Do you know what it means when moms talk about a ‘good latch’?
I’m going to hold my hand up and say I had no idea. What’s worse is I didn’t even know it was important.
But I want you to know that good breastfeeding latch is essential for feeding your baby. But what is it?
‘The latch’ is used to describe how your baby attaches to your breast and nipple. You’ve probably also heard this referred to as your baby’s ‘attachment.’
You see, if your baby doesn’t latch on the breast well, it’s gonna create a whole host of problems with breastfeeding. Including poor milk supply, sore nipples, baby weight loss and one unhappy mama and baby.
It’s not hard to see how a poor latch can result in you quitting breastfeeding right?
I created this guide for you to master a good breastfeeding latch. That way, you’ll have a better idea if you’re doing it right or not. Remember that getting your baby to latch is a technique you both need to learn. It takes time and practice to get right in the beginning.
If you’re a visual learner, I highly recommend you check out The Simply Breastfeeding Course. Cindy and Jana have a great training video on how to get your baby to latch. Plus it has tons of great advice to help you succeed at breastfeeding.
Right, let’s do this.
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How to Latch Baby onto Your Breast
1. Get Comfortable
First things first, get yourself into a comfortable position. Before you pick your baby up, fix your top, so your breast is ready. Your hungry baby gets irate quickly. So you need to start a feed with as little fuss as possible.
Now I’m gonna sound like your Mom here, but sit up straight. Support your back and keep your shoulders relaxed. Seriously, I see those shoulders are still near your ears. Relax them!
Trust me; if you start a feed in a bad position, you’re going to get sore quickly. Especially if you’re sitting that way for over half an hour. Make sure you have everything to hand, so you don’t need to move during the feed. That includes your nursing pillow, burp cloths, and your drinks bottle.
2. Get Baby In Position
There are lots of different positions you can hold your baby in to breastfeed. Although you may only be familiar with cradle cross or the football hold.
The best one it whatever is comfortable for you and baby. Even switch it up if you like more than one.
Start by holding your baby so their nose or top lip in line with your nipple. Support the back of your baby’s neck in the webbed part of your hand, between your thumb and forefinger.
This position lets your baby tilt their head back, just like you would when taking a drink. The tilt also helps you to guide your nipple to the roof of baby’s mouth.
Don’t hold the back of your baby’s head with your palm. This pushes their head forward and prevents a good breastfeeding latch.
Put it this way, try and take a drink with your chin on your chest. Now take one with your chin tilted up. Which way is easier? That’s right the one with your head tilted back.
3. Wait For a wide Mouth
Now you’re both in position; you need to wait for your baby to have a big wide mouth. This should look similar to a big yawn. Be patient; it will happen.
A wide mouth is essential to get your nipple to the back of your baby’s mouth.
If your baby doesn’t open their mouth or take forever, you can take a shortcut. You see your baby is born with reflexes to encourage them to open their mouth wide. You can stimulate these reflexes by:
- Gently brushing their upper or lower lip with your nipple
- Pull down on your baby’s chin
- Stroke your baby’s cheek
- Press firmly in the center of baby’s palm (or both palms)
4. Pull Baby in Close
As soon as you see that wide open mouth pull your baby into the breast, chin first. Do this movement quickly. And watch your baby like a hawk. They may only give you a small amount of time to do it.
Always Always Always pull your baby towards you. Do not push your breast or shoulders toward your baby. If you go to your baby rather than bring them to you, you’re in a bad position. This is bad for two reasons:
- You’re more likely to move around during a feed. That means constantly fiddling with your latch and causing pain and friction.
- Adopt this position regularly, and your gonna cause yourself unnecessary back, shoulder and arm pain.
Pulling your baby close helps them get a good, deep latch with the nipple positioned deep in the mouth. Make sure your baby’s chin and jaw press into your breast tissue. That helps to stimulate your milk flow.
5. Look For Signs of Feeding
Now your baby is on your breast you want to check for signs they are sucking. As soon as they go on your baby should start with short, quick sucks. Then after about a minute, they’ll change to long, slow sucks.
Have a listen. You may hear the sound of your baby swallowing.
Around day 3-4, when your mature milk ‘comes in,’ you’ll feel your let-down reflex. It’s kinda like a toe-curling tingle or ‘relief’ sensation.
You might feel this with your colostrum (first milk), but don’t worry if you don’t. You’ll know your let-down is on point when you start to leak milk from your free breast as baby begins to suck.
Breast Support Positions
You’ll find latching your baby onto your breast is so much easier if you know how to support your breast during a feed. Especially if you’ve been gifted with large boobs.
Let’s look at the different hold you can learn to help your baby latch on better.
By the way, I’d recommend using a good nursing pillow or a rolled-up towel for arm during a feed. It just helps to make you much more comfortable, especially if you don’t have a good breastfeeding chair.
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The C hold
Curve your hand into a C shape and hold it at the side of your breast. Your thumb should be at the top of your breast and your fingers underneath. Don’t press down on your breast. The idea is to simply provide support.
Make sure your hand is well away from the nipple. You want to give your baby room to attach.
It can be difficult to see what area your fingers are touching, so aim to have your small finger touching your ribs.
The U hold
This hold is similar to the C hold but supporting a different area. Cup your hand underneath the breast in a U shape.
Your thumb should be on the outer side of the breast and your fingers on the inner side.
Remember to keep your fingers far back enough to give baby enough breast tissue to latch on.
