How to Breastfeed (Or Just Look Like You Know What You Are Doing)

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!

As a mama who has had one breastfeeding champ who instantly stepped up to the bar for her first drink of milk and another who took his time learning to latch, here are my tips about “How to Breastfeed.”

1. Nothing Beats a Live Demonstration

Breastfeeding, like much of parenting, is one of those skills you mostly pick up on the job. It never hurts to prepare a little, though, and get comfortable with the idea.

Most hospitals offer classes where you can pepper the lactation consultant with whatever questions pop into your head.

And, of course, KellyMom is a treasure trove of information for first timers and old pros, alike.

I find that breastfeeding is something that is easiest to understand when you actually see it done. In fact, I’m convinced that one of the reasons we struggle with breastfeeding so much as a culture is because it has become rare and hidden. Fortunately, you can easily find breastfeeding tips on video on YouTube.

2. Relax
When my son was born, we were separated for a few hours after his birth as I needed some surgery following the delivery. When he came to me, he was sleepy and the doctors were concerned about his blood sugar because of his weight (over 10 lbs).

I could not understand why what had been so simple with my daughter was so hard with my son. And the nurses who were pressuring me and insisting a baby that large needed formula if he didn’t breastfeed RIGHT NOW were not helping matters much.

He would fuss, I’d try to feed, he’d cry, I’d get stressed, he’d pick up on that. The harder you try, sometimes, the harder it becomes.

As difficult as it can be, take a deep breath and relax.

With all the articles about the benefits of breastfeeding, it can be easy to become goal oriented about it. Remember, though, that the point is not to force feed your baby, but to establish a beautiful bond that will grow with your relationship.

3. Get Back to Basics

As part of relaxing, pare down. Send everyone away (unless they make you feel relaxed), turn off the lights, get close and cuddle skin to skin with your baby, do whatever makes you feel most relaxed.

Offer the opportunity to breastfeed but do not push it.

As soon as you can, learn to breastfeed lying down–you’ll get a lot more rest if you do.

4. Be Flexible

I’m guessing many lactation consultants will disagree with this, but if you are having trouble with getting started, my personal opinion is to just let your baby latch however works for the two of you. There is a lot of emphasis on correct technique, which I do believe is important for a successful breastfeeding relationship, but sometimes it is just good to start nursing so both you and your baby know you can do it. You can always fix the positioning and latch later.

5. Reach Out

One of the many remarkable things about becoming a mother is that you gain a new understanding of the importance of community. I encourage you to reach out to other mothers even while you are pregnant. If you find you are having difficulty breastfeeding, I strongly recommend asking for help from someone who has experience coaching new moms with breastfeeding.

With my first, I was desperate to learn to feed her in a sling so I could continue whatever I was doing if she got hungry while we were out. Our hospital offered the services of a free lactation consultant and she helped me figure out this neat and convenient technique. If you do not have access to a lactation consultant, La Leche League is a great resource–you’ll find experts and experienced mamas and other new mothers just like you.

To all the mamas out there, I wish you the best as you begin your beautiful relationship with your child. I hope that breastfeeding becomes a joyful experience that helps you build that bond.

I’m writing this post for the Carnival of Breastfeeding.

Don’t miss these posts from other bloggers (updated throughout the day):


Photo Credit: The Blessed Virgin Breastfeeding

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4 comments

  1. Amber says:

    I completely agree with you, breastfeeding has become mysterious. In fact a lot of babyhood has become mysterious. Many of us haven’t been around any newborns until we are suddenly caring for one of our own. It makes for an awfully steep learning curve, and it doesn’t really have to be that way.

    I really wish I had actually seen some nursing mothers before my daughter was born. I attended a class and ‘practiced’ with a doll, but seeing an actual baby in person would have been so much more useful!

  2. Steph says:

    Your post brought back a lot of memories for me! I remember being pregnant with my first and a midwife told me that when it came to breastfeeding, “some babies have read the manual and some haven’t!”

    My eldest definitely hadn’t. It took us four days to latch him and three months to get a comfortable nursing relationship.

    Many of the suggestions you made were similar to those we found of great use in that situation.

    It was an enormous relief to find my next child had not only read the manual but had clearly memorized it.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Good advice! The only thing I would add is not to wait too long to work on a perfect latch. I think I was a bit lazy with my second and BOY did my nipples hurt!

  4. TopHat says:

    I agree that we don’t know how to breastfeed because we don’t see it. I’ve actually had someone ask to watch me latch on my daughter because she needed to see it done.

    Good advice!

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