The most crucial part of breastfeeding is the latch. Sounds wrong, doesn’t it? Well it’s not, I promise. If the latch is wrong it’s going to be a short lived and probably painful experience for you.
If only it was as easy as making sure baby’s mouth is closed over the leaky end of your breast! Unfortunately, achieving a proper latch is a bit more involved.
Latch diagrams are readily available online; but the problem is that the diagrams are almost always drawn from a completely different angle than how you’re viewing your little lovely.
So how can we make sure we have the proper latch every time? I’ll tell you!
Baby should be in a secure position which is also safe and comfortable for her. She should be relatively straight – at least, as straight as a newborn gets. Her spine should not be curved, and she shouldn’t be curled at all, except for the legs.
If you find that her hands are getting in the way, swaddle her and try again.
If she is very very sleepy, try playing with her a bit, singing to her, tickling her chin, changing her diaper, or washing her face. You may even have to undress her and get her a little cool so she’ll wake up (but probably not happily. sorry.)
As baby approaches the breast, you should be able to see most of her face.
Wash your hands first! I know, I know. You’re clean. Humor me here – you have a lot going on in your world right now, and it’s easy to forget. This is important, so go wash! I’ll wait.
Now get comfortable. Get very comfy, you’re gonna here for a while. Make sure you have everything you might need before you begin. (Bonus points if you created your own nursing station!) Have an idea of what position you’d like to try to nurse in (I like the football hold for newborns)
If you were gifted with large breasts that need to be handled, you may want to choose a position that isn’t going to require you to be lifting (remember, gonna be here a while). Your one hand will be predominantly holding the baby and your other hand will work with your breast.
There are two ways you can hold the breast to introduce it to your baby. In one, your hand is shaped like a C (creatively called the C Hold) and cups your breast as you lift your nipple to the baby. I don’t have small breasts, but I’d assume this is the perfect hold for someone who does. In the second, you make a sideways peace symbol – or the scissors sign if you like rock paper scissors – and squeeze your breast above the areola (the darker area around your nipple). Don’t cover the areola though, that’s where her mouth is going to go.
Let me be very clear here: you will not really snap the baby’s face to you. That’s just what I call it. While the name seems appropriate, it really isn’t a snap.
Once baby’s mouth is lined up with your nipple and you have your breast lifted and ready, gently brush her bottom lip and chin with your nipple. She’ll smell you and her milk and should naturally just open her mouth. If she doesn’t, keep brushing her lip and chin with your nipple for a bit. You can even use your fingertip to brush a little more firmly.
As soon as she opens her mouth, your first instinct is going to be to rush and shove the nipple in. Resist this urge. Make sure her tongue is down and her mouth is open wide. If not, you’ll just be wasting your time. Try again.
As soon as her mouth is open nice and big and her tongue is down, pull her to your breast. I repeat, pull her to your breast. Notice I didn’t say stuff it in her mouth?
Writing all this out makes it sound like a slow process. It isn’t. Once her mouth is open and you see her tongue is right, you should give a quick and firm – but gentle please! – pull to you. You will probably have nursing sessions where you have to do this several times. I’ve felt before like I had to do it several thousands of times. Try to keep patient though because frustration only seems to make it more difficult.
This may not feel nice. That’s a polite way of saying it may hurt. If it’s unbearable or if the discomfort lasts more than a minute or so, the latch is probably wrong. You’ll need to break the latch by slipping your finger in the corner of her mouth and pressing down on your breast.
Signs of a bad latch
- You can see her lip is curled under or her mouth is barely open
- You can hear a clicking sound
- It’s very painful
- You don’t hear baby swallowing
Personally, I like this good vs. bad latch image from www.babygooroo.com.
Visit www.babygooroo.com for more.
A note about latch
If for any reason you don’t think your baby is latched correctly, you can always stop and try again. In the beginning it might seem like getting a good latch is an all day event. Enlist help if you need to, and be patient.
Remember neither of you has much experience, so this is a learning process for you both. With time it will get easier, and if you’re still nursing in a few months, you’ll never even think about something as basic as latch.
Did you overcome latch problems? Please comment and let me know what helped you!