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How do I position my baby to breastfeed?

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Note: For clarity, we are referring to baby as "he" and mother as "she."

During the early weeks optimal positioning is especially important. When you and your baby are well positioned, your nipples stay healthy and your baby can feed most efficiently. Concern about sore nipples is a common reason that mothers contact La Leche League. Proper positioning helps eliminate many cases of sore nipples.

You may have noticed this is a long FAQ. Be assured that breastfeeding has been successfully accomplished by mothers and babies for centuries. However, like other seemingly simple tasks, it takes a lot of words to describe. LLL Leaders are experienced in guiding mothers through the positioning process. If you feel overwhelmed by preparing to breastfeed your baby, contact your local Leader for information and support. She will be happy to simplify matters for you.

Basic Steps for Optimal Positioning

  1. 1. Position yourself comfortably with back support, pillows supporting your arms and in your lap and your feet supported by a footrest or a telephone book.
  2. 2. Position baby close to you. with his hips flexed, so that he does not have to turn his head to reach your breast. His mouth and nose should be facing your nipple. If possible, ask your helper to hand you the baby once you are comfortable. (See "Going Beyond the Basics "

    for details.)

  3. 3. Support your breast so it is not pressing on your baby's chin. Your baby's chin should drive into your breast. (See "Breast Support Techniques " below for descriptions.)
  4. 4. Attach or latch baby onto your breast. Encourage him to open his mouth wide and pull him close by supporting his back (rather than the back of his head) so that his chin drives into your breast. His nose will be touching your breast. Your hand forms a "second neck" for your baby. (See "Is My Baby Latched on Well " below for further information.)
  5. 5. Enjoy! If you are feeling pain, detach baby gently and try again.

These steps may need to be repeated frequently during the early weeks. You and your baby will find a technique that works for you after some practice.

Going Beyond the Basics

As you and your baby become more experienced at breastfeeding, you will find that breastfeeding positions can be altered in many ways, even from feeding to feeding. As long as you are comfortable and baby is nursing successfully, use what works for you. Try experimenting with the four positions below.

Remember, in any of these positions, it is very important to bring the baby to your nipple height. Leaning over your baby can cause backaches, neck/shoulder strain or sore nipples.

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