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The most crucial part of breastfeeding is making sure you have the perfect 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 latching was as easy as making sure baby’s mouth is closed over the leaky end of your breast! Unfortunately, getting that proper latch is a bit more involved.
Now it’s easy to find latch diagrams online, but the problem is that the diagrams are almost always drawn from a completely different angle than how you’re viewing your baby.
So how can we make sure we have the perfect latch every time? I’ll tell you!
Wash your hands first! Humor me here. You have a lot going on in your world right now and it’s easy to forget to wash. Besides, “clean enough” probably isn’t. This is important. So go wash! I’ll wait.
Now 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 want to nurse in. I think the football hold is perfect for newborns.
If you have large breasts that need to be handled, choose a position that isn’t going to require you to be lifting. Remember, you’re gonna be here a while.
You may want to look check out the My Brest Friend nursing pillow. It holds your baby so you can use your hands more freely. Since it’s thick and firm it’ll hold your baby right by your breasts, and it won’t slip and slide all over while you’re trying to figure this out.
Once you’re in position, you’ll use one hand mostly to hold the baby steady 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, shape your hand like a C (creatively called the C Hold) and cup 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 – that’s the darker area around your nipple. Don’t cover the areola though, because this is where her mouth is going to go.
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. Swaddling is an invaluable tool for keeping your newborn snug, secure, and keeping those hands away!! Here’s a helpful tutorial to teach you how to swaddle correctly.
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 your baby approaches the breast, you should be able to see most of her face.
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 the 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. And it may feel like several thousands of times. Try to stay patient though because frustration only makes it more difficult.
This may not feel nice. That’s a polite way of saying it may hurt. If it hurts unbearably 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. Don’t try to just pull her off (ask me how I know)!
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. Just focus on getting a comfortable position and baby’s mouth open wide, then practice and keep patient. 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 the latch.
Did you overcome latch problems? Please comment and let me know what helped you!