Updated: Jun 22
I recognize how fortunate I was to have great breastfeeders and an ample milk supply. Many of my friends weren't so lucky and suffered massive emotional and physical setbacks as a result (no exaggeration if you haven't experienced the same). Breastfeeding was a painful and defeating experience for those friends and they would be livid to hear someone who had a strong fruitful latch complain. Yet, I do. I complain.
Cram the Boob in the Open Mouth
I attribute my favorable experience breastfeeding to my mother-of-four and doctor friend, Jill's, advice: "Wait until the baby's mouth is wide open and then cram as much of your boob in its mouth as you can. Let the baby do the rest." I used this technique, and guess what? It worked! There was no struggle with what the professionals seem to make so complicated and technical.
I mean, listen to this advice from Mayo. "The cross-cradle hold is ideal for early breastfeeding. Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests. Bring your baby across the front of your body, tummy to tummy. Hold your baby in the crook of the arm opposite the breast you're feeding from — left arm for right breast, right arm for left. Support the back of the baby's head with your open hand. With the other hand, support your breast from the underside in a U-shaped hold. Guide the baby's mouth to your breast. Don't bend over or lean forward. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast."
You lost me at "cross-cradle."
I had a perfect latch, thanks to the "cram the boob in an open mouth" advice, and STILL the lactation consultant came in my L&D recovery room and offered her Aunt Lydia direction, slapping my hand into a c-shape and wrangling the baby into an awkward angle. She was effective at inducing anxiety and self-doubt but that was the extent of her help. Her take on the room's mounting fussiness was that it was all the result of my improper positioning. Mine was that SHE was the source of discomfort.
Before I piss anyone off, I want to say that there are many women and babies who experience physiological barriers to breastfeeding. Here is a link to an article published by the Office of the Surgeon General in 2011 that better speaks to these concerns. There are a number of possible factors that can interfere with the process. Most certainly these mothers should be adequately supported as Jill's advice might not work for them.
The only addition I have to her sage wisdom is to say that my breast friend was my Boppy. This, my friends, is a "Boppy." You can get just about any fabric and pattern pillowcase for it on Amazon. I put my favorites at the bottom of the post.
You wrap it around your waist and gently lay the babe on their side, facing your breast. Easy!
Now take a good look at this image of a proper latch. Keep in mind that this is what you're going for. Again, wide open baby mouth, cram that boob in.
The Walking Binky Dillema
Now (most hopefully) that you have a beautiful latch and a sufficient supply (this comes a few days following delivery assuming the baby is sucking regularly), welcome to being a walking milk supply! You, now and for several months to come, are on emergency alert and will be requested to whip out your nips at any given and random time so as to feed, pacify, and even entertain your baby. Yep, they will use you for food, comfort, and simply because they can. This babe (or multiple babes) will be locked onto your teets for literal hours a day and hours a night. These well-latched babies don't have any regard for your schedule, goals, personal hygiene regimen, rest, comfort, nor audience. They want it, and they want it now.
Allow me to complain.
Because I didn't do a few simple things to prevent enmeshment (I will mention soon), my babies suckled on me pretty much non-stop for about a year each. That means that 2 years of my life were spent carrying out daily tasks and co-sleeping with an 8-25 pound chest appendage, one that quickly learned to chew and bite.
Because I apparently trained my babies to use me in soothing themselves, I quickly became the only one they wanted for anything. It's hard to imagine how the pure bliss from the breastfeeding oxytocin surge can slowly mutate into a toe-curling annoyance because you allowed yourself to become a binky that the babies want around the clock, every day, for months on end. I'm not even talking about the cringe that comes from their tiny fingers obsessively pinching your free nipple while they snack. It is beautiful bonding that can turn to bondage if you don't take precautionary measures.
Two Simple Suggestions to NOT Become a Caged Dairy Cow
1) From early on, have your partner help feed at least once a day with bottles. It seemingly decreases the convenience factor, but TRUST ME, it will free you from your milk servitude and will also help the baby learn that they can be comforted and cared for by others. This will make for a much smoother maternity leave-to-work transition and will also allow you to hand off the night-time feeding baton.
I personally LOVED the Nanobebe bottle pictured here. Feel free to click the pic (note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases). After spending hundreds on different bottles looking for perfection, I landed on these. I found these bottles and nipples were most breast-like and were designed with breastfeeding physiology in mind.
2) Help your baby to fall in love with a bottle-matching-binky, like the Nanobebe one in the picture above. Breastfeeding is so very comforting to babies, that they will gravitate toward this activity on the regular. You must help them gradually learn to self-soothe, and this is a great tool for that.
Side bar: I am not personally an advocate of the cry-it-out method (no judgment if you are), so if you continue to read my blog, you will learn that this tool (the bottle-matching-binky) will be essential in tearless sleep training as well. Get them started early!
My Favorite Boppy Pillow Cases (Soft fabric):
Favorite that comes with the pillow: