How to Breastfeed a Newborn Baby
- February 26, 2021
- by Melissa Lawrence
Breastfeeding a newborn is tricky business. I’ve been through the ringer with this, believe me, over the course of breastfeeding five (now six) babies. I’ve had engorged breasts, mastitis, low milk supply, adequate milk supply, nipple bruises, fissures and pain, and just about every other breastfeeding problem you can imagine. My sixth baby Bracey was born 10 weeks prematurely so although he is 17 weeks old, he’s more akin to a seven-week-old in terms of his maturity. Since nursing is so challenging and there is a plethora of conflicting advice regarding what to do, I wanted to try to sift through all the information and come up with a set of straightforward instructions for breastfeeding a newborn baby. So with all that said, here’s my five-step plan.
Step One: Pick your Nursing Chair
The first step when it comes to breastfeeding a young baby successfully is to settle comfortably into the right chair, ideally, a breastfeeding chair or glider, that provides proper support for your lower back, upper back, and arms. While holding your back straight, you want to keep your neck and upper back relaxed. You’ll tend to strain these areas a lot while holding, burping, and gazing down at your baby. Breastfeeding takes a lot of time, figure between seven and ten hours a day during the early weeks, so having your body in a comfortable position that minimizes muscle strain is key.
Step Two: Hold your Newborn into the Right Breastfeeding Position
Various newborn breastfeeding positions are popular among mothers, but the easiest with which to start in my book is the horizontal cradle hold. With a small baby, you’ll want to place a cushion or breastfeeding pillow on top of your lap to get the baby close to your breasts. You then want to position the baby’s mouth near your nipple but tuck their head back a bit, which will encourage your baby to open their mouth.
Step Three: Secure a Proper Breastfeeding Latch
The key to breastfeeding successfully is a proper latch. Touch your baby’s mouth with your nipple to get the baby to open wide, and then to pull your baby onto your breast with their mouth as wide open as possible. If your baby’s mouth is too narrow, they will suck improperly and this can cause nipple fissures, blisters, and bruises (I’ve had them all). When this happens, break the suction by placing your pinky finger in a glass of sterile water and then inserting it between the baby’s mouth and your breast. Once the latch has been broken, dry your breast with a clean, dry cloth (a baby can’t latch onto a moist breast) and encourage your baby to latch on again.
Step Four: Listen for Baby’s Drinking
When they begin breastfeeding, babies suck to encourage the milk to flow into the breast. This flow is also called the “let down.” With Bracey, it sometimes takes me a few minutes to get the let down. Bracey tends to suck a bit and then hang out and wait for it. That is perfectly fine and part of the process of nursing. What you do want to be on the lookout for, though, is non-nutritive sucking that is not drinking aka the human pacifier problem. While some sucking is fine — it stimulates milk production and soothes the baby — when overdone, it can wear your nipples out! So listen for the sound of the baby drinking the milk. That way you know your baby is feeding. When this sound lightens, burp your baby, latch them on again, and make sure that they do not want to eat more milk.
Step Five: Drink tons of fluids
One of the primary causes of low breastmilk supply is dehydration. Drink, drink, and then drink some more. Put a water glass in your bathroom and every time you go to the bathroom, drink a glass of water. And make sure to take care of yourself by eating healthy foods and trying to get enough rest.