Are you having trouble breastfeeding? Do you have sore nipples? If you are reading this today, I want you to know that you are not alone. I have been there too.
In this article, I will give you some helpful tips to solve this problem, and hopefully improve your breastfeeding journey.
For the first 2 months of my son’s life, I struggled with latching him correctly. I had sore and cracked nipples, painful breast engorgement, positioning issues and so much more.
If you are determined to nurse your baby, then don’t give up. I will share with you some of the many helpful tips I learned along the way.
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Problem 1 – Incorrect Breastfeeding Position
One of the biggest mistakes that new mothers make is trying to breastfeed their baby in the same position that they would use when bottle feeding. Notice the differences between the bottle-feeding position vs. Breastfeeding position
The bottle-fed baby has his stomach facing up, while the breastfed baby has her stomach facing her mother directly.
This is extremely important. Whether you are using the cradle hold, football hold, side-lying, or kangaroo hold, you MUST make sure that you have your baby facing you STOMACH TO STOMACH.
If you are breastfeeding but using a bottle-feeding hold, then your newborn will have trouble getting adequate breast tissue in their mouth when they try to latch on.
When you attach your baby to the breast, you also want to make sure that you check the outline of your baby’s body. Are their EAR, SHOULDER, and HIP aligned in a straight line? If they are not, then your infant will not be able to get a deep latch.
The blue line in the image below shows the proper alignment of the ear-shoulder-hip. It also shows the baby facing stomach to stomach.
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Problem 2 – Baby has a shallow latch
In the 2 months that I had problems with breastfeeding, I managed to fix my positioning issue very quickly using the tips above, but I still found that I was having a lot of pain when I would feed my son.
Here’s how I finally solved my breastfeeding issue
It took me a very long time to understand that positioning was just one of my problems. The biggest problem was achieving a proper deep latch.
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Why Is a Deep Latch Important?
For your baby to get enough milk when feeding, they need to open their mouths as wide as they can go so that they get a huge mouthful of breast. The idea is that opening their mouths wide enough will pull your nipple into the soft palate of the roof of their mouths.
To understand the anatomy of the mouth a little, use your tongue to touch the roof of your mouth. The part in the front is rough with grooves (hard palate), and the part in the back is smooth (soft palate).
If your baby does not open wide enough, your nipple will land in the hard palate, leading to soreness, cracks, and bleeding.
So how do you get your baby to latch properly? Below are some steps that can help.
Choose a nursing position that works for you. position your baby stomach to stomach with proper alignment of ear, shoulder, and hip
Make a V shape with the thumb and pointer finger of your dominant hand
Use that V shape to support the base of your baby’s head closer to the neck area. Don’t hold the back of the head, because it might prevent the baby’s head from tilting backward.
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If you have large breasts, you can use your other hand to support your breast.
Move your baby closer to your breast, NOT your breast closer to the baby.
Tickle your baby’s upper lips with your nipples then move the baby slightly away. Repeat this until your baby has their head tilted back and their mouth wide open LIKE A YAWN.
I know it is very difficult to patiently wait for your baby to open their mouth when they are fussing and crying from frustration, but be patient.
Watch for the wide mouth and immediately attach your baby to your breast.
Your baby’s bottom lip should touch your breast first before the top lip. This will allow for a deeper latch.
This is the final and most important step. Make sure that your baby takes as much of the bottom breast/areola into their mouth as possible and very little of the top areola. See the images I drew below.
The image with the red shows the RIGHT way of latching, with most of the underside of the breast/areola (shaded in green) in the baby’s mouth, and very little of the top breast tissue.
The image with the light blue shows the WRONG way of latching with most of the upper part of the breast in the baby’s mouth, and very little of the bottom breast tissue.
If you need more visuals, the video below really helped me see breastfeeding mothers in action. It explained everything I was doing wrong and how to fix it.
But wait. there’s more!
Problem 3 – The Exaggerated latch or Flipple Technique
Here’s another trick to help you latch your baby better
The Flipple Technique helps you get as much bottom breast tissue into your baby’s mouth.
To do the flipple method, tickle your baby’s mouth wide open as described above. Use your thumb and pointer finger to roll your breast upward so that your nipple is facing the ceiling.
Bring your baby’s head to your breast with their lower lips touching the underside of your breast, then release your nipple into their mouth.
Watch the video below for a demonstration of how to do the flipple technique.
Have you tried all the suggestions above, but you’re still struggling? read keep reading to learn more solutions.
Problem 4 – Bad Breastfeeding Posture
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Have you considered that your posture might be making your breastfeeding issues worse? I didn’t realize how important my posture was to my baby’s ability to latch.
A proper breastfeeding posture looks like this: Your back is straight, with your feet planted on the ground. Your shoulders are relaxed and your neck is not tense.
If you need to, use a rolled-up towel to support your baby’s head.
Consider using a good supportive breastfeeding pillow. If you begin to experience neck or shoulder pain while breastfeeding, it means your breastfeeding pillow is no longer supportive.
Without a good nursing pillow, the burden of supporting your baby will fall on your shoulders, neck, and arms.
Overtime, this will result in a kind of chronic pain and headache called “the mother’s shoulder”. This bad posture also leads to poor latch because your baby struggles to get their head high enough to meet your breast.
But that’s not all, there is help available in your area if you’re still struggling.
Available Support For Breastfeeding Mothers
I know that this breastfeeding journey is not easy. I hope that I have shared enough resources to help you along your journey. Below are some free resources that you can use
1. Ask other mothers for help
Don’t be afraid to ask experienced mothers out there for help. They may know some tricks and tips to make breastfeeding easier.
2. Get a lactation consultant
Lactation consultants are trained professionals who specialize in providing breastfeeding help. If you can afford a lactation consultant, then get one to help you.
3. Find a local La Leche league
If you can’t afford a lactation consultant, then you can reach out to your local La Leche League to get free resources. See link below to find a La Leche League in your area.
4. Go to your local baby cafe
Depending on where you live, you might have a Baby Cafe in your area. Baby Cafe offers free in-person breastfeeding support. Because it is in-person, you can also connect with other moms and find friends as well. See link below for a Baby Cafe in your area
5. Post partum Support International
A very helpful organization that provides group support and counseling to mothers struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. see link below
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My goal is to help as many moms as possible. I hope that you’ve learned a thing or two about some things you can do today to fix your breastfeeding issues.