Breastfeeding position and latching: The easiest way to start on the right path, and the easiest thing to get wrong.
Location Location Location
Hugely important in retail and in breastfeeding. Where your baby lies in relation to the rest of your body and especially
your breasts is hugely important. If a baby is not in a great position, they will not be able to get a good latch. Your baby should be positioned in a way that makes latching easy. So how do we know what a good position is? Let’s demystify it a bit.
When I come to the dinner table…
I like to sit and face my food. I don’t twist at the hips or neck, tilt my head to one side, tuck in my chin and eat. I sit straight, hips and shoulders in alignment, facing my food. Babies will need full body support when they come to your breast. Sometimes we get so caught up in the top half of the baby that we forget to support hips and legs, and they land up all twisted. Make sure that whatever position you use, baby has got great body support and is lying nice and straight.
When we eat we raise our chins slightly, to give our lower jaw space to move, so we can eat comfortably. Babies are the same. They need a slight upward chin tilt to eat well. We call it a sniffing position, as if they are sniffing a flower, a fine wine, or your delicious breastmilk.
The lower jaw does all the work…
If I put my hand by my top lip and start to talk, eat or drink, you would notice that the top half of my head stays still, and the only thing that is moving is my lower jaw. Now imagine your nipple in your baby’s mouth, by the lower jaw, resting on their tongue. Sounds like pain to me. Baby’s start to suck with stimulation to the roof of their mouth, they keep sucking because of flow of milk. To start baby feeding, you need to aim your nipple to the roof of your baby’s mouth. I call it the sweet spot, because there is very little movement, which means more comfort when it comes to breastfeeding. How do we get there? Nipple to nose (I know, it’s like the mantra of breastfeeding…)
Keep those breasts where nature put them!!!
When you put baby’s nose by your nipple, you give your baby a chance to reach towards your nipple, getting their mouth over your nipple, chin is tilted up, nipple is in the sweet spot and the lower jaw is deeper on the breast so all that movement doesn’t hurt you. But, if you are pushing your breast towards where your baby’s nose is, you will need to hold your breast for the whole feed, and that gets exhausting quickly! Let your breasts lie naturally and then move your baby to where your breast is, that way you won’t need to hold your breast for the entire feed!
Support is priceless…
A rolled up facecloth tucked under a breast will often provide the lift and support needed to free a hand and to give better sightlines for mom so she can see what she is doing. Some moms with larger breasts find using a table to support their breasts, or a baby blanket rather than a facecloth works well. Using your arm tucked in next to your breast, tight against your body can help, this is particularly useful in a cradle or biological nurturing/natural position. The top half of your arm supports your breast and the lower half of your arm supports your baby. Your other hand holds the breast for latching and then becomes your free hand.
The alphabet of breast holds…
I am sure you have heard about the C hold and the U hold, and maybe even some other letter named holds for how to support your breast. I encourage you to throw the alphabet out the window and let’s look at why we hold breasts in a certain way when latching a baby.
When I eat a sandwich, I hold it from my nose to my chin, so the sandwich is lying the same way my mouth is, this makes it easier for me to take a large bite! If I held the sandwich at a diagonal or vertical angle to my mouth, all I would do is make a big mess. The sandwich and my mouth have to line up. Same with latching, when holding your breast, hold your breast from where your baby’s nose is to where your baby’s chin is, that way you are shaping your breast to best fit into baby’s mouth. Make sure
your fingers are back enough so that they don’t get in your baby’s way.
Up close and personal
You have to bring your baby in to your breast to latch, they can’t do this from a distance. Sometimes this is hard, especially if there is nipple damage and pain, but a baby who nibbles their way on hurts way more than a baby who is brought in quickly and allowed to latch deeply from the start. It doesn’t matter which position you use, baby still needs to be up close and personal! Be aware of flinching, when we flinch, we tighten up and the result is that we often move baby to high up and lose the upward chin tilt. This results in your nipple hitting that lower moving jaw which leads to more pain.
Latched, nursing and still painful?
Take a quick look at baby, is their chin tilted up? No, then slide baby down towards their feet a bit (maybe ¼ inch or so), is baby straight or twisted? Straighten baby, move arms to a comfortable position (often one on either side of the breast like a hug works well). Does baby have a shallow latch? Gently tug on baby’s chin, while they are nursing, to slowly open their mouths a bit wider and allowing them to suck their way on deeper.
Coles notes on positioning
Breasts lie naturally
Baby’s hips and shoulders are aligned, baby is well supported
Baby’s nose to your nipple, chin will tilt upwards slightly when latching
Support breast from baby’s nose to baby’s chin
Bring your baby in to help latch
Feels bad – try and fix it before delatching and starting again