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Positioning and Attachment: Problems, Dilemmas, and Solutions

Ann E. Butenas


I attended a class on breastfeeding just weeks before my son was born. Admittedly, I was kind of disgusted with it at first. The thought of a baby sucking on me did not actually appeal to me. Perhaps it was hormones dictating my attitude. Perhaps it was because I was not breastfed. Whatever the cause, nature won out and I found myself successfully nursing my son just minutes after he was born.

When I was pregnant with my first son a few years ago, I debated whether or not I would breastfeed. It did not particularly seem like something in which I would be whole-heartedly interested. Nor did it seem like something I could tastefully do, bearing in mind my lifestyle at the time. I was working part-time and I was also in graduate school. I did not see how breastfeeding a baby would be a task I could accomplish.

Nonetheless, at my husband's urging, I attended a class on breastfeeding just weeks before my son was born. Admittedly, I was kind of disgusted with it at first. The thought of a baby sucking on me did not actually appeal to me. Perhaps it was hormones dictating my attitude. Perhaps it was because I was not breastfed. Whatever the cause, nature won out and I found myself successfully nursing my son just minutes after he was born. In fact, I nursed him until he was one year old! After learning certain "tricks of the trade," I found I was quite capable of this task and even found it to be rewarding and enjoyable. I even managed to get to the point where I could breastfeed and vacuum the living room simultaneously. (But that is another story!)

To assist you in getting started on nursing, there are certain positioning and attachment issues to address. The main thing to keep in mind is to be relaxed and comfortable, realizing this is the natural way to do things.

Latching the baby on correctly is the key to a pleasant and successful breastfeeding experience. The patterns of nursing behavior are established early, and once bad habits are set, they are difficult to correct. For most women, sitting up in bed or in a comfortable chair is easiest for breastfeeding. If needed, use pillows under your lap, under your arms and behind your back. Put your feet up on a footstool to raise your knees slightly above your hips. This should eliminate back strain and put your body at the right angle. If you do not have a stool, a thick telephone book or overturned wastebasket will do the trick!

Make sure your baby is comfortable and feels supported. Using the cradle hold, nestle the baby in your arm at the level of your beast with his head and shoulders supported by your forearm just below your elbow, with your other hand holding his bottom. The baby should be turned toward you, chest to chest. His head and trunk should be in a straight line so he does not have to strain or turn his body to attach. Tuck his lower arm in to the pocket between the tow of you. Be careful not to tilt the baby's head down. That can make it difficult for him to swallow. A slight extension of his head, with his chin touching your breast, will help to keep hi nose clear without you having to press on your breast tissue.

Using a side-sitting position, place the baby on your lap or on a pillow by your side in an upright sitting position. Your outside arm should securely support the baby's body, with your hand holding and controlling his head. It is very helpful to place your hand on the back of his head, level with his hears. Properly positioned, the baby faces his mother's breast with his back relatively straight. His mouth should be open at the level of the nipple. This position allows the mother better control over the baby's head. It also helps the baby to stay awake, keeping him focused on eating rather than on napping. It also improves his coordination for eating.

In preparing to nurse, hold your breast with your fingers underneath and thumb on top. Make sure all of your fingers are placed well away from the areola. Sometimes holding your nipple between your fingers for a couple of seconds will help it to become more erect. Manually express a couple of drops of milk to entice the baby to nurse. For a woman with large breasts, a rolled washcloth or diaper under the breast will help to support it.

Gently tickle the baby's lower lip with your nipple to encourage him to open his mouth wide. Once his mouth is open wide, almost like a yawn, pull him in close to you. Do not lean forward, attempting to put your breast in his mouth. Instead, pull him toward you so he had a large mouthful of breast tissue. His chin should be pressing into your breast. His nose should be just touching your breast. Until the baby is latched on and sucking well, keep supporting your breast with your hand.

The key to successful latch-on and to prevent nipple soreness is to teach your baby to take a large portion of the areola in to his mouth. To empty the milk reservoirs effectively, the baby's mouth must be positioned over them. If the baby just sucks on the nipple, minimal milk will come out, and you will remain quite sore.

If you experience any pain after your baby starts sucking, break the suction by inserting your finger into the corner of his mouth between the gums, and then try again. Discomfort during latch-on is not uncommon in the first few weeks of nursing. Remember! Both you and the baby are learning this process together! If you are lucky, you will become very good at this and as you relax, you might even find you are napping during the process. What a great way to catch up on some much-needed rest!

To assure you that your breastfeeding experience is going well, here are some signs to keep in mind:
1.) The baby is nursing frequently, about 8 - 12 times in a 24-hour period.
2.) The baby has at least 6 - 8 wet cloth diapers, or 5 - 6 disposable ones, every 24 hours.
3.) You can hear the baby swallowing while breastfeeding.
4.) Breastfeeding is not painful, and you see some changes in your breast within 48 hours of the baby's birth.
5.) The baby is content, as well as alert, between feedings.
6.) The baby's weight gain is up to birth weight by the third week of his life.

Enjoy this experience. It does not last long. I had two more sons within a three-year period after the birth of my first son. Between the three of them, I managed to breastfeed for a cumulative period of just over 40 months. My breastfeeding experiences with each of them gave me quite a bond with them, each unique in and of themselves. It is something I will never regret doing.

(Certain information in this article was provided by the Breastfeeding National Network and the Shawnee Mission Medical Center breastfeeding class.)

Nursing Tips for New MomsBreastfeeding - Starting Out Right

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master's in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12.

Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-riented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder.a great way to keep track of a child's complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son's Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as "Ann's," for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys!

Her website showcases her new book.

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