The first time you hold your newborn for a breastfeed can be a mix of emotions. Their delicate size, combined with the responsibility of positioning them correctly for feeding, can feel overwhelming. We had the privilege of speaking with Sam Cannizzaro, a seasoned NICU nurse, Educator, IBCLC, and soon-to-be mum. Sam, the driving force behind Baby Body Soul, is fervently dedicated to supporting women as they embrace motherhood.
A prevalent misconception many new mums have is that merely aligning the baby's mouth with the nipple ensures successful breastfeeding. However, as Sam shares there is a little more to it initially before it becomes second nature.
Maintain proper body alignment
Taking it back to basics with breastfeeding is incredibly important to set yourself up for success. Ensuring their head, neck, and torso align is key. This alignment allows for easier swallowing and minimises choking risks. Think of yourself when you drink a glass of water, would you drink with your head turned to the side? Further a slightly elongated neck, reminiscent of our instinctive head tilt when drinking, ensures the baby's chin firmly contacts the breast, facilitating a deeper latch. The position also cleverly supports your baby to breathe more easily when breastfeeding as there is more space between the breast and their nose.
Your hand placement when supporting your baby during breastfeeding is incredibly important. Position the palm of your hand between your baby's shoulder blades, ensuring your thumb and index/middle finger aren't too high or low relative to their ears rather than forcing their head into the breast. This stance provides stability and ensures a pressure-free latch. If you are concerned about head flop in this position, you can gently lean yourself back and allow gravity to help support the weight of your baby's head.
Lining up for success
Sam explains to begin guide your nipple towards your little one's nose. This approach is deeply intertwined with the natural art of breastfeeding. By doing so, as your baby takes a big yawn-like opening, they'll take in a generous portion of the areola, especially beneath the nipple. This position gently nudges your baby to tilt their head a backward, paving the way for a broad mouth opening and a deep, pain-free latch.
A deep latch is the secret to an effective filling feed and minimal nipple tenderness. Ideally, a glimpse of the top of your areola should be seen when your little one is on, signalling they've taken in a good portion of your breast. Keep in mind, the amount of areola visible can differ based on our unique shapes. As Sam insightfully points out, “a symmetrical latch all the way around the nipple might not always be a good sign and can sometimes be detrimental and lead to discomfort”.
Addressing breastfeeding pain
A widespread myth is that breastfeeding is inherently painful, especially initially. Sam advises, “It's natural for breastfeeding to feel slightly sensitive at the outset. However, if discomfort persists beyond 30 seconds, the latch might not be deep enough. In such instances, it's vital to de-latch and attempt again.” When your baby is not latched deeply your nipple can be compressed in their mouth up against their hard palate which can cause the pain and misshapen nipples. When your baby has taken more breast tissue into their mouth your nipple is further back and is not compressed in the same way, resulting in pain-free breastfeeding. As time goes on and your baby begins to grow you will find feeding continues to get easier as these things become second nature.
Where can I find support and help with breastfeeding?
Ask your GP, midwife, obstetrician, or healthcare provider to connect you with a lactation consultant locally. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has many resources available including a 24-hour helpline for new mamas, face-to-face workshops, and online classes.
We hope this post has provided some helpful insights and reassurance. If you found it useful, please share it with other mamas who might be navigating the same journey. And remember, we're here to support you at every stage of your breastfeeding journey. Check out our other blogs for more tips, advice, and stories from the heart.