One of the most important things to know as a new parent is how to feed your baby.
The best way to help you understand the optimum positioning when trying to breast feed or bottle feed your baby is to do a little exercise with me.
For it you will need a drink for yourself – any drink will do.
Now with your drink, take a sip. Notice how you do it.
Regardless of what drink we have we all adopt the same position; we bring our head and body align and slightly tip our head up to be in the perfect position to swallow.
Without the drink I want you to see how hard it is to swallow in slightly different positions.
You will find that it is significantly harder to swallow comfortably and affectively in any of these 3 positions. This is a great exercise to help you to understand the importance of your baby’s position when feeding.
Now I will explore how to breastfeed a baby and then how to bottle feed a baby.
Lets explore HOW TO breastfeed first –
Some babies amazingly find their own way to the breast and feed perfectly but, some need a little to a lot of support. Remember our babies do not read a breastfeeding manual before birth and like you they have to learn. Some are fast learners others need more time and guidance. Look around, we are all different. Some of us take 6 attempts at passing our driving test while others take 1 (speaking hypothetically of course!)
Before bringing your baby to your breast for the first time it is best to take your top and bra off, clothing always gets in the way initially so my advice to you is to start very basic. Then make yourself comfortable. If you wish to, you can learn the art of being discreet later on. Do not touch your breasts for a second and instead look at the angle of your nipples. In order for your baby to have their head and body align they will need to be at the corresponding angle. Try to avoid using cushions until your baby has latched and feeding well. Cushions can often get in the way and negatively affect the baby’s position.
Remember back to our exercise didn’t just bring our body and head in line we also tipped our heads slightly or ‘sniffed the air’ before swallowing. You may be wondering how we can achieve this with a baby. In class many suggest manipulating or holding their baby’s head in the correct position. While this may seem like a good idea think back to how you drink. Imagine someone holding your head in place, would you like it? Or, would it be incredibly distracting and perhaps worrying? Babies, like us, do not like their heads being held in position. The best way to encourage your baby into a head tilt position is to support their shoulders with your opposite hand to the breast (e.g. left breast = right hand) ensuring their NOSE is directly opposite your nipple. Your nose will tease your baby resulting in them ‘looking’ up. Hey presto we have the correct position they can now take your nipple into their mouth.
But WAIT! For the next step you want to see a very WIDE mouth before bringing them close.
Exercise 2 for you: Please run your tongue along the roof of your mouth. You will get to the soft palate at the back of your mouth. This is where you want your nipple to be when your baby closes their mouth. It will be safely cushioned in this place. If your nipple is not this far back your baby will still feed but your nipple will be rubbing against the hard palate making it sore, your baby will also have to work harder for the milk.
When you see that lovely wide mouth, swiftly move your baby in close leading with their shoulders. You should see your baby’s bottom lip and chin touching the breast below the nipple first.
So the principles of your first breastfeeds are:
There are some fantastic breastfeeding clips on line. Please do explore them. UNICEF in particular is fab.
Now I will discuss how to Bottle feed.
This next part I will discuss how to bottle feed. As a Midwife I feel this topic needs to be explored more with new parents as it is often skipped over. Sadly I have seen far too many new parents not have a single CLUE when it comes bottle feeding. From picking the right bottles, teat sizes, milk to knowing how to properly serilise the equiptment. For me this is a safety issue and for the health of babies it is my duty as a midwife to provide these families with information. I set up Talking Babies to provide unbiased but, real information. If you would like to know how to bottle feed your baby please read on. If you do not please feel free to skip onto another Talking Babies post. To make it clear I am not advertising any breastmilk substitutes here (it would be illegal to do so). I am simply ensuring that those who make an informed decision to bottle feed their baby know how to do so safely.
Ok, so you are thinking of bottle feeding or keen to know how to just-in-case. If you think back to the first exercise in part 1 of feeding (go back to the beginning of this blog if you are already lost!) regardless of what we were drinking we all adopted the same position. However, there is a difference between breastfed and bottle fed babies. Breastfed babies create a vacuum when latched to the breast whereas bottle fed babies do not. They are more likely to take in unwanted wind therefore, they need to be more upright when feeding this also prevents them from taking more milk than needed.
We know that a fabulous bond develops with breastfed babies and their mothers due to the time spent feeding. Knowing this it is best to keep the person feeding your baby the same. I always suggest in class that it is a task for either or both parents. Try to avoid the temptation to pass the baby around to relatives or friends for a feed.
Making up the milk.
Please note; There used to be a tendency to always feed the baby the same amount routinely however, the advice has changed as this approach is not allowing your baby to respond to their needs. They too need to learn that sometimes they need a drink, a snack, or main meal … with dessert! Please hold back the urge to feed them the last few mls to empty the bottle. (Unless advised to do so by your Midwife or Paediatrician).
However, you chose to feed your baby know that those beautiful eyes looking up at you will love all of you no matter what. Only you know what is the right decision for you and your baby.
Give me a HEART and a share if this has been helpful. Feel free to share far and wide. There is not enough information out there!