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What are the Different Types of Breastfeeding Techniques?

By Amy Hunter
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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Learning successful breastfeeding techniques increases the likelihood of a successful breastfeeding experience for both mother and baby. Breastfeeding can be a challenge, but learning different techniques, such as how to get a successful start to nursing, day to day activities that make nursing easier, and different positions to hold the baby, all make the process easier. It is important to remember that if one breastfeeding technique is not working, it is okay to try something different. The first few weeks are the most challenging while breastfeeding; patience during this time can lead to successful breastfeeding through the first year of baby's life and beyond.

Before giving birth, ask your healthcare provider how soon after delivery nursing is permitted. While complications may arise during delivery that could make it necessary for the baby to visit the infant nursery immediately, in cases of a trouble-free, full term delivery, nursing soon after birth is important. From about 45 minutes after birth to two hours following delivery, most newborns are wide awake and eager to eat. The baby is usually calm and receptive to nursing this time, and the mothers' breasts have not yet become engorged with milk, which make it easier for baby to latch on. The colostrum a mother produces during the first few days can also help boost the baby's immune system.

There are several different positions that allow mother and baby alike to be comfortable during nursing. Becoming comfortable while nursing is one of the breastfeeding techniques that allows you to nurse for longer periods of time. Moms who are comfortable discretely nursing in public, and who can breastfeed easily lying in bed or sitting at the kitchen table, will be less inclined to wean early for convenience reasons.

The cradle hold is the most common position. The mother sits in a comfortable chair, with baby nestled in the crook of her arm, supporting the baby's head and neck with her elbow. The baby's body and legs are supported by mother's forearm and hand. For the cross cradle position, the baby faces the opposite direction, with the mother's hand supporting the baby's head and neck.

The "football" hold is good for very small babies. While the mother is sitting in a comfortable chair, she positions the baby so his head and body are under the mother's arm, with baby's head supported by mom's hand, and her body on mom's arm. The side-lying position allows mom to rest while nursing her baby. Mom and baby lay down, facing each other. Mom uses her top arm to support baby, and positions the bottom breast so that baby can latch on.

Frequent and full nursing are important breastfeeding techniques as well, as both help baby learn how to breastfeed, and encourage the breasts to produce an adequate supply of milk. Nurse newborns between 8 and 12 times in each 24 hour period, and nurse from both breasts at each feeding. Alternate the breast that you start nursing with, to ensure that the baby does not develop a preference.

Create a calm environment while nursing. Older babies can easily nurse in distracting conditions, or while you are distracted. While learning breastfeeding techniques, choose a quiet room, and take a few minutes to become calm and focused on baby before beginning to nurse. Taking the time to become comfortable breastfeeding will make the process enjoyable and increase the odds of success.

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