You can clearly see the importance of your baby's latch on the breast when it starts to hurt. A good latch makes breastfeeding easier and can prevent problems and sore nipples. Read on for useful tips on how to get your baby to latch correctly, and download the LEIA Health app to try our feeding log, which helps you keep track of how and when you last bottle-fed, breastfed, or pumped.
When your baby opens their mouth wide, the nipple should go far into their mouth, reaching the soft parts of the palate where it's protected. Your baby should not be sucking directly on the nipple itself. If the latch is shallow, and the baby's tongue rubs against the nipple, it's highly likely to cause problems. This can lead to pain during breastfeeding and, in some cases, even nipple damage. Besides the discomfort, sore nipples can reduce milk production and contribute to mastitis.
To get your baby to have a proper latch, here are some tips:
Breastfeed in a laid-back position where the baby lies on their belly, preferably skin-to-skin, on top of your upper body, and can seek and take the breast at their own pace. This triggers the rooting reflex, causing your baby to automatically lift their head and open their mouth wider for a better latch. Ensure your baby's nose remains free for breathing in this position.
When sitting while breastfeeding, slightly tilt the baby's head backward to make it easier for them to open their mouth wide. Aim the nipple towards your baby's nose or upper lip so that they must tilt their head slightly backward to latch correctly. The baby's chin should touch the breast, and the nose should remain free for breathing. Remember: "Chin in, nose out."
Regardless of whether you are sitting or lying down, ensure that the baby's entire body, chest, abdomen, and knees, are facing you. Your baby should not have to turn their head to reach the breast.
Be very close to each other, preferably skin-to-skin, and make sure nothing creates a gap between you two. Supporting your baby's shoulders with one hand can help bring their chin close to the breast and keep their nose free, but avoid holding their head.
If you're sitting, bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby. In practice, it's crucial to be comfortable and relaxed for breastfeeding to work as smoothly as possible. Let the baby seek, lick, and take the breast at their own pace. When the baby is ready with a wide-open mouth, you can bring them even closer, but don't forcefully insert the breast into their mouth.
If breastfeeding doesn't feel right, hurts, and doesn't improve after a short while, you need to adjust the latch. You can "release" your baby and try again. Insert a finger into the corner of the baby's mouth to break the vacuum, then let the baby start over.
Remember that you can't judge a latch from the outside. Trust your own feelings. If it doesn't feel right or if there's chafing or pain in the nipple, the latch isn't good. Breastfeeding shouldn't be painful. Initial latches might sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable, but it should pass quickly and always be manageable.
When the baby finishes breastfeeding, they'll release the latch themselves or fall asleep. Examine your nipple after nursing to see if it looks normal. If it has changed color or shape, it may indicate that you need to adjust something for the next feeding session.
Both you and your baby need practice with breastfeeding! This is new for both of you, and practice makes perfect. Time, patience, and trust are essential.
"I had no idea how crucial the baby's latch on the breast was and struggled with breastfeeding for weeks before I got help from a lactation consultant."