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Woman breastfeeding on sofa

How do I breastfeed my baby?

Breastfeeding is not like bottle-feeding where just the teat goes into the baby’s mouth. With breastfeeding the baby needs a big mouthful of breast and the nipple ends up right at the back of the baby’s mouth.

Where should my nipple be during breastfeeding?

If you use your own tongue to feel the roof of your mouth you will find a soft squishy bit right at the back. This is where the nipple should be in your baby’s mouth and not on the hard palate where it can get sore. It’s quite a long way back. The baby has to have a slightly off-centre mouthful (more breast tissue below the nipple than above), so that the nipple can get to that nice soft cushion at the back. This means your nipple only just slips underneath your baby’s top lip and their bottom lip is at a distance away from it, so they can take a big mouthful of breast.

How should I hold my baby during the breastfeed?

Your baby’s instinct to do the right thing is really strong but you need to hold them in the right place so that they can do that. Hold your baby really close and make sure that they are free to throw their head back. For breastfeeding you need to support the baby’s neck and shoulders (not the head), so that they are free to throw their head back and come in towards the breast chin first.

Try to get your baby in really close and in a nice straight line, facing the breast and free to tilt their head back, so that they open their mouth really wide.

How should I help my baby latch on to feed?

You will need to learn to just wait until your baby’s mouth is really wide open and at that point you have to quickly bring them close to your nipple. They will open their mouth wide and throw their head back. They will come into the breast chin first to scoop up a really big mouthful of breast. Then the nipple will end up on that soft cushion at the back of their mouth.

How can I tell if my baby is properly attached?

Good attachment means no pain. If your baby is properly attached at the breast it shouldn’t hurt. However, it is an unusual feeling that perhaps takes a little bit of time to get used to. There shouldn’t be any pinching or pain of any kind. So people might say “count to 10” but certainly after 10 seconds it should not be painful at all as your nipple should be on the soft cushion at the back of your baby’s mouth.

Good attachment means a mouthful of breast. When you look down you will see that your baby has a really big mouthful of breast. Your baby’s chin – because they have come in chin first – will really be closely pressed into the breast and their bottom lip will actually be turned out (but you won’t be able to see that from above).

Good attachment means big cheeks. As your baby feeds you will see their cheeks get nice and big because their mouth is full of breast. Your baby’s chin should be pressing into the breast, with full cheeks for them, no pain for you and a steady sucking rhythm.

Good attachment means swallowing sounds. You may be able to hear your baby swallowing milk.

Where should my baby’s nose be?

Lots of mums worry about their baby’s nose being pressed against the breast. But as your baby approaches the breast they will want to throw their head back and come in chin first. As the baby approaches with their chin, the nose is free. So even if you’ve got quite big breasts you should not need to hold your breast away from your baby’s nose. If your baby is free to throw back their head then they will simply pull away from you if they can’t breathe. It makes sense if you think about it – if they can’t breathe, they won’t stay there!

Summary of how to breastfeed

  1. Hold your baby close, tummy to tummy, supporting their neck but allowing their head to move.
  2. Your baby needs to start with their nose opposite your nipple.
  3. Your baby’s head should be free to tilt back.
  4. Baby comes in chin first.
  5. Wait for your baby to open their mouth really wide.
  6. Your baby should take a big mouthful of breast and your nipple just slips under their upper lip.
  7. If your baby isn’t attached properly, insert your little finger gently into the side of their mouth to break the latch, then start again.
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