Breastfeeding Latch: A Guide for First Time Mothers

How do you get through breastfeeding latch problems as a first-time mom? Breastfeeding is the most natural way to send nutrients to your newborn. However, it might take time and practice for both the mothers and babies to get the hang of it. To establish feeding properly, the critical key is to understand the ins and outs of a good breastfeeding latch.

What is Breastfeeding Latch?

You’ve seen breastfeeding videos about latching. Breastfeeding latch refers to how a baby takes the breast of the mother into the mouth to breastfeed. The better the baby latches, the more easily the baby gets to drink the milk. The consistent intake of milk allows your child to receive all the nutrition he or she needs to grow and gain weight. But we often have breastfeeding latch problems

Getting Your Baby to Latch

The most significant component of successful breastfeeding is proper latching. If done right, your baby can extract milk efficiently. When this happens, aches and discomfort on your end will go away. Your doctor can teach you how to get your baby to latch correctly.

In the meantime, here are some tips from moms who already succeeded in getting their baby to latch correctly:

  1. Pull baby close to your breasts by supporting their back using your one hand while the other is holding your breast. Then, pull the entire body of your baby, not just his/her head. Pull him/her close enough that he/she can reach your nipple.
  2. Using your nipple, lightly touch the upper lip of your baby until he/she opens his/her mouth.
  3. Bring the mouth of your baby to the nipple (not the other way around). The chin should touch the base of the nipple first. Remember that they should suck more breast tissue under the nipple rather than the upper part.
  4. The lips of your baby should be wide open, and the areola should be wrapped around your baby’s mouth.
  5. Do not hunch over. If you have a nursing pillow, use it to support your baby.
  6. Make sure that nothing is blocking the airway of your baby.

Latch Techniques

Let’s try to learn how to deal with breastfeeding latch problems. Moms are more familiar with the traditional latch. However, there is also another kind of latch technique, the asymmetrical latch. Let us tackle the difference between these two:

Traditional Latch

Whenever you are picturing a breastfeeding latch, the first image that might come into your mind is a traditional latch, which is considered the more common latch technique.

When using a traditional latch, you position your baby in a way that his or her mouth centres around both the nipple and areola like a bullseye. You should be able to measure an equal size of your areola around the mouth of your baby.

Asymmetrical Latch

The asymmetrical latch is a bit different from a traditional latch. Instead of placing the mouth of your baby directly on the centre of the breast, you position it off-centre on your breast. It means that your newborn will have your areola in his or her mouth farther from the nose and nearer to the chin.

Hence, if you are looking at it from a top view, you will see that the chin of your baby will press closer your breast as compared to his or her nose which will only be touching your breast lightly or not at all.

According to most mothers, an asymmetrical latch is more comfortable than a traditional one. It has also been observed to help a newborn more efficiently draw and ingest milk from the breast of the mother.

Signs that Your Baby Latched Properly

You can be a good latch mama but you have to endure so much sometimes before it happens. The first time the baby latches on, you might feel a little bit of tenderness on the nipple. Do not worry; that is normal. What is worrisome is when you feel pain. Pain is the most common sign that your latching is poor.

You can determine if your baby latched properly by looking out for these signs:

  1. Your baby has ‘fish lips’. They are opened wide like those of a fish.
  2. The chin of your baby is touching the lower part of your breast.
  3. Watch out for the ears of your baby. It moves when he/she is feeding and has adequately latched.
  4. Almost all of your areola is inside the mouth of your baby. It means that he or she is latched deep in your breasts.
  5. You can see the tongue of your baby if you pull down their bottom lip.
  6. You will hear and see your little angel swallowing.
  7. There is no clicking noise during feedings.
  8. You feel no pain at all.

Consequences of a Poor Latch

Breastfeeding latch problems? If your newborn is latching poorly, it will affect not only your baby but also you. Listed below are some of the typical effects of poor latching:

1. Pain

The most common result of poor latching is the pain for mothers. It is a misconception that painful breastfeeding is normal. However, this is not the case. Painful breastfeeding is typical, but it is not supposed to be considered normal. It is possible that mothers will feel some tingling pain at the beginning of breastfeeding. This pain should wane off in minutes and your poor baby will have its fill.

Although experiencing pain is not that severe compared to the other consequences, the persistence of this discomfort may result in premature weaning.

2. Nipple Damage

This one is also a common consequence of a baby’s poor latch due to either lip or tongue restrictions. When the babies use their upper lip and lower gum to hold on to the breasts of the mother, it is likely that nipple damage will occur. Nipples can either come out blanching from the restriction and constricting the blood flow within or they can be flattened or creased out.

