to deal with an upset baby. Some babies go from slightly hungry to very hungry in the blink of an eye. Sometimes offering your breast will work to calm your baby. But if this doesn’t work, don’t force the issue. First, try soothing your baby by holding, swaying, rocking, or walking. Then try these suggestions:
- Lean back in a comfortable position. Semi-reclined positions in which your back, neck, shoulders, and arms are well-supported are sometimes referred to as laid-back breastfeeding. These may be the same position you use to watch your favorite TV show.
- Lay your baby, tummy down between your breasts. Then make your breast accessible. Your chest is a very calming place for your baby; it’s where she can hear your voice and your heartbeat. She can smell you and get the feeling of your skin. Talk with her and make eye contact to bring you closer to your baby.
- Follow your baby’s lead. When a calm baby lies tummy down on her mother’s laid-back body, this triggers instinctive feeding behaviours such as head-bobbing and movements toward the breast. If she is resting between your breasts, she probably won’t need much help. Encourage her with your voice. Babies can’t understand your words at this age, but they can understand your tone of voice. And feel free to touch and stroke her as the spirit moves you.
Let your baby practice.
Sometimes your baby may try to take the breast even when they’re not hungry to try out this new behaviour. Practice times are good and will help them breastfeed better when they are hungry. Try out different latching and breastfeeding positions and feel out which ones work best for you and your baby. Remember, instinct is key– trust it.
Adapted from the book Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC
Breast pumping can be a convenient way to give milk to your baby and maintain your milk supply. Toys R Us just recently reduced the price on the Ameda Finesse and the Ameda Purely Yours breast pumps–these high-quality pumps are designed to get the most of your milk supply.
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