How to breastfeed: pictures
Approved by the BabyCentre Medical Advisory Board
To breastfeed successfully, it doesn't really matter where or how you sit or lie back. What is important is that you are comfortable and can bring your baby to your breast easily. This will help you to get your latching-on technique right.
How do I start breastfeeding?
Sit or lie back so that your back is supported and you feel comfortable.
Raise your feet or your knees, if you need to.
If you are sitting up, you could use a pillow to take the weight of your baby at first, so your forearms aren't doing all the work.
If you're using a laid-back position, use cushions or pillows to support your back and shoulders. Once you're comfortable, place your baby's tummy down on your chest and abdomen, and bring your knees up, so that your baby has a surface to push on with his feet. Your body will support your baby and allow him to adjust his position, bob his head, and find your breast.
If you are lying on your side, place pillows under your head. Lay your baby alongside you, with his tummy towards yours. Again, you could bend your knees so your baby can feel them with his feet.
How do I latch my baby on to my breast?
Your baby needs to use his tongue to scoop in a big mouthful of breast. His bottom lip and tongue need to get to your breast first, and should touch your breast as far from the base of the nipple as possible.
If you're sitting or lying down, bring your baby to your breast, so he is facing your nipple, and doesn't have to turn his head to reach it. His nose, rather than his mouth, should be in line with your nipple. This gives your baby room to tip his head back just before he latches on. He should be leading with his chin, and have an open gape to his mouth. With his head tipped back, his lips will then touch your nipple.
Your baby will respond by dropping his lower jaw.
Depending on your position, you may then be able to help him to move to your breast, so that his bottom lip is as far away from the base of your nipple as possible. In a laid-back position, your baby's natural reflexes may guide him on to your breast and help him to root for your nipple.
How does latching on work?
Scooping in a big mouthful of breast lets your baby draw your breast deeply into his mouth.
Your nipple will then be right at the back of his mouth, where the hard roof of his mouth gives way to the soft area.
With a mouthful like this, your baby will be able to use his tongue smoothly and rhythmically against the under-surface of your breast. This action removes milk from the ducts.
Your baby's jaw will move up and down, following the action of his tongue, and he will swallow your milk as it flows to the back of his mouth. This should be painless for you, because your nipple will be so far back in his mouth that it won't be squashed or pinched by his tongue.
Your baby's lower gum will never touch your breast, as his tongue will always be between them, and his top jaw does not move.
What other tips will make breastfeeding easier?
Try supporting your baby in one of the following ways:
Put your palm behind your baby's shoulders and your index finger and thumb behind his ears.
Gently cradle your baby's head in your whole hand, so he can still move his head, and guide him with the heel of your hand.
Use your forearm, rather than your wrist, to support your baby's shoulders.
You can trigger your baby's reflex response by letting his mouth brush your nipple. Your baby will find your breast by touch, not by sight or smell, though these senses probably also play a part.
If you need to move your baby to help him to latch, start to adjust his position as you see his lower jaw start to drop. Don't wait until your baby's mouth is at its widest before you begin the movement. Once it is fully open, all it can do is start to close, and your baby will be unable to draw in the biggest mouthful.
As you move your baby, watch his lower lip, not his top one. Try not to worry about his top lip, and whether it will get over your nipple. Provided his bottom lip makes contact well away from the base of your nipple, his chin will indent your breast.
When your baby's chin indents breast, your nipple will move downwards slightly, and be covered by his top lip. You will not see this happen, but you will know it is right by the way it feels and the way your baby behaves.
If you find it difficult to keep your baby's hands out of your way, try wrapping him in a blanket, so that his arms are lying at his side. You will be able to get him closer to your breast.
If you in a sitting up position and are supporting your breast with your hand to start with, keep your hand as far away from your nipple as you can, preferably back on your ribcage. Once your breast is supported, keep it still, and only move your baby.
Good positions for breastfeeding
There's no one correct position for breastfeeding. Any of these styles may work well for you and your baby.
In the early days of breastfeeding, while you're still learning, you may find it easier to use the same hand for both breasts.
This means you will hold your baby across your lap to feed on one breast, and then to feed from the other breast, you'll hold your baby under your arm.
Lying down with your bodies parallel.
Cradle hold (same arm):
Holding your baby across your lap, supporting her with the same arm as your breast.
Cradle hold (opposite arm):
Holding your baby across your lap, using the opposite arm to the breast she is feeding from to support her.
Rugby ball hold:
Holding your baby underarm.
Using a cushion under your babies as you gently support them with your hands on their upper backs.
Supporting your baby while she's straddled across your knees in an upright position.
Laid-back breastfeeding (biological nurturing):
Semi-reclined, with your baby lying across your stomach or shoulder.
Laid-back breastfeeding after a caesarean:
Semi-reclined, with your baby lying vertically on you, to protect your caesarean wound.
If you find a position that works for you and your baby, it's fine to stick with it. But as your baby gets older, and you become more practised, you will probably want to change positions.
Your position may also depend on where you are when you're breastfeeding.