Baby-led Breastfeeding | Complete Guide

Do you know babies are born with the innate ability for knowing how to breastfeed? It just comes naturally to them. Amazing, isn’t it? While this seems to be astonishing to us, it really is that way. 

Following inborn instincts in reaction to physical cues received through touch with the mother’s body, all newborn babies know how to discover and latch to their mother’s nipples. While breastfeeding is a common term here, “baby-led breastfeeding” appears to be something new.

If you are expecting or have just delivered your baby and still haven’t heard the terms like “laid back breastfeeding” or “baby led feeding” or “baby led breastfeeding,” you have come to the right place. By the time you finish reading this article, we guarantee that you will be equipped with all sorts of information related to baby-led breastfeeding techniques. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What is Baby-led Breastfeeding?

baby led breastfeeding

Baby-led breastfeeding can be described as a method that uses a newborn’s innate or natural ability to identify, or locate, or latch on to their mum’s breast when putting skin-to-skin. It’s a method most frequently practiced with babies who tend to have a problem with breastfeeding or do not nurse well or if you are breastfeeding an adopted baby

This baby led feeding technique is based on the theory of biological nurturing and was popularized by Dr. Christina Smillie, pediatrician and lactation consultant. The biological nurturing theory says that human babies will naturally seek out and latch on to their mother’s breast just like other mammal newborns if given a chance

Recognizing and trusting a baby’s natural feeding impulses is the foundation of baby-led breastfeeding. It entails working with your baby’s instincts rather than against them to make breastfeeding simpler and more pleasant for both of you.

Why baby-led Breastfeeding?

Baby-led breastfeeding is considered essential for a good start because it:

  • allows your child to use her natural instincts and abilities
  • enable you to comprehend your baby’s requirements
  • helps your child to feel safe and comfortable
  • makes sure you have enough milk for your baby
  • allows you to prevent a variety of frequent breastfeeding issues
  • allows for a more calm and pleasurable nursing experience

How baby-led Breastfeeding works?

Baby-led feeding works by reacting to your baby with baby-led nursing. This involves allowing your baby to feed as soon as he requests it, then waiting until your baby lets go of the first breast before feeding him the other. This kind of feeding instructs your breasts on how much milk they should produce. 

Trying to stick to a routine, providing bottle feeds or water, or using a dummy might all result in your baby not receiving enough milk. Breastfeeding is considered essential because it provides your baby with warmth, comfort, security, and food. 

Refrain from offering your baby the breast too often as it is not wise to overfeed him/her. Keeping your baby close at all times will help you to detect when he/she needs to be fed before they become frustrated.

How to Introduce Baby-led Breastfeeding

Below given are few steps that will assist you in introducing baby-led breastfeeding

StepsDescription
Step 1. Begin when your baby is calm or sleeping Start when your baby is asleep or in a calm, awake condition. If your baby is starving, start with a small amount of milk, i.e., 1/2 to 1 oz, and allow them to wake up naturally on their own if they are asleep.
Step 2. Make yourself and your baby comfortable and relax Cuddling your baby skin to skin might facilitate this. Remember, while cuddling and holding your baby, they should just be in a diaper, and you should be in no shirt or bra. 

Proceed with holding your baby upright between your breasts and supporting their neck with one hand and their bottom with the other hand. This posture encourages both relaxation and attentiveness in the baby, and it’s something we use all the time to soothe a crying baby. Just snuggle with your baby for a bit.
Step 3. Allow your baby to take the lead There’s no need to rush or feel rushed. Let your baby sleep on your chest if he/she wants to. What’s essential for both of you is to be extremely calm, alert, and comfortable. If one of you is not calm, the anxiousness will be passed on to the other, sabotaging the feeding effort.
Step 4. Identify your baby’s hunger cues Your baby will start squirming and twisting or bobbing his/her head against you. They may also make eye contact with you by looking up at your face.
Step 5. As the baby moves about, give him/her your support Support your baby’s shoulder and neck with one hand and hips with the other. Just try to follow them as they move. Do not attempt to make your baby latch or even try to align his/her lips with your nipple.
Step 6. Keep supporting your baby as he/she latches As your baby latches on, give him your full attention. As the baby descends, his lower cheek may brush against the nipple or breast, causing him to turn towards it. This is called the rooting reflex. At the time your baby’s chin brushes against your breast, the breast’s firm pressure causes your baby to expand his/her lips wide and reach up to the nipple.
Step 7. Reposition baby as required Nipple discomfort is a sign that your baby’s position needs to be adjusted. You can adjust your baby’s position if the pain is mild without unlatching. When you pull the baby’s bottom more towards you, it tends to move their whole body. With this, the baby’s head tips back a bit more, which allows his/her jaw to open wider. Hence, the baby can get a bigger mouthful of breast.
Step 8. Have patience, especially when your baby becomes irritable Talk in soothing tones to calm them. Try to bring them back to the vertical position. You can continue once your baby calms down. Feed your baby milk in small quantities with a spoon, cup, finger-feeding tube, or syringe if he/she is too hungry to try again.

Signs that your Baby wants to Feed

There are a variety of signals that your baby will give you when he/she wants to eat:

  1. Moving his/her eyes under their eyelids
  2. Baby arching back
  3. Making certain movements like squirming, wriggling, and waving
  4. Clenching and unclenching their fists repeatedly
  5. Opening their mouths
  6. Smacking their lips along with creating sucking noises
  7. Making little shouts, or squeaking, or murmuring, or whimpering
  8. Sucking their fists along with blankets, fists, clothes, your T-shirt/jumpers, etc

Your baby is going to keep crying if none of these catches your attention. Crying will make it more difficult for her to feed properly, so try responding to your little one before anything of this sort happens.

Also read: Baby Crying in Sleep? Tips to Settle Baby at Night

Tips for Helping your Baby to Feed

Your baby must latch onto your breast with a wide-open mouth to feed successfully and prevent hurting your nipples. If you hold your baby close to you, it will be simpler for them to do this. Also,

  • Try to leave a minimum gap between both of you. Ensure your baby is touching you and is in contact with your body as much as possible.
  • Ensure to keep your baby’s entire body in a single line.
  • Support your baby’s body weight.
  • Enable your baby to move their arms, head, and hands freely.
  • Make sure to line up your baby’s nose with your nipple.

As long as you follow these guidelines, your baby can breastfeed in any position that is comfortable for both of you.

Recommended: Best Way to Wind a Baby

Our Advice

While some mothers find it easy to carry out baby-led breastfeeding techniques, some have difficulty coping with it. It usually takes practice and time. 

Keep trying until you and your baby get comfortable with this technique as well as with each other. The only thing that will propel this process is patience. So, be patient, do not lose hope, and take your time.

Laura is a trained primary teacher who takes a profound liking in interacting with and bringing out the best in children. She is also an ISSA certified pediatrician with an extensive practice of over 12 years. Laura comprehends the needs of infants and now compresses her expertise into writing thorough parenting guides to aid new parents.

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