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Breastfeeding: Helping Your Baby Attach Correctly

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Signs of Proper Technique
You can assume your baby is latched on correctly if you observe the following:
  • Her mouth is open wide and her lips are flanged out.
  • She has taken a good amount of the areola into her mouth.
  • She sucks deeply and rhythmically, with several sucking bursts separated by pauses.
  • You hear your baby swallow regularly (a soft "kaa, kaa, kaa" sound when the baby exhales).
  • Your nipple is comfortable after the first few sucks.
  • Her cheeks don't sink inward, and you don't hear any clicking sounds as she nurses.
Signs of Incorrect Technique
You should suspect that your baby is not attached to the breast properly if any of the following are present:
  • She is grasping just your nipple and no surrounding areola.
  • The baby's chin and nose are away from the breast.
  • Her lips are curled in.
  • She keeps falling off.
  • She doesn't suck deeply and regularly (a rapid, light, sucking action-flutter sucking-is wrong).
  • You seldom hear swallowing.
  • Her cheeks are tugging inward or you hear clicking noises.
You also should assume that the latch-on is incorrect if you experience significant pain while nursing. Brief, slight nipple discomfort often is present during the first few sucks for the first couple of days, but thereafter breastfeeding should be comfortable. Significant pain usually means the baby is not grasping the surrounding areola properly. If she isn't latched on correctly, don't continue the feeding. Instead, remove her, correct your positioning, and latch her on all over again.

Removing Your Baby from the Breast
When a baby has fed well and is satisfied, he usually will stop sucking and come off the breast on his own. Do not attempt to remove your nursing baby from the breast by pulling him off. Breaking suction in this way is likely to cause trauma to your nipple and result in soreness. Instead, slide your finger into your baby's mouth and press down on the breast to break suction in order to remove your nipple.

When Breastfeeding Becomes Second Nature
All these details you're trying to learn make breastfeeding sound like a lot of fuss and bother. You might wonder if breastfeeding is going to be terribly restrictive, since it seems so very complicated. But remember, when you are busy learning the basics, everything seems painstaking and awkward. Before long, however, you'll be nursing without thinking about the fundamentals at all. A toddler learning to walk has to concentrate on every step. In a matter of weeks, the child becomes more surefooted, and before long, walking is second nature. Breastfeeding is like that. You and your baby have so much to learn in the first days that you wonder if you will ever go through the motions automatically. Before your baby is a month old, I predict you'll be breastfeeding while performing all kinds of activities: reading, talking on the phone, eating your lunch, comforting an older child, watching a soccer game, sitting at your computer terminal, or putting the dog out.

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From Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding by Marianne R. Neifert. Copyright © 1998 by Marianne R. Neifert. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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