How to breastfeed
Breastfeeding is a skill that you and your baby learn together, and it can take time to get used to.
There are lots of different positions you can use to breastfeed. You can try different ones to find out what works best for you. You just need to check the following points:
- Are you comfortable? It's worth getting comfortable before a feed. Use pillows or cushions if necessary. Your shoulders and arms should be relaxed.
- Are your baby's head and body in a straight line? It's hard for your baby to swallow if their head and neck are twisted.
- Are you holding your baby close to you, facing your breast? Supporting their neck, shoulders and back should allow them to tilt their head back and swallow easily.
- Always bring your baby to the breast and let them latch themselves. Avoid leaning your breast forward into your baby's mouth, as this can lead to poor attachment.
- Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast. Placing your baby with their nose level with your nipple will encourage them to open their mouth wide and attach to the breast well.
- Try not to hold the back of your baby's head, so that they can tip their head back. This way your nipple goes past the hard roof of their mouth and ends up at the back of their mouth against the soft palate.
How to latch your baby on to your breast
Follow these steps to help your baby latch:
- Hold your baby close to you with their nose level with the nipple.
- Let your baby's head tip back a little so that their top lip can brush against your nipple. This should help your baby to make a wide, open mouth.
- When your baby's mouth is open wide enough their chin should be able to touch your breast first, with their head tipped back so that their tongue can reach as much of your breast as possible.
- With your baby's chin firmly touching your breast and their nose clear, their mouth should be wide open. When they attach you should see much more of the darker nipple skin above your baby's top lip than below their bottom lip. Your baby's cheeks will look full and rounded as they feed.
Video: how do I know if my baby is properly latched?
In this video, a midwife talks about how to check if your baby is latched on properly when breast feeding.
Media review due: 28 October 2022
Help and support with breastfeeding
If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding, you can:
- speak to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter
- call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am to 9.30pm, daily)
- get online NHS advice about sore nipples and other common breastfeeding problems
How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
There are a number of ways you can tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
- Your baby starts feeding with a few rapid sucks followed by longer sucks.
- Their cheeks stay rounded out, not sucked in, and you can hear them swallowing.
- Your baby seems calm during feeding and comes off your breast themselves when they've had enough.
- They appear content and satisfied after most feeds.
- They should be healthy and gaining weight (although it's normal for babies to lose a little weight in the first week after birth). Talk to your midwife or health visitor if you're concerned your baby is not gaining weight and is unsettled during or after breast feeds.
- After the first few days, your baby should have at least 6 wet nappies a day.
- After about 5 to 6 days, your baby's poo should stop looking black and thick and they should also have at least 2 soft or runny yellow poos.
Breastfeeding premature and ill babies
If your baby is in a neonatal or special care unit after the birth, you'll probably be encouraged to try something called kangaroo care once your baby is well enough.
Kangaroo care means holding your baby close to you, usually under your clothes with your baby dressed only in a nappy.
This skin-to-skin contact helps you bond with your premature baby and increase your milk supply.
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