Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to connect with your baby as it stimulates the love hormone known as oxytocin (yes the same hormone that made you fall in love with your partner). This cuddly chemical promotes maternal instincts and increases the special bonding experience between you and your baby. While your gazing at your baby the oxytocin helps heal your uterus by contracting it back to its original size. That is why some mothers may experience a bit of cramping during feedings. Oxytocin is also responsible for the milk ejection from your breasts which is activated by stimulating your nipples. So the sooner your baby is hanging out on your chest the sooner your body will start producing milk.
This leads us into the next 5 steps to get you breastfeeding:
1. Sooner the Better
Depending on your delivery method or any interventions that may have arised it's best to hold your baby skin-to-skin within 30 minutes of his/her birth. Hospitals have procedures once the baby is born and so it is best that you ask questions about their routines and don't be afraid to speak up and delay certain things (check-up, cleaning the baby, eye drops, vitamin K injection) so that you can bond with your baby. Your body heat will keep the baby warmer and calmer then any heat lamp available. Skin-to-skin (your partner can do this too!) helps regulate the babie's heart rate, respiration rate and colonizes their body with your bacteria which strengthens their immune system and prevents infections.
2. Cool, Calm & Patience
Make sure you are in a comfortable position so that you can be somewhat relaxed during the feeding. It helps to dim the lights as it encourages you to access the reptilian part of your brain that is more instinctive rather then being analytical about everything. A calm baby is the best time to encourage them to find the nipple and latch them. I find that the optimal starting place is placing your baby on your chest with their head just above your breasts. Let them hang out here for a bit and observe your baby to see if they are inching towards a particular side, then help them to move closer to the nipple on that side.
3. Hand Positioning
In my experience this might be one of the most challenging parts around breastfeeding. The reason is because often times parents are afraid of holding their baby too tightly or injuring them as though they are porcelain dolls. The key things to remember here is to wrap your hand at the base of their neck so that your fingers are at the base of their head (ear to ear) and the palm of your hand should land onto their shoulder blades. Your fingers need to be firm enough so that the baby's head is not floppy or moving around in your hand. If that is happening you need to firm your grip momentarily until they are latched. When you are in the midst of latching with the firm grip it is important that you push the baby from the palm of your hand, so that you are actually pushing them from the back of their shoulders. That way you are not pushing the baby's head (don't turn your wrist or push from your fingers) otherwise the baby's chin will move downwards towards the chest. Imagine trying to drink a glass of water with your chin pointing downwards! We move our heads back to drink a glass of water and it is the same with babies on the breast.
5. Breast Compressions
Breast compressions are when you slowly and gently compress your breast while the baby is latched to help keep them enticed (keep their mouths open) especially right as soon as you push them onto the nipple. For example, if you are feeding on your left side you would be holding the baby with your right arm and you would be compressing your left breast with your left hand. Your left hand is far away from the nipple area (as to no get in the baby's way) and holding the breast with the C-hold while slowly compressing. Once you feel the baby is feeding well you don't need to keep compressing. Perhaps when the baby slows down you can compress a few times before they end the feeding.