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If you are a new mom and you plan to breastfeed, you are probably wondering about breastfeeding positions. I know I did after I gave birth to my first son.
I vividly remember holding a wiggling, red-faced baby, who was screaming as I desperately tried to move him into a comfortable position. Finally, a lactation specialist came into the room and showed me one position to hold him in.
Yeah, one whole position.
While it was nice of her to show me the one position, babies need a little bit of variety. Trial and error is pretty much how I figured it out, but it was no fun. Luckily, he forgave me and only kept me up 7 nights a week for 14 years. Kidding. I’m kidding. It was about six years, tops.
Anyway, what I learned is that a little information went a long way, and you will undoubtedly feel the same way. So, what exactly should you know?
What You Need to Know About Breastfeeding
If you are a new mom who has never breastfed, or if you just need a refresher course, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding.
Remember, especially you returning moms: no two babies or breastfeeding experiences are alike. Ever. Not even when all of them are yours.
Benefits of breastfeeding
We are sure you have heard women say “breast is best” at some point. There is a reason people say that and it isn’t because they want to mommy shame women who can’t breastfeed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding your child helps to protect them against many different illnesses.
For example, breastfeeding helps prevent bacteria from entering your baby’s bloodstream and causing an infection. Your breast milk can protect them against urinary tract infections, childhood obesity, respiratory tract infections, Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma, and leukemia.
Not only does breastfeeding help your baby, but it will help you. Women who breastfeed recover from childbirth quicker than those who do not. You will likely have less postpartum bleeding and menstrual bleeding.
When you are pregnant, your uterus expands to accommodate your baby, after you deliver it contracts and goes back to its normal size. This process, called uterine involution, occurs more rapidly in women who are breastfeeding.
If you breastfeed you will likely lose your pregnancy weight quicker. Yeah, that was pretty exciting for me too.
Not to mention, women who breastfeed have a decreased risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Finally, breastfeeding helps you bond with your baby. According to research, babies who are breastfed are more likely to bond with their moms.
So, it goes without saying, figuring out comfortable breastfeeding positions is very important.
How long you should breastfeed your baby
Experts agree that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life. After you start feeding your baby complimentary food, you should continue breastfeeding for at least the first year, and longer if you’d like.
How long? Until you are ready to stop. It’s not uncommon for women to breastfeed for three, or even up to 5 years. In some rare case, even longer.
We want to be clear though, breastfeeding your baby for any period of time is good for them. If you can only do it for a few days when you are producing colostrum, that’s ok — any amount of time gives your baby and you benefits.
Colostrum is a “superfood” according to the American Pregnancy Association. It comes in right away after the delivery and contains high levels of fats, salt, vitamins, and other nutrients. So, if you only get comfortable in one of the breastfeeding positions we are going to talk about, and feed them for just the first few days, your baby will be significantly healthier.
How you should store your milk
Even if you find the most comfortable breastfeeding positions in the world, sometimes you are going to need or want to bottle feed your baby. The best way to do this is to buy a breast pump so you can pump your milk and store it in the freezer or refrigerator. You can put your milk in storage bags, cups, and even bottles.
How long you can store your milk
Your breast milk will stay good in a deep freezer for up to 12 months, but it is best if you use it within 6 months. As for the refrigerator, if you put it in the back of the fridge, it is good for up to five days.
A note on freezers, not all of them are created the same. Your refrigerator freezer is probably opened up at least once a day — not to mention “frost free” which means it raises the temperature slightly to melt the frost regularly — that changes the temperature in there significantly and it can shorten the life of your breastmilk.
Once you have taken it from your freezer, be sure to use thawed milk within 24 hours.
5 Breastfeeding Positions Every Mom Needs to Know
Now that we have gotten all of the educational information out of the way, what about those breastfeeding positions? We are going to go over the five most popular breastfeeding positions.
If you already have a child who you breastfed in the past, the position that was most comfortable then, may not be now.
For example, when my first son loved the football hold and the side position. I never had any issues when I nursed him in those positions. Naturally, when my second son was born, I assumed all of that trial and error had paid off and I was going to be an expert.
I was so wrong.
My little bundle of joy had absolutely no interest in the football hold or the side position. Instead, when he did latch, which was not often, it was in the crossover hold.
So, no matter if this is your first baby, or if you have done it all before, it is good to know as many breastfeeding positions as possible. Then you and your baby can figure out which one they like best without any stress. It may seem odd, but you can practice these positions with a babydoll if you have one available.
