Although breastfeeding is the natural method of feeding a baby, it is a skill that must be learned in order to be effective and enjoyable. The first thing you must learn is how to correctly position the baby at the breast.
Proper positioning has far-reaching implications. First, it allows the baby to empty or "milk" the breast efficiently. In turn, efficient milking stimulates the breasts to produce exactly the amount of milk your baby needs. Secondly, correct positioning can help prevent or greatly minimize sore nipples or other complications.
When a baby has learned to grasp the breast properly and obtain milk efficiently, that baby is said to be "latched" onto the breast. Many nursing couples master latching easily; just as many others need instruction, practice, time and patience. The first few days are critical to the success of a nursing relationship. Therefore, take time during the early period to correctly position your baby so that he/she will latch correctly to your breast. The breast, a veritable "milk factory", works on a supply-and-demand basis. Therefore, in order to produce milk, you must stimulate the breasts effectively.
When you are pregnant, your breasts fill with colostrum, the first vital, nutritive substance your baby gets. After you give birth, both a complex hormonal response and the stimulation received when the baby sucks colostrum from your breasts tell your body to produce milk. Upon yet another hormonal signal, the milk travels through the duct system deep within the breast to the sinuses directly behind the areola, the darkened area surrounding the nipple. Your job is to position your baby so that his/her jaws compress these sinuses, and the baby can draw both the nipple and the areola towards the upper back of his/her mouth. The baby's palate cushions and protects the nipple as his/her tongue thrusts upward in a milking motion which helps to empty the sinuses. An "empty" breast signals the body to make yet more milk, and thus the process continues, providing exactly the amount of milk your baby needs.
In order for this process to work efficiently you must:
hold the baby so that he/she is facing the nipple
keep your fingers away from the area to be drawn into the baby's mouth, allowing the baby to draw in the entire nipple and as much of the areola as possible
press your fingers slightly towards your ribs to keep the nipple extended as much as possible
guide and insert the areola by centering the nipple in the baby's mouth and pointing it toward the top back section of the baby's mouth
hold the baby in close to your body
The baby must:
face the mother's body
open his/her mouth wide (like a big yawn)
draw the nipple in to the upper back part of his mouth
place his gums beyond the nipple, taking in as much of the areola as possible
have his tongue out, over his lower gum, "cradling" the nipple and areola