Hi! I’m Leanne and I’m an IBCLC lactation consultant, nurse, mom of 3, and owner of Nourish Lactation Consulting. In other words, I am passionate about and know a lot about breastfeeding!
Like most things in life, changing the way we do things in even the simplest manner, can make a positive difference. The same holds true for breastfeeding. I have been working in the breastfeeding world for over 17 years and I have seen how our practice and knowledge shared with families has evolved. I am a firm believer in the philosophy: “if it works, keep doing it, if it doesn’t, let’s find a better way”. Little Chief Covers is passionate about supporting new moms in the amazing journey called motherhood, and since one of the popular uses of the versatile Little Chief Cover is for breastfeeding, they asked me to guest post on the blog about one of the topics I know best: breastfeeding!
I thought I would take this opportunity to blog about some of the ‘Tips and Tricks’ that can really make for a more positive breastfeeding journey for mom and baby, yet are quite subtle in their doing. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you’ve most likely done some basic reading about breastfeeding techniques, or had a hospital nurse, your mom/friend/sister or neighbor share some basic breastfeeding tips or tricks with you. Of course, like the wonderful mama that you are, you’d love to tweak your nursing game to optimize your breastfeeding journey and the amount of nutritive mother’s milk you get into your little one’s cute little belly. The subtle adjustments and slight changes that will be covered in this blog post can make all the difference in the world.
Tip #1: Areolar sandwiching combined with nipple tipping
Mmm…sandwiches. Good nutrition is an important part of breastfeeding (we’ll talk about that in a future blog post!). But what I’m talking about is not sandwiches of the food variety, but a very successful breastfeeding technique called areolar sandwiching.
I use this technique time and time again when a mother is having a difficult time getting her baby to maintain a latch and suckle at the breast. Moms are generally taught to cup their breast like the letter C (which is correct), but to keep their fingers far back and away from the areola. Using this technique, moms should bring their C-hold to the border of the areola and make an exaggerated ledge out of the areolar tissue. Sometimes this is referred to as “aerolar sandwiching”. Then with your thumb, you pull back slightly on the breast tissue, imagining that you are tipping the nipple upwards.
This technique helps to accomplish a few things. Firstly, when you “sandwich” the areola, you help the baby take a deeper mouthful of the breast when latching fast and boldly. When you tip the nipple up, you ensure that baby will capture more from the underside of the breast (which is what we want all babies to do!). Tipping the nipple up also ensures that the nipple will touch the roof of your baby’s mouth, which will help to elicit the suck reflex. I encourage the moms that I work with to keep their thumb in the nipple tipping position until baby begins to sustain his suck/swallow pattern. Once this happens, mom can back her hand away and continue to support the breast throughout the remainder of the feed (if she desires). I can confidently say that I have pretty much a 100% latching success rate using this technique!
Tip #2: Chin touching the lower part of the breast before latching
Another helpful tip is to always remember to have your baby’s chin touching the lower part of your breast before latching. When baby can feel the breast touching his chin, this will help him open his mouth big and wide to search for the nipple. A helpful way to know exactly where to place his chin is to make sure that his lower lip is not right below the base of the nipple. If the lower lip is right below the nipple base, when he opens his mouth wide, he is only going to latch onto the nipple. This is painful for mama and an ineffective way for a baby to breastfeed. So remember to make sure his lower lip is touching the lower border of the areola and then his chin will be touching the breast in just the right spot!
Tip #3: The Snuggle-and-Slide
I love using this technique because it accomplishes so many things in one simple action. And it also sounds really cute! I encourage all breastfeeding moms to use the “snuggle and slide” after baby has comfortably latched and let-down is achieved. You can also use it periodically throughout the feed if baby starts to slow down.
The Snuggle and Slide consists of mom snuggling her baby in a bit closer to her chest (baby should always be tummy-to-mummy if she is using the cross-cradle hold) and then pulling baby’s shoulders and bum in a bit more across her chest. Almost think of it as wrapping baby’s body slightly around your torso. You always want to ensure that baby is in an asymmetric position with his bum and legs lower than his shoulders (almost diagonal) across the chest.