If this condition worsens off, the trauma might cause blistering, bruising, cracking, or a combination of these three. When the mothers experience these, they might have scabbing or bleeding nipples.

Nipple damages can heal once the babies have improved their latches. However, some moms experience long-term nerve damage due to the severity of their case.

3. Incomplete or Poor Breast Drainage

There are several reasons why a newborn cannot empty a breast. These include the following:

  • Inability to form an appropriate seal
  • Failure to properly use his or her tongue to create enough pressure to draw out the milk
  • Prematurely falling asleep while breastfeeding

Whatever the reason is, incomplete or poor breast drainage can create future problems when it comes to a decrease in milk supply. It can also be a precursor to mastitis.

4. Breast Disease

There are several ways how poor latching can jeopardise the health of a mom. In case babies cause a traumatic latch to the nipples of the mom, these might get infected from cracking and lead to breast abscesses.

Whenever mothers also experience surface trauma, there is a huge possibility that this will result in inoculation with thrush. It is problematic since a newborn can receive or transfer this condition. It may also lead to bleb, plugged ducts, or superficial bacterial infections.

One of the worst consequences of poor latching is mastitis. It can lead to a sudden decrease in the supply of breast milk and can also lead to hospitalisation.

The Best Breastfeeding Positions

The body of a woman naturally produces breast milk. But making sure your baby gets the most out of it is another story.  At first, breastfeeding positions will be hazy, crazy, and confusing. Nothing to worry—you will get there, and you’ll soon figure out the proper breastfeeding positions to use with your baby.

Getting Rid of Breastfeeding Latch Problems

1. Cradle Hold

This one is the most usual breastfeeding position. It is also the most comfortable position to attempt. This position is fitting for babies who are three months and beyond. And if you want to be discreet when you breastfeed in public, cradle hold is the breastfeeding position for you and your baby.

How to do the cradle hold: Use nursing pillows to prop up your arm and hold your baby in a cradle position. Your arms will be your baby’s pillow, and their body should be lying on their side.

2. Cross-Cradle Hold

This one is similar to the cradle hold position. This breastfeeding position is useful for newborn babies who do not know how to latch yet and for those babies who are not feeling well.

How to do the cross-cradle hold: Put a nursing pillow on your lap and lie your baby on his or her side. If you are breastfeeding on the right side, use your left hand to cradle your baby. Make sure that the palm of your hand supports the baby’s neck and back. Use your right hand to hold your right breast.

3. Football Hold

This breastfeeding position is ideal for moms who have had a cesarean section delivery. The position keeps your baby from adding pressure to your incision. It is also recommendable for moms who do tandem feeding or those who have twins.

How to do the football hold: Use pillows or a nursing pillow and make sure your baby is lying next to you at breast level. Your baby’s legs should be under your arms. Use the arm that is on the side of your baby to support his/her head. Hold your breast using your other hand and slowly bring your baby’s face into your breast.

4. Side Lying

This breastfeeding position is best for moms who co-sleep with their baby. It is the most complicated hold to master, but if you learn this position, it will be easier for you to breastfeed your baby in the future. You can sleep while your baby is nursing. Such a life-saver, isn’t it?

How to do side-lying position: Lie with your baby side by side, facing each other, and have your arms around your baby or under your head. Your other hand will assist the baby in latching to your nipples.

5. Laid Back Position

Also known as the natural breastfeeding position, it is ideal for moms who have smaller breasts and for babies with a sensitive stomach. This position is done right after birth. It helps your baby find his or her way to your breasts, initiating an instinct to feed.

How to do laid back position: Get yourself some comfortable pillows and lie on your back. Make sure that you are NOT lying flat on your back; instead, you should be in a slightly upward position. Put your baby’s tummy down on top of your stomach. Help your baby find its way to your breasts or just let your baby find your nipple.

Common Breastfeeding Latch Problems and How to Solve It

There are a few reasons why your newborn is not latching correctly. Below are some of the most common latch problems and what strategies can be used to overcome them.

Your Baby is Sleepy

When your newborn is too sleepy or too tired to move, he or she might show no interest in breastfeeding. There are times that the medications during childbirth cause this drowsiness, but at other times, it’s because they are just too tired.

If your baby does not regularly wake up to breastfeed, make sure that you stir him or her up every two to three hours. Keep your baby awake by unwrapping him or her, changing the diaper, or just plain talking to him or her. You may even hold your baby in a different nursing position to make him or her less comfortable.

You Have Large Nipples and Large Breasts

Tried a nipple pinch because of the pain? If you have large nipples, large breasts, or both, it may be too difficult for your child to latch onto them. As a result, sucking enough amount of breastmilk from you will be hard for them.

