A good latch in breastfeeding is the cherry on top of the whole process. It is the moment when your baby successfully attaches to your nipple and areola and begins to draw milk from your breast. Having a good latch is important because it means your baby is getting all of the nourishment it needs, and it minimizes any soreness you may experience while your little one feeds.
If your baby is having latching issues, know that this is completely normal. It can take some time for a mother and baby to sync up on the best latch and position that works for both parties. Wondering how to get your baby to latch properly? In this blog we list simple steps to achieving your best latchlatch, and how to tell when it all comes together.
Signs of a Shallow Latch
How do I know if my latch is shallow? For you mom, the most common signs of a shallow latch are a pinching sensation on your nipple during feedings resulting in chapping or cracking, temporary changes to the shape of your nipple after feedings and/or a feeling of fullness and firmness after a feeding rather than feeling empty and loose in your breast tissue.
For your baby, fussiness at the breast, refusal of the breast and slow weight gain are indications of a shallow latch.
It’s important to address latch immediately. Without emptying your breasts thoroughly and routinely over the first several days of baby’s life, your milk may never come to volume and it may be challenging to catch up with the needed supply as the weeks go on. Sore or tender nipples are normal, typically during the first few days of breastfeeding. This pain should reduce over time, and should not last throughout the entire feeding session. Observe the shape of your nipple after a feed and your baby’s diapers (transition from meconium to green to yellow over the first week) to assure yourself that your latch is effective for both you and your newborn.
Latch is important throughout your breastfeeding journey. Milk production is based on demand and supply. By effectively emptying your breasts you are demanding production of additional milk. Without effective emptying, your supply will decline. Baby’s weight gain can also inform you about the effectiveness of latch. If your baby comes to the breast often and latches but you don’t hear active gulping or see appropriate weight gain, your latch is not right.
If this is the case, meeting with a lactation consultant to figure out a plan for getting your milk production back on track is a great first step.
Signs of a Good Latch
How do you know if your baby has achieved a deep and effective latch? Below are some of the most common signs:
No pain or discomfort while feeding
Baby’s lips are turned out
You can hear swallowing or see swallowing motions in ears and throat
Your baby’s chin rests on your breast
Your baby’s mouth is not just around the nipple
Baby’s cheeks are full and round
You don’t hear unusual clicking or smacking sounds
Your baby relaxes as the feeding continues, fists turn into open hands.
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Steps for Getting a Good Latch
Remember that a successful latch doesn’t always happen right away. In fact, it’s normal for mamas and babies to not sync up on the first try. That’s why there are lactation consultants! If you’re struggling to find a good latch, below are some helpful tips for finding that perfect position.
Check Your Breastfeeding Position
Remember to choose a breastfeeding position that helps your baby latch deeper. Before feeding, make sure you have plenty of back support and are sitting in a position where your baby is tummy to tummy with you. By sitting tummy to tummy, you are making it as easy possible for your baby to reach your breast. If your baby is straining to reach, or you are straining your neck and back, chances are the position you are sitting in is not the most effective. Also, do your best to support your baby head to toe, this helps them relax and focus on latch rather than swinging legs and feet or wobbly neck.
Help Your Baby Open Their Mouth
To help encourage your baby to open their mouth, gently rub your nipple against the side of their cheek or their lips. When your baby latches, their tongue should be positioned below your nipple, against their bottom lip. Because of this, you can aim to get as much of the areola into your little one’s mouth as possible. When your baby begins to feed, their lips should be pushed out like a fish.
Check Your Baby’s Chin Position
If positioned correctly, your baby’s chin will be gently pressed against the lower portion of your breast, with their nose touching the top. To achieve this position, you’ll want to make sure your baby’s head is slightly tilted back, instead of tucked down near their chest.
Listen to Your Body
If you experience unusual pain or discomfort while breastfeeding, don’t try to push through it! It’s criticalto gently release your baby and try again until you both get it right. Breastfeeding is an incredibly bonding experience for both you and your baby, have patience and know that success can come in time. If you breastfeed through pain, you are not “teaching” your baby to latch properly. It’s worth the upfront investment so you both learn how to work together.
Have more questions related to breastfeeding? Here at Willow, we believe all mamas are superheroes and that no mama should go through their breastfeeding journey alone! Visit our blog to get more of your questions answered. From exclusive pumping schedules to foods that increase milk supply, we’ve got it all.
This article was written in partnership with our International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Wendy Wright, who loves working side by side with moms and babies to find that secret sauce! She’s also a mother of two and the Mom Experience Lead at Willow Pump.
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