Breastfeeding is amazing and beneficial for both mom and baby. But latching during breastfeeding isn’t always as seamless and natural as you may think.
You may assume the baby will latch on and begin to breastfeed right away, (because our bodies are built for feeding our babies right??). Sometimes that does happen, (which is wonderful) but that isn’t always the case.
It can be frustrating because if you’ve never breastfed before you don’t know what to do! I remember trying to feed my baby after she was born and the midwife kept talking about a proper latch and I was like huh?! What does that mean? What does that look like or feel like?? I had no idea!
Plus your baby’s mouth is so tiny and when your breasts are engorged you can barely see what’s happening when you’re trying to get your baby latched on!
At one point, I had 3 people trying to get my baby latched on correctly and it was overwhelming to say the least! I began to wonder if I would be able to nurse without a team of people surrounding me.
And then to make things worse, nursing hurt like hell! I thought it was normal because I wasn’t used to nursing. But then I found out pain while nursing isn’t normal, and if it does hurt, you should seek help to find out why. It should not hurt if your baby is latched on correctly.
I ended up having a lactation specialist come to see me, (at the suggestion of my midwife) and I found out my baby had a pretty severe lip tie.
A very brief explanation of this is her frenulum on her top lip went all the way to the bottom of her gum line. This caused her top lip to tuck in, which then caused her to have a shallow latch. This ultimately meant pain whenever she nursed!
It was a struggle initially for me to understand how to latch her correctly. Some of the things I did to help educate myself on latching during breastfeeding, (besides seeing a lactation specialist) was, I went to a breastfeeding group for more support and knowledge, I read books and articles about breastfeeding, and I got her lip tie released.
I came out of the situation with an arsenal of knowledge! I was also very proud that I was able to successfully breastfeed her despite our rocky beginning. By the time I had my son I was much more knowledgeable about the issues that can happen with latching during breastfeeding, and how to fix them.
Although experience is the best teacher, you can also be armed with an arsenal of knowledge once you begin breastfeeding your baby as well!
These helpful tips for latching during breastfeeding are what I wish I knew when I first began nursing!
1. Hold your baby snuggly behind the shoulders so their head can tip back.
(you can see the positioning of the baby’s body)
2. Position your baby’s body close to yours, (they should be facing your breast, with their head, shoulders, and hips lined up).
3. Position your nipple just below the baby’s nose.
4. Put the baby close to you so their chin is touching your breast, with your nipple still above their top lip.
5. When they open wide, gently pull them onto the breast as far as you can.
6. Once they’ve latched, tuck their body in so you are tummy to tummy.
(the sandwich hold demonstrated)
7. Their cheeks should be flush against your breast, chin into your breast, and plenty of space is around their nose. You want more of the bottom of the breast, (areola) in the baby’s mouth because it helps get the nipple to the transition point between the hard and soft palate, (which is where it should be). Gently holding your breast like a sandwich will help the baby latch easier.
(demonstration of lips pushed out)
8. You probably won’t be able to see their lips because their mouths are so tiny, but their lips should be pushed out, (like a kiss) not tucked under. If the latch is comfortable then you know they are latched correctly. You’ll know if it isn’t a comfortable latch because if they only have the nipple in their mouth, (because it isn’t far enough into their mouth) it’s painful!
9. Keep in mind if there is any pain past 20 seconds, break the suction, unlatch your baby and try again.
10. You can break the suction by sticking your pinky finger gently into the side of their mouth and in between their gums. Turn your finger to break the suction. Remove your nipple quickly so they don’t close down on it again.
11. When your baby is done feeding your nipple should look the same way it did when you put it in. If it is pinched or looks kind of like a tube of lipstick, (kind of wedge-shaped) your nipple didn’t go far enough to the back of your baby’s mouth.
12. If the nipple isn’t going far back enough you can end up with nipple pain or damage.
13. I strongly suggest seeing a lactation specialist, (these are usually different from the lactation consultants in the hospital) because they help with all things related to nursing. As their names suggest they are specialists. They have had training to be educated in all things related to breastfeeding. Things like; latching, helping you figure out if your baby is getting enough milk, they can diagnose a tongue and lip tie in your baby, and give you suggestions to help you succeed in your breastfeeding journey.
Understanding the proper way for your baby to latch can help a lot once you start breastfeeding! You can refer back to these tips for latching during breastfeeding to understand how to position your baby at the breast, where your nipple should be in their mouth, and what a proper latch feels like, (and doesn’t feel like!).
One of the biggest myths is that it’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt. Knowing that’s not true can save your nips from unnecessary pain and potential damage!
If nursing doesn’t come easy to you and your baby, don’t feel defeated! It isn’t always easy, which is why there are so many resources to help you. You can go to breastfeeding classes near you, or see a lactation specialist to get individualized help, and read articles and books related to breastfeeding. All of these can help you identify and correct any issues so you can have a successful breastfeeding journey!
*Please note I’m not a healthcare professional so if you have any concerns or questions you should ask your healthcare provider*