Let Your Baby Lead!

As a mother, you want to help your baby breastfeed. But often our help results in uncomfortable, ineffective breastfeeding. Many of you have already experienced the “help” of a well-intentioned nurse or lactation consultant who forces a baby to the breast against his will. Ramming a baby to the breast will only result in frustration and tears for everyone. In addition, a baby treated this way may learn to avoid the breast altogether.

Healthy newborns are equipped with instincts and reflexes that facilitate breastfeeding.

To let your baby use his instincts, position him on your lap so his head is slightly under your right breast. He will be resting comfortably on his back. Your right hand can support your breast. Your baby’s top lip will be aligned with your nipple and his head will be tipped back slightly. His left arm can be around your waist or tucked along his side against your belly. Support him with your left forearm—your hand just behind his ears, at the base of his neck. Your palm should be between his shoulder blades. Do not touch the back of his head. Lift baby so his chin touches the underside of your breast near the outer edge of the areola. His nose should be away from your breast. If he’s interested in nursing, he will tip his head back and open his mouth wide. At that moment you can lift his torso slightly so he can latch on. Baby’s upper lip will barely cover the nipple. Do not center the nipple in your baby’s mouth.

You can also try positioning your baby on your lap, supporting him so that his left cheek rests on top of your right breast. Hold him so that his head can move freely and the nipple is just out of reach. He will open his mouth and turn his head to find your nipple and begin breastfeeding.

Keep in mind that your baby’s face has to be in contact with your breast in order for him to know what to do! Once his face is touching your breast, his arms will relax and he can focus on opening his mouth and latching on!

See also: “Your Baby is a Mammal”


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