Breast-Feeding: Nature's Formula for Success
Technique Is Everything
Despite the benefits of breast-feeding, only a relative few mothers stick
with it for the time recommended by experts. About 60% of women start
breast-feeding in the hospital, but the number drops to 20% by the time the
baby is 6 months old.
One of the biggest reasons women abandon nursing is the gamut of
difficulties they may experience getting started, such as inadequate milk
supply or sore nipples. But many of these difficulties, often the result of
improper positioning and latching technique, could be avoided if women had the
support and instruction they need to get off to the right start.
"I think mothers should be patient with themselves. They're learning a
new skill," says Best-Macia. "A baby that's positioned and latched well
right from the beginning will avoid a lot of the difficulties you hear
about," she says.
For example, in one study Best-Macia did at St. Vincent's Hospital in New
York, the breast-feeding problems among women who were discharged from the
hospital dropped by half after labor and delivery nurses learned how to teach
proper breast-feeding techniques.
An easy way to learn breast-feeding is by holding the baby in the so-called
football or clutch position.
Find a comfortable position with back support and with your knees higher
than your hips. Place your baby on his side on pillows at breast level, with
his nose to your nipple and his neck straight. For feeding on the left breast,
place your left arm along your baby's back and support your baby's head with
your left arm.
Place your fingertips behind his ears and the heel of your hand across his
shoulder blades. Supporting your breast in your free hand, lightly tickle your
baby's lips with your nipple until he opens wide, aim your baby's lower lip
toward the areola so he takes in more breast near the lower lip, and push with
the heel of your other hand across your baby's shoulder blades to bring him
onto the breast quickly and deeply.
Let your baby nurse at the first breast for as long as he likes, then put
him on the other side until he stops nursing by himself. At each new feeding,
alternate the breast you begin with, Best-Macia says.
Don't force a newborn to switch sides during feedings, she says. The fat
content changes as the breast is drained. So, if you switch too early, your
baby may not get the higher-fat milk that comes at the end. Your milk supply
will adjust to the baby's needs.
Some common mistakes include improperly aligning the baby so that only the
head is turned sideways, pushing the breast into the baby's mouth instead of
bringing the baby onto the breast and latching the baby too high.