Experts agree the most important aspect of successful breastfeeding is proper latch. The way in which your baby connects to your breast is essential to ensure her ability to efficiently and effectively suckle plenty of breast milk while also keeping your nipples comfortable. That’s why so much emphasis is placed on proper latch, and not achieving it is the leading cause of breastfeeding problems. Today we’re reviewing proper latch to help you and your baby thrive on your breastfeeding journey.
Helping your baby latch may take some extra work for the first few weeks to months of breastfeeding. But soon enough you will both get the hang of it and latching will be effortless. Here’s what you need to keep in mind to help your baby achieve a proper latch:
1 – Cup your breast with your free hand either in a “C” hold or a “U” hold. Be sure you don’t cover any part of your areola, which may prevent your baby from latching deeply.
2 – Tickle your baby’s lower lip with your nipple to encourage her to open her mouth wide.
3 – When she opens her mouth, gently but quickly move your baby towards your breast. Never move your breast towards your baby.
4 – Aim your nipple for the top of your baby’s mouth, not the center. As much of your areola should be in her mouth as possible and her tongue should cup your breast. This will help her compress the milk sinuses of the areola to stimulate the release of milk.
5 – Your baby’s lips should be somewhat puckered around your breast, not tucked in. If necessary, gently unfold your baby’s lips so they sit atop your breast.
6 – Your baby should form a suctioned seal on your breast and you should feel a slight tug at your nipple. You will probably notice your baby’s ears bob and hear her gulping as she swallows. These are signs she is latched properly and she is successfully drinking milk.
7 – Your baby’s nose and chin should be touching your breast during nursing. Don’t fear that she may suffocate. Her wide nose and receding chin were designed specifically to help her breathe while breastfeeding.
When your baby is latched properly you should not feel any pain (beyond the first couple of weeks when your sensitive skin is getting used to the motion).
Good positioning is crucial to proper latch. There are a variety of breastfeeding positions that you can experiment with to find your favorites. Switching positions frequently is great for many reasons including allowing your baby to latch and drain your breasts from different angles. Remember, you have milk ducts all over your breast and your baby can tap into new “wells” by being positioned differently.
Regardless of which breastfeeding positions you choose, your baby should always be facing you tummy-to-tummy while nursing. Keep your baby’s body in alignment – ears, shoulders and hips – to help her stay comfortable and aid in swallowing. Cradle your baby with plenty of support so she feels secure in your embrace.
Many moms find their favorite nursing spot – a rocking chair, a cozy couch or the family bed – and use it as much as possible. This spot can help you and your baby get comfortable and have good breastfeeding associations. A nursing pillow may also help you position your baby and free up your hands.
Never pull your baby off your breast. This could lead to severe pain for your nipples, especially if your baby clamps down to maintain her latch. It’s best to allow your baby to decide when she’s done nursing and let her unlatch herself. If you need to unlatch her, slide a finger into your baby’s mouth between her gum and your nipple. This will break the seal of the latch and you can gently pull your nipple out. Keep your finger in place until your nipple is completely out of her mouth. Sometimes it is necessary to use this method to unlatch when your baby is not positioned well or latched properly and you need to readjust her.
Sources: Breastfeeding Basics, American Pregnancy and VeryWell
Leading Lady’s All About Breastfeeding blog series serves to educate and inspire new moms with information on a range of breastfeeding topics during the month of August in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month. This resource guide of helpful tips, breastfeeding advice, and research-based information supports our mission to raise awareness for breastfeeding and motivate moms on their breastfeeding journey.