Learning how to breastfeed can be surprisingly (and painfully) hard.
That may sound brutal, but it’s true.
After all, you’re trying something you’ve never done before, and your infant’s cries of hunger only add to the pressure to get it “perfect the first time”.
Pressure you really don’t need right now.
Look. I’ve breastfed three babies. I’ve also given the occasional bottle of formula. All three are healthy, intelligent, busy little girls.
It is my philosophy, when it comes to breastfeeding, that every mother should consider the pros and cons and decide what makes the most sense for her family.
That said, I strongly encourage new moms to mentally commit to give breastfeeding a good try. Set small goals for yourself to shoot for. Start with 4 weeks, then 6 weeks, then 12…until you decide that it’s weaning time.
This guide is meant to provide you with a working, step-by-step process of how to breastfeed. It’s not to make you a perfect breastfeeding machine. That will depend on you, your baby’s nursing personality, and other factors.
Our goal is to learn the correct breastfeeding techniques so we can truly give nursing our best shot.
So let’s get started!
How to Breastfeed Step #1:
Get Into Proper Position
Let me blow your mind for just a second.
Infants have to be held to nurse.
As of this moment, there is no breastfeeding-robot-holder out there for purchase. (I’ve got a patent for the iNurser.) So I guess it’s up to you to hold the baby.
The football hold, the cradle hold, the cross-cradle hold, the cat’s-cradle hold… (just kidding, made that last one up) you’ve got plenty of options. Which one should you choose?
The one I recommend for those just learning how to breastfeed is the Diva Breastfeeding Position. It’s the easiest to master, it frees up an arm to help with breast/nipple positioning, and it’s comfortable.
Still, I’m an equal-opportunity positionist. So if that holding technique doesn’t feel natural, you can always pick another.
How to Breastfeed Step #2:
Teach Your Baby to Latch Correctly
Once you’re in position, the obvious next step is to attach your baby’s hungry mouth to your life-sustaining breast.
Oh, but it’s not that easy.
Enter the Breastfeeding Latch.
NOOOOOooooooooooooooo… *runs screaming*
This is by far the hardest skill to master. And unfortunately, you’re not the one learning it.
Depending on his already-emerging personality, your little baby student may decide “Learning is for Nerds” and you can take “Ye proper latch” and shove it into his now-filling diaper.
Congratulations on your first parenting opportunity! (in a long LONG LONG line…)
Guess who gets to teach him how to find the right latch? Yep! YOU DO!! yippee!
No pressure, but the fate of
the world your nipple depends on it.
How to Breastfeed Step #3:
Speak the Language of “Pain”
When I first started learning how to breastfeed Lauren (#1 in my family of girls), all my lactation consultants kept saying the same thing: “If you feel pain, you’re doing it wrong.”
There was one big problem with that somewhat misleading (i.e. crappy) piece of advice: I’m a complete weenie.
Here’s my definition of “pain-free”: The absence of any strange or remotely uncomfortable feeling.
In other words, I kept thinking that feeding a baby on my breast should feel like there’s no baby feeding on my breast. Yes, I realize that sounds stupid, but I really didn’t think I should feel anything. And breastfeeding feels WEIRD at first.
It is weird. But it’s weird in an amazing kinda of way. There is a very real sense of this-is-what-I-was-made-for. It’s soooo worth the odd tugs. So just hang in there. It will feel “normal” in no time.
When you are FIRST STARTING to breastfeed, you’re going to feel some strange tugs and pulls. In fact, for the more “sensitive mothers” out there like myself *Heck YEAH I had an epidural!*, it may be categorized as “pain”. (For you natural-birth mothers out there, with your uteruses of steel…Oh, how I envy Thee…)
You’re not going to be able to master how to breastfeed unless you understand your body’s language of pain. Is the pain you’re feeling just “beginner’s pain”? Waiting for your breast to toughen up? Is it “let down pain” as your milk begins to flow?
Or is it a sign of a latch-gone-wrong? (and the crashing and burning of your breastfeeding hopes and dreams?)
That, my friend, is the question.
A question I can answer! ha HA!
Read these descriptions of breastfeeding latch pain, so you can determine when to adjust and when to endure.
How to Breastfeed Step #4:
Those first few weeks can be incredibly difficult. You’re milk hasn’t come in, your baby seems hungry all the time, and you’re sleep-deprived.
Not the best combination for trying out something new!
Still, if you can get past those first several weeks you’ll be set. Sometimes breastfeeding long term works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Your merit as a parent doesn’t depend on whether or not you breastfeed. There are so many other more important factors at play there.
So really, there should be no pressure.
Give it a try and see what happens.
You’ve got nothing to lose. It’s just four weeks. You can do it!
Have You Read These Yet?
- Everything a New Mama Warrior Needs To Know About Baby Care
- How to Make Mom Friends, Courtesy of Dr. Sheldon Cooper
- 5 Powerful Ways to Find Yourself in Motherhood
- 15 Things You Should Expect When Maternity Leave Ends
- The Secret Breastfeeding Position No One Talks About
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Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at MightyMoms.club and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She’s a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, has been a featured parenting expert writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, Cafe Mom, and others. If it’s 2am and you’re desperate to read SOMETHING, check out her deepest darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn’t be allowed to blog.