Breastfeeding success is greatly dependent upon how your baby latches to your breast. While it may look easy, getting a good breastfeeding latch actually requires practice and skill to get it down right. When your baby isn’t latching well, you can develop increased nipple pain or damage, decreased milk supply, clogged milk ducts, frustration, and tears. Your baby may not be getting as much milk as you think, leading to poor weight gain and growth, not to mention a fussy baby. This can greatly affect your milk supply, as your breasts aren’t drained properly with a poor latch.
Perfect practice makes perfect
Incorrect latching becomes a learned behavior, causing increased difficulty to retrain the baby on how to latch well. Getting help from a lactation consultant is important if you feel your baby isn’t latching well, as there are many ways to improve the latch. These tips will also help you get started on the right path to achieve successful breastfeeding.
1. Sandwich your breast and aim your nipple up towards baby’s nose. You can even touch your nipple to baby’s nose to help center baby to the target.
2. Wait for baby to open his/her mouth WIDE, like a yawn, and bring in the baby’s lower lip LOW on the areola first.
3. Quickly and firmly, roll baby’s mouth onto the top of your nipple. It will look like an off-centered latch, where baby has more of your lower areola in their mouth than the top of your areola. Baby should never be just latched onto the end of the nipple.
4. Baby’s chin should be touching and the nose lifts off the breast. There should be a wide open “V” in the corner of the mouth. The latch shouldn’t be painful, if so relatch.
Continue practicing the latch with each feed, relatching several times as needed to achieve a good, deep latch. After baby unlatches, look at your nipple. It should be round and not flattened or misshapen. This is often the hardest part of breastfeeding and once you get it down, it will come naturally. The baby will learn to latch well if you continue to work with him or her. Babies need to always open wide and roll onto the nipple from bottom to top. This will become easier and cause significantly less painful over time.
When to seek help
If you feel you are getting a good deep latch, but still experiencing pain or other issues with the latch, it is important to contact a lactation consultant to evaluate for further issues.