Let’s get started:
1. Cradle hold
The cradle hold is exactly what it sounds like: you will hold your baby in a cradle position. This is a great position for babies who are full-term and who were delivered vaginally.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Sit in a glider or on your bed with both arms on pillows
- Place the baby on your lap so they are facing you
- Put the baby’s head on the forearm of the side of your body where you will nurse
- Move your arm and hand down to support the baby’s neck, spine, and butt
- Make sure the baby is lying horizontally across your body
- Place your nipple in your baby’s mouth and latch them on
Check out the video below:
If you have had a c-section, you may not want to feed your baby in this position right away. Holding the infant this way puts pressure on your abdomen and it may be too much for you to handle right away.
Other moms say that they found this position a little difficult when they were trying to get their babies to latch.
2. Football position
This is one of the breastfeeding positions that my oldest son liked the most. For this one, you want to pretend your baby is a football and you are protecting him while trying to score a touchdown. Tuck your baby under your arm and nurse.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Put your baby on the side of your body, on top of a pillow, where the breast is you want them to nurse on
- Make sure the baby is lying face up and their nose and your nipple are level
- Support your baby’s neck, head, and shoulders with your hand and arm
- Guide your nipple into your baby’s mouth and establish a good latch
Watch the video below:
This position is great for moms who had a c-section. It doesn’t put much pressure on your stomach. If you have large breasts, this helps you have more control over your nipples. Also, this position is great if you have twins and want to feed them at the same time.
3. Crossover hold
The crossover hold is another one of the most popular breastfeeding positions. This hold is a lot like the cradle hold but instead of supporting your baby’s body with the arm on the side you are breastfeeding on.
This is what you need to do:
- Use the hand on the opposite side to support your baby’s head
- Move their head until they latch on
Check out the video below:
The crossover is terrific if you have a newborn or a baby who has trouble latching.
4. Laid-back position
Do you just want to relax and read a book or just chill after a long day? Basically, you are just going to lean back in your favorite chair and let your tiny human fill themselves up.
- Put yourself in a semi-reclined position
- Make sure you are comfortable, get a pillow to support your body
- When you are nice and comfy, lay the baby on your belly facedown, and guide his mouth to your breast
Remember, it doesn’t matter how the baby is on top of you as long as they are on top of you. That is the only rule.
5. Side lying position
Finally, the last of the breastfeeding positions is the side position where you are lying down. I absolutely loved this position when my oldest son was nursing. It made life really easy. Sometimes he would have to be nursed while he was also sleepy, so we would use position, he’d fall asleep, and I could easily extract myself from his grip.
Don’t underestimate how important it is to easily escape your bundle of joy. Everyone will tell you to sleep when they sleep, but that’s a joke and you need to be able to get away.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Lie on your side, get comfortable
- Place your baby next to you so they are facing you
- Rest the baby’s head on your arm and pull them close
- Guide your nipple into their mouth
Watch the video we have provided:
Techniques to Help While You Try Breastfeeding Positions
Before you go try out the breastfeeding positions we have provided for you, it is important to remember proper latching is just as important. So, keep this in mind.
Make sure that you are always in a comfortable position. If you are not comfortable, the whole breastfeeding experience is going to be tainted with that.
Make sure your baby’s mouth is open nice and wide before you put your nipple in their mouth. Don’t try to shove it in there when they open just a little or their latch won’t be good. You want to make sure that they get some of your areola in their mouth and not just your nipple.
It should not hurt. If it hurts when your baby starts sucking, it is likely that they are not latched on properly. Remove them from your breast and try again if that happens. If it hurts every time, and your nipple doesn’t appear to be irritated, red, or have broken skin, contact a lactation consultant for help.
Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the resources available to you. When you are in the hospital after the delivery, ask if there is a lactation specialist available to help you learn what a proper latch looks and feels like. Lactation specialists are incredible human beings, you want their help.
How to Remove a Nursing Baby Without Hurting Yourself
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Have you ever pulled a piece of gum out of your mouth, and watched it stretch out?
Your nipple is not elastic like that, if you try to pull your baby off the breast — even gently — to reposition them or lay them down, it is going to be uncomfortable. Over time, it also causes micro-tears in your skin, opening you up to a greater risk of bacterial or fungal infections, not to mention feeling like you have road rash on your nipples.
To prevent this, gently break the suction before removing your baby from the breast. Simply slide your finger carefully between your breast and the corner of their mouth, interrupting the seal between them and your skin. This not only helps when you are both learning to latch right but also later when teeth enter the equation.
The most important thing to remember is that you and your baby are learning together. There will be some hiccups, spilled milk, and tears along the way, but you will find breastfeeding positions that work for both of you. And if you don’t, that’s okay too. There are other options available to you and everything will be okay.
Remember, many hospitals offer the services of a lactation consultant, as well as groups like La Leche League. So, if you run into problems you can’t solve on your own, reach out to a professional for advice.
Do you not see your favorite breastfeeding positions on our list? Let us know what they are in the comment section below.