If you have large nipples, you can try using the suction of a breast pump to make your nipples a little bit thinner and longer. You can do this process every before breastfeeding. You may also opt to use a nipple shield. Once you place this over your nipples, its smaller shape will help your baby grasp more comfortably using his or her mouth.

On the other hand, the best move for those with large breasts is to ask someone to help you at the start of breastfeeding. These individuals can help you position your baby correctly so that they can latch on properly. Once you become more comfortable and your baby has learned to latch on better, you can eventually do it on your own.

Do not worry if have both of this. As your baby grows, latching onto your nipples and breasts no matter their sizes will be more natural for him or her.

Your Baby is Crying Too Much

A child may cry too much due to various reasons. It can be because they are tired, sleepy, hungry, or overstimulated. When they are too fussy, breastfeeding can be a little bit harder since the baby will most likely not latch on to breastfeed.

There are several ways on how to go about with this problem, these being the following:

  • Hold and snuggle your child to calm him or her down.
  • Move your baby to a quieter area. You may even dim the lights to help them feel more relaxed.
  • You may also gently squeeze and release a number of drops of breastmilk onto your breast before they latch. The smell of the milk may encourage them to breastfeed.
  • Change your milking position or change sides and look for breastfeeding holds in which they are more comfortable.

Your Nipples are Either Flat or Inverted

Some babies find it easier to latch on to flat or inverted nipples. However, there are times that they find it difficult to do so.

Using the suction of a breast pump is the best way to go about this problem. You can pump it for a minute or two to draw out and lengthen your nipples so that you can begin breastfeeding your baby. Do this every time you plan on latching on your baby. If this technique still does not work, try talking to a lactation professional or your doctor about using a nipple shield.

You Have Breast Engorgement

Breast engorgement is common for mothers especially in the early years of motherhood. It is the time when your colostrum turns into traditional breast milk when breastfeeding. At the transitional breast milk stage, it is most likely that your milk production will increase at a steady rate. It results in milk filling up your breasts. When this happens, the tendency is that they will become swollen and hard.

Once your breasts become tight, your nipple will flatten out. As a result, the baby will then have a difficult time to latch. To make it easier for the baby, you can pump or hand-express a little amount of milk before breastfeeding so that you can soften your skin around the areola and nipples.

So You Have Breastfeeding Latch Problems

There are various developmental problems which may lead to latching problems. Below are some of the common issues and some ways on how to go about them:

1. Premature Baby

A premature baby usually has a smaller mouth than other newborns. Because of the size of the mouth, it is more difficult for them to get a good latch. There is also a tendency that the preemies will tire out quickly from sucking and drawing out milk since they have less energy to spare.

The best way to approach this is to use a nipple shield. It will be more natural for him or her to latch onto the breast this way and you’ll get to eliminate it as on of your breastfeeding latch problems

2. Cleft Lip

A cleft lip or a cleft palate makes it more difficult for the baby to seal their mouths around the breast. They usually have a hard time reaching the level of suction needed to draw out the breast milk. Despite this, it is not impossible for them to breastfeed.

The best thing to do is to seek guidance from a lactation consultant, your baby’s doctor, or any healthcare professional who specialises in your baby’s care. They will usually provide you with a myriad of breastfeeding techniques to handle the latching of babies with a cleft lip.

It is also crucial you get started with this treatment as soon as possible so you’ll have a greater chance of succeeding.

3. Tongue-Tied

Newborns with a short or tight lingual frenulum are “tongue-tied” or with ankyloglossia. Because of their condition, they usually have a hard time to nurse. These babies either cannot adequately cup the breast whenever they’re breastfeeding or they cannot extend their tongue far out of his or her mouth.

If you observe that your kid is tongue-tied, the first step is to talk to both of your doctor and the baby’s doctor. The baby’s doctor will then test and examine your baby’s condition so that he or she can draft the best treatment and breastfeeding strategy depending on the severity of the tongue-tie.

4. Other Special Needs

Babies born with a heart condition usually have a hard time breathing or get tired quickly. On the other hand, newborns with neurological problems have a difficult time sucking or sealing around the mother’s breast.

If your baby is one of those with these recurring issues, he or she might need extra help in latching. The best approach for this is to seek the help of a doctor. They will most likely train and teach your child how to latch on properly while breastfeeding. While he or she is still learning this, you may opt to pump your breast milk first to supplement them.

Breastfeeding latch problems are very common

Remember, if you experience painful breastfeeding, a baby who does not put on weight, or a hungry child after feeding, poor breastfeeding latch might be the main culprit. Just make sure to study what’s written above, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

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