What every new mom needs to know about baby's first feeding, latching on, and letting down.
Ask any expert, and they'll tell you that breastfeeding is the most
natural of a woman's mothering instincts -- an almost indescribable urge, some
say, to both nurture and nourish your new born child.
But as any experienced mom can tell you, the moves and
motions of feeding a newborn might feel anything but normal or natural,
at least in the beginning. Mother Nature may be sending breastfeeding signals
your way, but when it comes to knowing exactly what to do, you could find
yourself at a complete loss.
"Lots of women wonder why, if breastfeeding is such a normal, natural
thing, the skills don't just magically appear," says Jan Wenk, IBCLC,
certified lactation counselor at NYU Medical Center in New York
The answer, she says, is simply a lack of exposure to
the process itself. "A generation or two ago, little girls watched their
mother's breastfeed, sisters watched each other -- and women generally had a
support system as well as role models they could emulate," says
Today, she says, many women don't have any experience
on which to draw -- so it's not uncommon for some to feel awkward or even
The good news is that with just a little bit of
knowledge and a tiny bit of patience, you can quickly and easily master the art
of breastfeeding, while increasing your comfort level at the same
Baby to Breast: Latching On
In the same way that you are learning to breastfeed,
your baby is also learning to eat. But as natural as the suckling instinct is,
don't be surprised if your new little bundle of joy has a bit of trouble
mastering what experts call "latching on."
"In essence, this is the way a baby needs to
attach to their mother's breast to receive milk," says Carol Huotari,
IBCLC, a certified lactation counselor and manager of the Breastfeeding
Information Center at La Leche League International in Schaumberg, Ill.
In addition, having a good "latch" also helps
mom avoid sore nipples and keeps the breasts from becoming engorged with milk,
which in turn can decrease the risk of infection.
To help ensure a good latch, hold your breast and
touch your nipple to the center of your baby's lips, Huotari says. This will
invoke what is called the "rooting reflex," sending a signal to your
baby to open his or her mouth.
As this occurs, she says gently pull your baby toward
your breast, allowing your nipple and at least one inch of your entire areola
(the dark area surrounding your nipple) to disappear into your baby's mouth.
Your baby's lips should look full and pouting, as if they were blowing you a
"One of the biggest mistakes women make is giving
their baby only their nipple to suck. In order for proper latching to take
place, much more of the breast must go into the baby's mouth. This is one
reason why it's so important that the mouth be as wide as wide as possible when
a nursing session begins," Huotari tells WebMD.