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Breast-Feeding - How to Breast-Feed

Get your baby latched on

A proper latch helps prevent problems such as sore nipples, blocked milk ducts, breast infections, and poor infant weight gain. An improper latch is painful and frustrating. It causes some women to stop breast-feeding.

The steps to get your baby latched on slideshow.gif are about the same for all breast-feeding positions. Latching on in the cross-cradle position is an easy one to start with.

  • Make sure the baby's head and body are lined up straight, not turned to one side or tilted up or down while breast-feeding. For this position, you and your baby should be tummy to tummy. Your baby's nose should be right in front of your nipple.
  • Support and narrow your breast with one hand using a "U hold," with your thumb on the outer side of your breast and your fingers on the inner side. You can also use a "C hold," with all your fingers below the nipple and your thumb above it. Try the different holds to get the deepest latch for whichever breast-feeding position you use. Your other arm is behind your baby's back, with your hand supporting the base of the baby's head. Position your fingers and thumb to point toward your baby's ears.
  • You can touch your baby's lower lip with your nipple to get your baby to open his or her mouth. Wait until your baby opens up really wide, like a big yawn. Then be sure to bring the baby quickly to your breast—not your breast to the baby. As you bring your baby toward your breast, use your other hand to support the breast and guide it into his or her mouth.
  • Both the nipple and a large portion of the darker area around the nipple (areola) should be in the baby's mouth. The baby's lips should be flared outward, not folded in (inverted).
  • Listen for a regular sucking and swallowing pattern while the baby is feeding. If you cannot see or hear a swallowing pattern, watch the baby's ears, which will wiggle slightly when the baby swallows. If the baby's nose appears to be blocked by your breast, tilt the baby's head back slightly, so just the edge of one nostril is clear for breathing.
  • When your baby is latched, you can usually remove your hand from supporting your breast and bring it under your baby to cradle him or her. Now just relax and breast-feed your baby.

When your baby is done breast-feeding, you can break the latch by using your pinky finger. Place one finger into the corner of your baby's mouth. This will gently break the seal. You can also use your pinky to break the latch if you experience pain after your baby first latches on. Then you can start again. If you don't break the latch before you remove the baby from your breast, your nipples may become sore, cracked, or bruised.

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