Breast Access - Best Latch Possible - Be Kind
While living in Bangkok this year, I had the great pleasure of sharing with a big group of parents-to-be at Bumrungrad International Hospital. The topic of conversation was getting off to the best start possible with breastfeeding- a topic close to my heart of course!
To make it fun I came up with the very simplified 3 B's... here we go!
1) Breast Access- Sounds simple but there are a lot of potential barriers that can be put up in those early days while we are establishing the breastfeeding relationship. Things like not rooming in/having baby sleep far from you, swaddling (which can decrease an infant's alertness and ability to self wake when hungry), and waiting until the baby is crying before offering the breast, can all be potential barriers to breast access. Instead, let's get lots of skin-to-skin time in so we can respond to the early hunger cues like hands to mouth when a baby is just about to wake up.
2) Best Latch Possible- Of course any breastfeeding resource you read will talk about the "latch". A good latch is one that doesn't hurt and one that helps the baby drink well.
Support the baby in a way so they can reach for the breast. Reaching will open the jaw wide and allow for more breast tissue into the baby's mouth (a good thing!). The baby should have his or her little chin far from his or her own chest, with the chin pushing into moms breast while the nose does not touch the breast. With the Best latch possible we then watch for whether the baby is actually drinking or not by the movement in their jaw. A deeper drop down (with a slight pause before it rises up again) tells us the baby's mouth filled with milk and swallowed it. Breast compressions can help babies get those drinks when they are just nibbling away, and if that doesn't help after a bunch of tries we switch to the other breast!
3) Be Kind! You have never breastfed this baby before, nor has this baby ever breastfed before- breastfeeding is a learned process that can take some time. Something I talk to all moms about is the importance of BEING KIND TO YOURSELF! Remember, you are doing one of the most important jobs on the planet but it's also the hardest. The way you measure progress, productivity, and success as a mom (especially a new mom) is about to shift so give yourself the space and time to adapt to all the changes.
If you and your little one are experiencing challenges with breastfeeding, I encourage you to access the help of an IBCLC (certified lactation consultant). Do this early as they can help you assess the situation, rule out any other barriers (like tongue tie for example), and help you create a plan that will aim to move things in the right direction!