Sage Advice in honor of World Breastfeeding Week

To commemorate  World Breastfeeding Week  we asked our friend, Laura Keegan, to share her Tips for Breastfeeding Comfort.  I met Laura when she was working as a Family Nurse Practitioner in our pediatrician's office.  Unfortunately, all too few pediatricians are familiar with what it takes to start out a great breastfeeding relationship.  Laura is in the minority — she is the author of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy (available on her website). Her extensive experience as a mother, Family Nurse Practitioner, health educator and speaker have provided her with a unique perspective on successful breastfeeding. She has been in clinical practice for over 25 years and maintains a holistic solo private family practice in Dutchess County, NY, 1 hour north of NYC. She is married and has four children. We love her book for her straightforward, easy to follow advice and beautiful photos. Christiane Northrup, MD, a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness describes Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy as:

'Magnificent. It's like having a wise and loving grandmother show you exactly how to nurse your baby.'

6 Tips for Breastfeeding Comfort:

1) Allow for frequent opportunities to feed comfortably the first couple days of your baby’s life. Even if the feeds are brief, it will take time, at first, to figure out how to get comfortable each time you feed. Since the early milk is calorie rich colostrum, the baby does not need a lot of volume, giving you time to learn and practice.

2) Spend time skin-to-skin with your baby during and between feeds. Skin-to-skin contact can be very helpful in calming and getting in a comfortable position for breastfeeding. Whether a baby is born vaginally or by Cesarean, skin-to-skin contact can begin at birth unless there is a medical reason that prevents it. 

3) Calm your baby when he is ready to feed with your voice and your touch.

4) Accept help on the homefront. Let your family and friends know that a mom breastfeeding her newborn is usually caring for, touching and holding, or close to her baby 24/7. Seek their help with household duties and childcare for 6 weeks or at least until you feel breastfeeding is well established. If problems arise, seek help with breastfeeding but also help that will relieve you of your other responsibilities.

5) Minimize friction Keep In mind that unlike bottle-feeding, it is MOST comfortable for you and your baby if the baby does NOT center his mouth over the nipple when he breastfeeds. Nipple pain and damage are best prevented if your baby’s nose or upper lip is in line with the nipple so that when he opens his mouth to feed, his chin touches the breast first, and the nipple points to and ends up deep in the roof of the baby’s mouth. The nipple will slip just under his upper lip as he draws the breast in to the space in the roof of his mouth where potentially painful friction on the nipple is minimized.  (If you experience any nipple soreness or damage, applying a cream with calendula in it can be helpful in addition to getting as comfortable a feed as possible.)

6) Babies search by touch.Learn what to expect as a baby searches for and takes the breast. Babies search for the breast by touch not by sight and often bob their heads. They may cry when their face momentarily loses contact with mom.  Moms often misinterpret the head movement and crying as rejection of the breast when these behaviors actually are from a searching for the breast. Also, keep in mind that the goal is for the baby to get as deep a mouthful of breast as possible. This is achieved when both you and baby are comfortable and fully supported; and your baby is given room to root and tilt his head back to get a mouthful of breast. Tilting his head back when he opens his mouth creates more open space for the breast deep in his mouth.

Make sure to check out Laura's book, Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy, for more sage advice. Images and text copyright Laura Keegan, Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy.

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