A Quick Guide to Getting a Proper Breastfeeding Latch
Knowing how a proper latch should feel and look is simply one of the best breastfeeding tips that you can learn from the get-go as a new mom.
There’s no question breastfeeding is an easy and all-natural way to nourish your newborn, but it’ll take a little practice, time, and love for you both to master. Knowing how a proper latch should feel and look is simply one of the best breastfeeding tips that you can learn from the get-go as a new mom.
Keep reading for the lowdown on breastfeeding latch. We’ll cover what it is and signs your newborn is latching properly. Don’t forget to check out our handy tips on how to help your little one latch on snugly and correctly.
A proper breastfeeding latch defined
For your newborn to draw enough breast milk, feel comfortable, and get nourished while breastfeeding, having a good latch is paramount. But what is it?
When a baby latches on properly, that’s when everything falls right in place: your newborn should have your whole nipple and a big portion of the areola in her mouth, so she can securely suck and drain enough milk. Her lips should be well-positioned, turned out, and lay flat against your breast, while the tongue is down.
All that you should hear is the sound of your tot swallowing breast milk. While suckling, there should be no smacking, clicking, or any other suspicious choking sounds. A poor latch is not only distressing and frustrating for your child but can also lead to nipple soreness. And if the baby can’t suck and drain milk well, you run the risk of developing mastitis or blocked breast ducts.
So, how do you know that your tot has latched on correctly?
Signs of a good breastfeeding latch
The suckle goes beyond the nipple
The first and most obvious sign of a good latch is when your kiddo has a mouthful of your entire nipple plus a good portion of the adjacent areola. Roughly an inch or more of the surrounding areola should be in her mouth, but this usually depends on the size of both your areola and nipple.
Starts with short bursts of suckling
When your baby begins with small or short sucks before going at it, that’s a good sign of proper latching.
There’s no pain when breastfeeding
When your newborn latches on the first time, it’s quite normal for your nipples to feel a little tender and sensitive. However, suckling should generally feel comfortable and painless.
That being said, pain, soreness, and persistent nipple tenderness are telltale signs of an issue. And, most often, a poor latch is the main culprit when it hurts while breastfeeding. If this happens to you every time you breastfeed, you might want to have it checked by a breastfeeding specialist, OB/GYN, or a lactation consultant.
Your baby enjoys easy, unobstructed breathing
When your newborn is latching properly, her chin should touch your breast lightly and she should be able to breathe easily through her nose.
If a traditional latch seems to be affecting your little one’s breathing, you can try an asymmetrical latch. This is a technique in which your newborn has less of your areola in her mouth close to her nose and more of the areola in her mouth close to her chin. From your position, you will see more of the areola close to your baby’s nose and upper lip, and less of it close to her chin and bottom lip.
In this unique method, your nipple doesn’t actually sit straight in her mouth but tilts towards the roof of her mouth. This creates more of a “breathing room” and makes breastfeeding more comfy for you, too.
The newborn’s tongue should be down on the region of the breast just under the nipple: Ideally, her tongue should be positioned over her gum, even though you might not be able to see this.
You hear sounds of happy feeding
With a good latch, you should be able to hear and see your little one suckle and swallow breast milk. Aside from feeling any pain, there should be no smacking, clicking, and whatnot.
Signs of a poor latch
First things first: if it hurts when your baby is suckling, there’s a good chance that a poor latch is to blame. It’s worth mentioning again that your little one should latch on to the entire nipple, as well as an inch or so of the surrounding areola.
Other signs of a bad latch, include:
- Your tot doesn’t have a fish lip, meaning that her lips are not turned out. Instead, her lips are tucked under or in, which may make breathing and suckling hard.
- Your baby sucks in her cheeks while trying to breastfeed.
- Rather than hearing your child breastfeeding, a smacking or clicking sound comes out as she tries to suckle.
- Your nipples become painful, sore, or fairly tender after you breastfeed your baby.
- Your baby is malnourished, stunted, or losing weight. That’s because a poor latch results in a low milk supply and sometimes leads to blocked milk ducts.
- After breastfeeding, your baby feels frustrated, distressed, and otherwise sad, all of which are signs of continued hunger.
Sometimes inverted or flat nipples can make it more difficult for your little one to latch on and draw enough breast milk. If this is the case, it would be wise to work with a qualified lactation specialist.
The bottom-line: If your baby can’t seem to put on weight, feels hungry after breastfeeding, and nursing is painful, a poor latch may be the problem. It’s always a good move to seek consultation with a breastfeeding specialist ASAP.
Tips for getting a good breastfeeding latch
Tip #1: Do your research and prep work
Several weeks, if not months leading up to delivery, be sure to do your homework. Perhaps you should take a short course or class on breastfeeding. Good thing most prenatal classes offered at birthing centers and hospitals teach mothers how to latch on their baby.
Tip #2: Start breastfeeding ASAP
Here’s the thing: newborns are innately wired to latch on and breastfeed naturally. The sooner you begin breastfeeding, the more likely you’ll take advantage of her natural reflex and ability to latch on. This will make it effortless for both you and your baby to enjoy a pleasant breastfeeding experience.
Tip #3: Find your comfort zone
When it comes to helping your baby to latch on, you must be relaxed and comfortable. Most lactation experts advise new mothers to nurse their babies in a reclined position, which is often around 45 degrees, but you can find your own comfortable breastfeeding position.
Here are the most common breastfeeding positions that you might want to try:
Also popularly called laid-back hold, this is what it sounds like — a more newborn-friendly, relaxed position. You can assume this position by simply lying back on a reclined seat or a pillow. Natural instinct and gravity will easily guide your little one to your breast.
This is another popular breastfeeding position that’s easy and comfortable for both of you. Hold your tot facing your body with her head resting gently on your forearm.
If your baby has a weak or struggling suck, a cross-cradle is your best shot. Hold your kiddo along the region opposite from the target breast, support her head at the base of her neck with your palm. This will offer additional head support and get your baby latched on properly.
It’s often coyly referred to as the football breastfeeding position. This is great for moms with inverted or flat nipples, large breasts, or if you’d C-section. Hold your newborn with her head at the level of your nipple and lying on her back, making sure she is at your strong side. You can then place the palm of your hand at the base to support her head.
If a clutch hold doesn’t seem to work for you — and you had a C-section, you may also want to try using the side-lying breastfeeding position.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Lindsay Hudson
Lindsay is a freelance writer who is mom to a lovely daughter. She loves dressing in matching outfits with her daughter and bringing their 2 dogs out for their daily walk.