What this does is threefold. Firstly, it will take baby’s nose off the breast if he is having a difficult time breathing. Second, it offers more extension in his neck, which will help to open his airway and allow him to coordinate his suck-swallow-breathe pattern more easily and prevent him from falling asleep. After all, if you have to stay awake through a marathon nursing session, so should your little one! Thirdly, it places more weight of the breast onto baby’s lower jaw, which will ensure better drainage and therefore more efficient feeding. So snuggle, slide, and after a successful feed, snuggle some more!
Tip #4: Breast compression while breastfeeding
Rhythmically compressing your breast while baby is slowing down his suck/swallow pattern can make a big difference in how the milk flows and can entice a baby to continue transferring milk. Picture encircling the entire top portion of the breast with your hand. Place your thumb on the outside of the breast and having your other four fingers more on the inside of your breast. While your baby is feeding, start by compressing up high on her breast, pretty much from where the breast tissue begins. Compress firmly and hold for about 5-6 seconds before releasing your hand. Then, slowly walks your hand down the breast, continuing to compress and hold, making sure you don’t compress too close to baby’s mouth (too close can disrupt the latch and cause baby to lose suction on the breast). This technique assists with the compression action of breastfeeding and encourages the milk to flow more readily.
Breast compression is a particularly handy tip for pre-term, jaundiced, and bottle-fed babies. I do encourage all breastfeeding moms to use this technique when their baby’s swallows start to slow down. The milk ducts are located around the entire breast, just like the spokes on a bicycle wheel. We know that babies respond best to milk that flows more readily into their mouths. That’s why encircling the breast with one’s entire hand, is the best and most effective way to encourage more milk to flow. Just remember to use compression that’s slow and steady, not fast and pulsating.
Tip #5: Hand expressing by pushing back into the chest wall … not pinching towards the nipple!
I believe that hand expression is an essential skill that all nursing mothers should have. You never know when you may be without your breast pump and find yourself in a public washroom hovering over the sink, dripping milk everywhere because your breasts are about to explode! This has happened to me on numerous occasions when I thought I would be home in time to feed my daughter. Thank goodness I knew how to hand express. It was a little sad though watching all my precious milk drip down the drain!
When a baby breastfeeds, he uses 2 actions: compression on the milk ducts and suction to draw the milk out. So when you want to hand express your breastmilk, it’s important to maintain compression on the milk ducts at all times. I realize that most of us are more visual learners (especially our post-partum mamas) but I will do my best to describe what I mean. Before you begin expressing, first massage the breast for a few minutes. It helps to do this with a warm wet facecloth. Position your fingers on the border of your areola, then push straight back into your chest wall. You have to press quite firmly. Now keep that firm pressure and think about pulsing your fingers slightly forward but staying well behind the nipple. Do not roll your fingers forward! If you roll forward, you lose compression on the ducts and will only expel a minimal amount of milk. You can also do more damage by pinching on the nipple when rolling the fingers forward. The method of “pushing back into the chest wall” and pulsing forward works optimally for removing milk in a timely, comfortable manner.
Sometimes you have to change the angle of your fingers to compress on different milk ducts. I also recommend hand expressing from one side for a few minutes, then switching to the other side for a few minutes, then repeat once or twice more. Mothers are truly amazed when I show them this technique and can’t believe how changing something so small can make a HUGE difference. It can really empower a mom who has believed that she has no/minimal milk to see that yes, there is milk in her breasts and she alone can remove it! To see a really good video on hand expression, check out this link: http://med.stanford.edu/newborns.html.
Well, I think that about covers most of the tips and tricks I have to share with you for today. I hope you have found them useful and will be able to incorporate them into your breastfeeding journey.
Knowledge is empowering and I hope that I have shared and empowered you with a little more today that can make a big difference for your precious little one. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.
Leanne Rzepa, RN BN IBCLC
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