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Hold Them Close And Let Them Lead With Their Chins

The foundation for a satisfying breastfeeding session is the foundation.

“Help... a few minutes into it he arches his back and pulls off.”

“Help... I get a good latch and as soon as I let go of my breast, the pain starts.”

When I am asked into a home to try and solve these challenges, I ask the mom to show me what she has been doing. I observe her set up, watch how she positions herself and then how she holds her baby to her breast.  

If I see a mother whose hold isn’t allowing her baby to feel secure against her, I can expect that her baby isn’t getting the neural stimulation to open her mouth and feed effectively. Sometimes I see a mom who has her baby on his back, having to turn his head to reach the nipple. I can expect this baby to arch, complain and detach. Your baby needs chest and belly contact with your chest and belly, skin-to-skin, his hands touching both sides of your breast. Ear, shoulder, hip... all aligned. No waist twist, no neck twist. We lift our chins up straight to drink, the muscles involved in swallowing work better that way.  It’s unpleasant to drink with a twisted neck and tiring for your baby.

The contact, the pressure of you against your baby’s chest and belly, combined with the pressure of your breast tissue on his chin and lower lip will cause him to reflexively open his mouth to feed. If you position your baby’s body below or to the side of where your nipple naturally lies and support your baby from his bottom, even putting some pressure on his feet, you can easily push your baby’s chin and lower lip into your breast, to actually prop it up. You might need to lift your opposite breast to get him against your belly if he’s on his side. Then you can guide the baby’s top lip up and over your nipple, with the heel of your hand on his shoulder blades, your fingers near his ears. No need to hold your breast up with your hand. No letting go, no nipple slipping to the front of his mouth, no pain. Allow your baby to latch and then hug him to you. Settle back into a pattern of rhythmic, continuous sucking and swallowing. Let gravity help bring your baby closer to you rather than leaning into him.  

“If the baby is fitted well into the woman’s body, this repeated reflex action incrementally draws more and more breast tissue into the mouth until the jaw is held wide open, the nipple tip is protected near the junction of the hard and soft palate, and optimal milk transfer can occur.” Geddes DT, Sakalidis VS. Ultrasound imaging of breastfeeding – a window to the inside: methodology, normal appearances, and application. Journal of Human Lactation. 2016;DOI:10.1177/0890334415626152.

Douglas PS, Geddes DB. Practice-based interpretation of ultrasound studies leads the way to less pharmaceutical and surgical intervention for breastfeeding babies and more effective clinical support. 2017: under review.

With advances in modern ultrasound technology and the desire of researchers to further their knowledge about breastfeeding, new conclusions are now being drawn about the importance of establishing the best foundation for breastfeeding success.

Stay Tuned.

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC

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