Breastfeeding Latch (page 2)
Tips for Getting Off to a Good Start
After you have the baby, these steps can help you get off to a great start:
- Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth.
- Ask for an on-site lactation consultant to come help you.
- Ask the staff not to give your baby other food or formula, unless it is medically necessary.
- Allow your baby to stay in your hospital room all day and night so that you can breastfeed often. Or, ask the nurses to bring you your baby for feedings.
- Try to avoid giving your baby any pacifiers or artificial nipples so that he or she gets used to latching onto just your breast.
Bringing Your Baby to the Breast to Latch
When awake, your baby will move his or her head back and forth, looking and feeling for the breast with his or her mouth and lips. The steps below can help you get your baby to “latch” on to the breast to start eating. Keep in mind that there is no one way to start breastfeeding. As long as the baby is latched on well, how you get there is up to you.
- Hold your baby, wearing only a diaper, against your bare chest. Hold the baby upright with his or her head under your chin. Your baby will be comfortable in that cozy valley between your breasts. You can ask your partner or a nurse to place a blanket across your baby’s back and bring your bedcovers over you both. Your skin temperature will rise to warm your baby.
- Support his or her neck and shoulders with one hand and hips with the other. He or she may move in an effort to find your breast.
- Your baby’s head should be tilted back slightly to make it easy to suck and swallow. With his or her head back and mouth open, the tongue is naturally down and ready for the breast to go on top of it.
- Allow your breast to hang naturally. When your baby feels it with his or her cheek, he or she may open his or her mouth wide and reach it up and over the nipple. You can also guide the baby to latch on as you see in the illustrations below.
- At first, your baby’s nose will be lined up opposite your nipple. As his or her chin presses into your breast, his or her wide, open mouth will get a large mouthful of breast for a deep latch. Keep in mind that your baby can breathe at the breast. The nostrils flare to allow air in.
- Do not put your hands on your baby’s head. As it tilts back, support your baby’s upper back and shoulders with the palm of your hand and pull your baby in close.
Getting your Baby to Latch
- Tickle the baby’s lips to encourage him or her to open wide.
- Pull your baby close so that the chin and lower jaw moves into your breast first.
- Watch the lower lip and aim it as far from base of nipple as possible, so the baby takes a large mouthful of breast.
Signs of a Good Latch
- The latch feels comfortable to you, without hurting or pinching. How it feels is more important than how it looks.
- Your baby’s chest is against your body and he or she does not have to turn his or her head while drinking.
- You see little or no areola, depending on the size of your areola and the size of your baby’s mouth. If areola is showing, you will see more above your baby’s lip and less below.
- When your baby is positioned well, his or her mouth will be filled with breast.
- The tongue is cupped under the breast, although you might not see it.
- You hear or see your baby swallow. Some babies swallow so quietly, a pause in their breathing may be the only sign of swallowing.
- You see the baby’s ears “wiggle” slightly.
- Your baby’s lips turn out like fish lips, not in. You may not even be able to see the bottom lip.
- Your baby’s chin touches your breast.
Help with Latch Problems
Are you in pain? Many moms report that their breasts can be tender at first until both they and their baby find comfortable breastfeeding positions and a good latch. Once you have done this, breastfeeding should be comfortable. If it hurts, your baby may be sucking on only the nipple. Gently break your baby’s suction to your breast by placing a clean finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth and try again. Also, your nipple should not look flat or compressed when it comes out of your baby’s mouth. It should look round and long, or the same shape as it was before the feeding.
Are you or your baby frustrated? Take a short break and hold your baby in an upright position. Try holding him or her between your breasts skin-to-skin. Talk, sing, or provide your finger for sucking for comfort. Try to breastfeed again in a little while. Or, the baby may start moving to the breast on his or her own from this position.
Does your baby have a weak suck, or make only tiny suckling movements? Break your baby’s suction and try again. He or she may not have a deep enough latch to remove the milk from your breast. Talk with a lactation consultant or pediatrician if your baby’s suck feels weak or if you are not sure he or she is getting enough milk. Rarely, a health problem causes the weak suck.
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