You can never be completely prepared
I had never heard of the term proper latch before I started breastfeeding. I mean, it’s possible the word came across my reading material, but breastfeeding just seemed like such a distant problem while pregnant that I didn’t put much weight into.
There was so much talk online about “fed is best” and I had the impression that only a select few got the privilege to breastfeed, or that it was some type of draw of the lotto. Either you were a lucky winner or you were not.
The good news is that the majority of women CAN breastfeed. The bad news is that it can be quite challenging overcoming some adversities. One of the main issues women face is getting the correct latch. If the latch is wrong or shallow it will hurt tremendously. I have felt that pain and it is awful.
If you are in pain, it is possible your baby is not latching properly to the breast. Sometimes this can be remedied by encouraging a deeper latch (read more below), however sometimes medical intervention might be necessary.
Many mothers who experience issues with correcting a latch or suffer low milk supply could be dealing with a potential lip or tongue tie. This is something many doctors recommend reversing. Reason being that a (severe) lip or tongue tie can wreak havoc with eating and speaking development during the next handful of years.
If you are unsure if breastfeeding is worth it check out –>
Why is a proper latch important?
The term breastfeeding latch refers to the location of the nipple inside baby’s mouth. A large part of the areola should also be inside your baby’s mouth and the nipple will hit far back against the softer palate of the mouth called velum.
A proper latch provides 2 things:
- Good milk flow as baby can properly stimulate let-downs.
- A comfortable breastfeeding experience. (latching incorrectly is very painful).
A poor latch is the most common reason why mothers stop breastfeeding. In the United States about 84% of mothers start breastfeeding, but only 53% are still breastfeeding at 6 months. This number drops partially due to mother’s being in pain with no support system to help them navigate the issue and no mother should have to go through that.
How to create a proper latch
First of all, you need think about the position of your baby upon breastfeeding. Once the two of you are in a groove, the breastfeeding position doesn’t matter anymore. In the meanwhile, consider holding your baby is such a way that enables gravity to help guide the nipple deeper into the mouth. This is any position when where baby is looking up towards the breast.
I suggest the cradle hold mainly because you can use the other free hand to guide the breast. I also think it’s the most natural position as the baby is wrapped around the front of your torso. The football hold is very popular among mothers too, however positioning the baby this way never came naturally to me.
Steps to creating a good latch:
- Take the breast in a hand and tickle the baby over their upper lip in the medial cleft area. This will activate your babys feeding response by opening their mouth.
- Make sure their chin is pointing away from their body and not tucked against their chest.
- While holding the breast in one hand, point your nipple towards their upper lip. Bring it as far into their mouth as possible while visualizing the nipple going upwards towards their palate.
Signs of a proper latch
The obvious sign of a proper latch is that it’s not painful. When you are just starting off where might be a slight discomfort during the first few weeks as everyone gets adjusted. The pain should only last a minute or less, so if it continues to be painful it’s a good idea to unlatch your baby and try again.
I suggest helping your baby latch on properly for as long as necessary. Thinking back I got in such a habit of positioning the breast for my baby that I kept on doing it longer than necessary. We bed shared as well, and through the night he started latching with minimal effort within the second month of life.
There are a few visual cue’s you can look for to help understand if your baby’s latch it good:
- Sucking should be pain free.
- Baby chin is pointing away from their body and touching your breast.
- Most of the areola is inside their mouth.
- Their moth is open against the breast and lips are turned outward
- You hear baby swallowing
If you need to re latch your baby, make sure to help break the suction. Don’t pull out the breast from baby’s mouth as this could hurt. Instead, put a finger between breast and baby’s mouth. This will break the suction and you can take the breast out and try again.
Reasons for poor latch
If you have followed all the instructions on how to hold baby, position the breast yet struggle to get baby to latch, you might be dealing with other issues that require professional’s help. Don’t worry though- getting professional help does not make you less of a mother! We all need help sometimes and honestly, I think all mama’s should see a lactation consultant at the beginning of their journey.
3 most common reasons for a poor latch:
- Poor positioning – as discussed above, this is the easiest issue to overcome. Reading online and seeing visuals can really help with positioning. There are also online video courses that many mothers take.
- Lip or Tongue Ties – A condition where the string of tissue that connects baby’s upper lip to their gums is too short for proper mobility. This also can occur to their tongue. A tie can be surgically snipped and result is a better latch for baby. There are several levels of severity and many mothers breastfeed successfully with ties as well.
- Flat or inverted nipples- When nipples are flat or inverted it can make it difficult for baby to attach properly to the breast. This affects milk flow which later creates supply issues. Some babys have a strong suction and can work past the less ideal nipple shape. Speak to a lactation consultant if it doesn’t seem like your baby is not latching on due to your nipple shape.
It will get easier
When starting off it truly feels like breastfeeding will be difficult FOREVER! We ask ourselves how other mother’s can breastfeed for so long and enjoy it. You have to remember that as a new mother you are also recovering from child birth while trying to learn how to keep a human being alive at the same time! It is down right difficult.
Give yourself grace and give yourself time. I promise you it will get easier as both you and baby learn from each other. All of a sudden, breastfeeding will feel like second nature and the newborn phase will be a distant memory.
If you are in pain though take action right away! There are great lactation consultants through La Leche League and they are stationed all over the world. I also recommend breastfeeding support groups online.
If you want to breastfeed but are struggling, don’t lose hope! Luckily their are several organizations out their to support mothers by connecting them with experienced lactation consultants and support groups.
- La Leche League International
- “Our Mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.”
- International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners
- “IBLCE establishes the highest standards in lactation and breastfeeding care worldwide and certifies individuals who meet these standards.
- Breastfeeding USA
- The mission of Breastfeeding USA is to provide evidence-based breastfeeding information and support, and to promote breastfeeding as the biological and cultural norm. We accomplish this through a network of accredited breastfeeding counselors and comprehensive resources for the benefit of mothers and babies, families, and communities.
I also highly suggest joining breastfeeding Facebook groups. These are closed and monitored, so posts you write about your breastfeeding struggles will not show up in your public feed (however the public can see that you are part of that group if they go into your profile info).
Facebook Support Groups
Two groups I highly recommend is The Beyond Sleep Training Project. Even if its focused on safe bed sharing, most mothers are breastfeeding and I learned so much their when I was starting off.
Later as your baby turns 12 months, I highly suggest Breastfeeding Older Babies & Beyond.
While you get comfortable in your new role as mama, have your husband or friend put together a breastfeeding basket for you. You need to be pampered girl!