It has been said that the bond between a mother and child is unique and one of the most striking parts of this relationship is the bond of breastfeeding. Some people love it, others hate it, but you can’t deny the advantages of breastfeeding both physically and psychologically.
Indeed, breastmilk contains several unique properties which make it the ideal source of nutrition for infants. Most infants can survive for the first six months of their lives on breastmilk alone! It provides them with all the energy, nutrients, and antibodies they need. Best of all, the composition of breastmilk changes as your child grows older to fit their new dietary needs.
However, to most mothers breastfeeding is no easy task. To be done safely and conveniently for both the mother and child there are some important lactation techniques and tips that she should know.
Type of Lactation Techniques
Lactation techniques (also referred to as breastfeeding techniques) refer to the way a mother can position her infant against her body to encourage proper attachment and suckling. Different lactation techniques may work better than others, depending on certain circumstances. Let's take a look at some popular lactation techniques and where they may prove to be useful:
1. Cradle hold: This is the most common breastfeeding position. Usually, it is difficult for new mothers to adopt this position at first but once the baby is adapted to this position, it is a comfortable and easy way to breastfeed.
2. Cross-cradle hold: This position makes it possible for the mother to view her nipple and her baby’s mouth. Because the mother has good control of the baby's head, she can control the head to a good latch. This position is also useful for preterm babies, twins, and babies that find it difficult to latch well.
3. Football hold/clutch hold: This is the best position for nursing twins, and also women who had a C-section as the baby doesn't lie on the abdomen of the mother. Nursing mothers that have large breast or flat/inverted nipples finds this position useful too.
4. Laid-back position/reclining position: This position is particularly important for preterm babies, twins, and babies who find it difficult to latch on to the mother’s nipples.
5. Side-lying position: This is commonly used during bedtime when the mother is weak and tired. Mothers who had a C-section also find this useful.
6. Rugby ball hold/underarm/clutch hold: This is another helpful early nursing position because it supports the baby well while giving the nursing mother enough control and a good view of the baby's face. Being tucked in closely alongside your body will help the infant feel safe as well. Mothers who had a C-section, twins, a premature baby, and those who have larger breasts may also prefer this position.
7. Upright breastfeeding/Koala hold: This technique is mainly carried out if the mother can give her baby plenty of support, and it’s also a convenient way to feed an older baby who can sit unassisted. The upright or koala hold is often the most comfortable breastfeeding position for babies who suffer from gastric reflux or ear infections (who often prefer to be upright as their sense of balance is interrupted), and it can also work well with babies who have a medical condition known as tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) or low muscle tone.
8. Dangle feeding: This position involves the baby lying on his back, while the mother crouch over him on all fours and dangling the nipple in his mouth This technique is used mainly in conditions such as mastitis (painful inflammation of the breast tissue) and don’t want their breasts to be squashed or touched. There are claims that in this techniques, gravity helps unplug blocked milk ducts, although there’s no scientific evidence to support this yet. In this position, the nursing mother can breastfeed while sitting, kneeling up over the baby on a bed or sofa, or almost lying down but propped up on your arms. Nursing mothers are often advised to use cushions, pillows, etc to support themselves so they don’t strain their back or shoulders.
9. Nursing in a sling: This is used when the baby likes to be breastfed constantly, especially when the nursing mother is busy with chores or when she has to look after the older children. This technique may require a little practice. Here, the baby is also expected to be an experienced breastfeeder and must be able to hold their head up.
10. Double rugby hall hold/double clutch: This is a very good breastfeeding position for twins, as you can feed them in tandem while having your hands relatively free. There may be a need to use breastfeeding pillows in this technique, especially for newborns. This is to support the babies into position, and also minimizes pressure on your belly if the mom had a cesarean section.
11. Dancer hand nursing position: Particularly used for babies with difficulty latching, such as those with conditions known as down syndrome, preterm babies, babies with an illness or disability. This technique also gives the baby room for support and the mother room for control over the baby's position, as well as a great view of how well latched-on they are.
Tips To Encourage Proper Infant Attachment During Breastfeeding
Here are some ways mothers can encourage proper attachment of their infant while breastfeeding:
Gently stroke the baby’s lip with their nipple
This aims to open the baby’s mouth adequately using a primitive reflex known as rooting. Some breastfeeding experts suggest aiming the nipple toward the baby’s nose and then directing it down to the upper lip to open the mouth wide. This prevents the lower lip from getting tucked in during nursing. If your baby frowns away, gently rub the cheek on the side nearest you. The rooting reflex will make the baby turn back toward the breast.
Bringing the baby towards the breast
Don't move your breast toward the mouth or stuff your nipple into an unaccepting mouth, instead let the baby make the first move. It might take a couple of tries before your baby opens his mouth adequately enough to latch on properly, but just be patient and they’ll soon get the hang of it.
Make sure the nipple and parts of the areola are properly placed into the baby's mouth
Attaching to just the nipple may not compress the milk glands and can cause issues for the mother such as soreness and cracking. However, when both the nipple and some of the areola are properly attached, the actions of the mouth, tongue, and lips will help get the milk out of the mammary glands.
Ensure your baby's breathing is not restricted by the breast
Once the baby is properly latched on, mothers can lightly depress the breast with the finger moving it away from the baby’s nose. Elevating the baby slightly can also create some breathing space. However, it's worthy to make sure not to lose the baby's grip on the areola.
From the above, it's very evident that there's a need for breastfeeding mothers to adopt the proper lactating techniques for both the growth and development of the baby and the comfort of the mother