In my post Different Breastfeeding Positions: Finding What Works, I mentioned that I thought that I just had to attach my baby to my nipples and let the feeding begin. I was in for a shock!
Aren’t the nipples the most important part of breastfeeding? Yes and no! Yes because that is where the milk exits to enter baby’s mouth but the areola (the darker part behind the nipple) plays a very important role and getting the correct breastfeeding latch includes both nipple and areola.
Never did I imagine that breastfeeding was so technical. I guess that’s why they say you have to practice. My baby and I were learning a new skill and it would definitely take time, patience and practice before we perfected it.
Finding a comfortable position for you and your baby is key to helping you relax and getting the deepest latch possible.
Why Is A Good Latch Important?
The aim of a good latch is to help baby get sufficient milk; this is important for proper weight gain. Not only does it allow milk to be properly removed but it can ease discomforts associated with breastfeeding such as sore nipples, engorgement and blocked milk ducts which can lead to mastitis (ouch).
Obtaining a good latch is extremely important especially during the early days of breastfeeding because it helps build and maintain an adequate milk supply.
Getting A Good Latch
Getting a good latch can be a bit difficult at first. As I said before, breastfeeding is technical. The exhaustion from labour and the excitement of holding your newborn doesn’t make it easier. For me, it increased my anxiety. I knew I had to feed my baby and that responsibility freaked me out. What if I didn’t get it right?
So now that we know the importance of having a good breastfeeding latch, it’s time to get practical.
- Find a comfortable position This is really important to be comfortable because breastfeeding can take a while. No matter the position you choose, it is important to ensure that baby’s body isn’t twisted; check to make sure that their ear, shoulder and hip are in a straight line. Furthermore, the chin shouldn’t drop to the chest.
- Get your baby to open his mouth Hold your baby in position close to your chest with your nipple in line with either his eyes or nose. Gently tickle your baby’s upper lip with your nipple until he opens wide. Remember, the wider baby’s mouth is opened, the better. This may take a while so be patient.
With my daughter, I had to express a little milk on to my nipple and rub it close to her nose before she even thought to open her mouth. Sometimes she would open wide right away and other times, I’d have to take a break and try again.
- Bring your baby to your breast
Once your baby’s mouth is wide open and his tongue over his bottom gums, bring his head to your breast while positioning your nipple towards the top of his mouth.Please note that I didn’t say bend over to give your baby your breast. While in hospital, bending came natural to me but it wasn’t very easy or comfortable on my neck or back. In fact, I was always sore and in pain after breastfeeding. Using a breastfeeding pillow helped me a great deal.
- Keep baby’s body close to yours during feeding This ensures that baby isn’t tugging on and stretching your nipple which can be very painful. Baby’s chin should always be tucked closely to your breast.
When your baby is properly attached, you shouldn’t feel any pain. There may be a slight discomfort at first, but at feeding progresses, so too should the discomfort.Baby should have both nipple and areola in his mouth. Don’t feel pressured to have all of your areola in your baby’s mouth; some people have large areolas and this just isn’t possible. As long as the baby has the majority of the bottom portion of the areola in his mouth, that’s fine.
As baby begins to feed, he first starts with quick sucks which trigger the let down reflex (i.e milk starts to flow). Once the milk is flowing, baby’s sucks are slow and deep. You should notice the jaw dropping with an occasional pause which means he is drinking.
For some babies, you can even hear them swallowing. Don’t worry if you can’t hear your baby swallowing; some are quiet feeders like mine. I used to obsess over not hearing her swallow. Some days I would try to bend and put my ears close to her throat just to hear anything; the most I got were faint swallows.
It took me a while to realise and accept that she just wasn’t a loud drinker. Watching her sucks and her jaws (and of course weight gain and wet diapers) always assured me that she was taking in milk.
I’m a very visual person so I watched tons of videos related to getting the best breastfeeding latch so I could try with my daughter. I had actually found an excellent site (www.breastfeedo.com) which had some high quality images and animations of how to get your baby to latch.
Unfortunately, the site doesn’t seem to be working anymore but I found some of their images that you can look at.
Is My Latch Good?
You may be wondering if your breastfeeding latch is good. These are some signs that can let you know if you’ve got the hang of it or if you need to break your baby’s latch and try again.
- Baby’s chin and nose is touching your breast; the nose must still be clear to breathe
- Your baby’s mouth is attached to your entire nipple and at least an inch of your areola.
- Baby’s lips are flanged outward
- Baby’s tongue is over his lower gums; sometimes you can see this without having to pull his bottom lip downward.
- You can see (and sometimes hear) your baby sucking and swallowing
- There is no pain
- After feeding, your breasts feel less full
- Baby is happy and content after feeding and gaining weight well.
- Baby has 6-8 wet diapers in a 24 hr period.
What If My Latch Isn’t Good?
No worries, mama. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. Just don’t give up. If you feel any pain, or your baby is making clicking noises as he feeds, it’s a good time to break the latch and try again.
Make sure your fingers are clean and gently slide a finer into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction.
WARNING guys! A baby’s suction can be quite strong so don’t pull baby off the breast. You will end up hurting yourself :(. I had to learn the hard way.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
This is a new path for you and no one expects you to get it right at once. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are having trouble getting your baby to attach to your breast or if you feel unsure about if you’re doing it right. Nurses and breastfeeding specialists are there to help. Use them!
Was it easy for you to get your baby to latch? Let me know down below. Happy feeding, mamas.