A mother nursing her baby — it’s one of the most beautiful images nature could create. It’s also one of the simplest. Breastfeeding is so natural, in fact, that we’ve been doing it for millions of years. (Indeed, without it, the human race wouldn’t have survived.)
But don’t be fooled: For some women, the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding are a challenge. “Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s a practiced skill, almost an art form,” says Corky Harvey, R.N., M.S., a lactation consultant and co-owner of The Pump Station, a breastfeeding-support center in Santa Monica, Calif. “You could read a book about playing the flute and learn a lot about the instrument,” she explains, “but you won’t really learn how to play the flute until you actually do it.” Breastfeeding is no different. As with learning to play a musical instrument, success comes from a combination of motivation, knowledge of essential skills, and practice.
And as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Use the photos here as your guide to the techniques and positions you need to know for successful breastfeeding.
1. Cradle (pictured top left)
Position your baby on your forearm, her head in the crook of your arm. Support her bottom with your other hand. Pull her in close to you, belly to belly, with her ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line.
While useful for all women, this position is particularly helpful for mothers who have had a Cesarean section. Place your baby on a pillow, tucked close to your side. Rest your arm on the pillow to bring your baby’s mouth up to your breast; support her head with your hand.
This position is also helpful if you had a C-section or want to rest while nursing your baby. Lie on the side you will be breastfeeding on. Place your head on a pillow and draw your baby in close to you, using your arm to support her bottom. Use your other hand to bring your breast up to baby’s mouth.
Any good lactation specialist will tell you: Latching is everything. Here’s how to do it: Place your thumb and fingers around the areola. Tilt your baby’s head back slightly. As her mouth opens wide, lift her head up and over the nipple. Make sure her lips are flanged and surround the entire nipple and areola.