One of the biggest hurdles for new moms is getting the infant to latch on properly. There are a few things that you can do to assist your new baby. We always see images of the mother cradling her new bundle that is staring up at her with the infant’s body parallel with the ceiling. That is NOT the easiest way for a new baby to nurse. I know the football hold is very popular among lactation consultants, but I could never quite get it right either. So, in an attempt to find a hold that eliminates all chances of user error, I decided to look at the technical structure of what makes a hold adequate for a good latch.
Positioning plays a huge role in proper latch. Until you and the baby get the hang of it, make sure that you have your bellies fully facing each other. This will make latching on tremendously easier for your baby. And it will only be needed for a few weeks while the baby becomes a master of his new job. New babies should be turned fully on their side so that their bellies and pelvis make FULL contact with the mother’s chest and belly. A pillow will help with this at first. It works best if the mother’s torso and the child’s body make perpendicular intersections with each other. I’ve drawn two diagrams to demonstrate what I mean.
Another problem new mothers face while breastfeeding is a sensation like her nipple is being pinched. That is also due to improper latching on. An easy way to resolve this is to make sure that the underside of the baby’s lips are making contact with the mother’s breast. Imagine that the baby were to maintain proper lip positioning while the mother took him away from her breast. His lips would be folded over so that his gums as well as the underside of both his lips would be in clear view. The pinching is felt when the baby sucks while his gums are in contact with the inside of his lips. So after the baby is sucking, just swipe your finger in between his lips and his gums. If that is too difficult you could always just pull the upper lip up and the lower lip down while the baby is nursing. That will also force the baby into proper positioning.
During the first couple of weeks, our nipples have to toughen up from all of this latch and positioning practice. This process can be very uncomfortable. Applying lanolin to the nipple will help with this immensely. No new nursing mother should be without lanolin. This helps with mild irritation and will heal and prevent painful cracking. If you run out of lanolin, don’t do nothing! Until you get some more, rub a little bit of your own milk on the nipple when you finish a feeding it will protect and sooth it with its own antibacterial qualities.