The Nipple sandwich
Ok I know that’s a bit of a weird name but bear with me. This breastfeeding technique was developed by lactation consultant Barbara Heiser.
The idea is to reduce the breast, so its easier for baby to take into their mouth. You know, like how you press down on a burger before you take a bite.
With the hand in the C hold, slightly press the nipple together to make it change from round to oval shaped. This means baby doesn’t need to latch onto such a wide area.
Slightly pull the breast tissue back toward your rib cage. This pressure is pushing the nipple out slightly, making it easier for your baby to grasp.
Gently press the thumb deeper into the top of the breast. This action gives the breast an upward tilt to position it into the roof of your baby’s mouth.
Hold the breast in this position until baby gives you a nice open mouth and pull them onto the breast. Once you are sure your baby is latched well you can remove your hand.
If you continue to support your breast adopt the C hold. Make sure you don’t continue to press down as this can block the milk flow.
The V hold
You may have seen women using the V or cigarette hold to support their breast. You place the breast between your fore and ring fingers like you are holding a cigarette.
I don’t recommend this position for support. It won’t give you the same flexibility as the C or the U hold.
The Vi hold is a great hand position to use if you have a fast let-down reflex. The pressure on your breast tissue slows your milk flow. You can use it at the start of a feed to prevent your milk causing your baby to cough and splutter.
IF you don’t have a fast let down your fingers are just gonna get in the way of your baby trying to attach. With a normal let down, you don’t want to slow or block your milk flow. That’s why I don’t recommend this hold unless you have a fast let down.
Signs of a good Breastfeeding Latch
When your baby is latched well their chin should be pressed into the underside of your breast. Try to keep the chin as far away from the nipple as possible. How do you do that? Make sure your baby has a wide open mouth before you pull them in close.
The chin will do most of the work to get the milk to flow. Your baby’s nose should be touching or close the top of the areola.
You should be able to see quite a lot of the upper side of your areola when you look down. Your baby’s mouth should cover the whole underside of the areola.
It’s difficult for you to see this so you might want to check in a mirror or have your nurse or partner look.
Your baby’s lips should be folded outwards onto your breast. This position creates a tight seal between the mouth and breast, resulting in good suction.
If your baby’s lips are pointing inwards, you can try gently pull outward with your finger or try to re-attach baby onto the breast.
Breastfeeding can be tender as your nipples get used to the friction. However, once your baby attaches well, it shouldn’t be painful for you as they feed.
If your baby appears attached well the issue may be poor tongue position. In this case, you should stop and re-attach baby.
Your baby’s cheeks should be big and round as they feed. This fullness shows the nipple is in the right area of the mouth and baby’s tongue is in the right position for feeding.
You should hear your baby making gulping sounds, especially when your mature milk ‘comes in.’ This may be more difficult to hear when you still have colostrum.
Instead, you may hear the milk ‘hitting the tummy’ and causing a slight rumbling sound.
Another sign of a good latch is the movements on near baby’s jawline. Carefully watch your baby’s ears for a slight wiggle, or you’ll see their temples moving up and down.
Always inspect your nipples at the end of a feed. They should look normal or just slightly elongated.
If they appear ‘lipstick shaped’ or misshaped at one side, this usually indicates a poor latch or suction.
Signs of a Bad breastfeeding Latch
If you notice any of these signs, stop breastfeeding and try to reattach baby.
When these signs persist, seek professional help as soon as possible to avoid severe damage to your nipples.
If it’s painful to feed, this usually is a sign that your baby has not latched on deep enough. The tongue causes pain from the friction of pulling on your nipple.
Bleeding, cracks or blisters
You’ll notice any damage as your body quickly tries to heal the damage. Cracks, blisters and bruising can make feeding extremely painful.
Use a good nipple cream to heal your nipples. If you are waiting for help but need to feed baby try spoon or cup feeding some expressed milk. Another short-term solution is to use a nipple shield as a barrier.
If your baby’s lips are tight together over your nipple, their mouth was not wide enough before attaching.
Try using the sandwich hold described above. It narrows to the area for your baby if they are reluctant to open wide.
If you notice your baby’s cheeks are sucking inward with each motion, then they are not latched on correctly.
It’s likely the nipple is not far enough into the mouth, or the tongue is in the wrong position.
Once your baby is attached, you may hear a clicking sound instead of a swallow. This noise is a sign of poor latch.
It usually means baby is sucking on their tongue rather than on the nipple.
Coming Off the Breast
A baby who is latched and has a good feed will usually come off the breast themselves once they are full. This could take around 20-30 minutes or more.
If you need to end the feed early or need to re-attach baby due to a weak latch, then it’s essential you don’t just pull baby off.
A suckling baby can create quite a strong suction. If you pull them off too quickly, you’re likely to cause damage to your nipple tissue.
There are three ways you can gently remove your baby from your breast without causing damage.
You can break suction from
- The Top. Take your finger and press down on your breast close to the nipple.
- The Bottom. Use your finger to tilt babies chin downward.
- The Side. Place your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth.
Now you’re all set to master a good breastfeeding latch.
Follow my step by step guide and use those breast holds if you need the support.
One your baby is attached lookout for signs of a good latch and signs that you need to re-attach your baby.
Once you get this right, your gonna ward of a lot of breastfeeding problems and as a new mom, you’ll be happy to avoid that headache.
Go forth and breastfeed as you’ve never breastfed before. You’ve got this Mama.