by Sarah Das
In order to ensure a good latch when feeding your baby, it`s helpful to start with the basic obvious question – What does a good latch look and feel like?
Latching refers to how the baby attaches onto your nipple and areola, the areola is the area around the nipple. This may sound obvious but once this basic skill is mastered by mum and baby other aspects of breastfeeding should fall into place.
For a latch to be effective the bottom of your areola needs to be in your baby’s mouth and your nipple needs to be towards the back, inside the baby`s mouth, where it’s soft and flexible. A shallow, or poor latch happens when your baby does not have enough of your areola in their mouth or the latch is too close to only the tip of the nipple. A shallow latch will cause the nipple skin to press against the bones in the top of the baby’s mouth. That can cause your nipple to get sore, crack, and bleed. Remember that your nipples are pretty sensitive so any trauma will hurt.
Step by step help to ensure a good latch
1. Position yourself comfortably, well supported, not hunched over your baby. Use extra pillows if necessary. Sit or lie on your side. Relax!
2. Whatever the position, the baby’s whole body would be turned towards you. Support them behind their shoulders, therefore baby`s head should be free to tilt back slightly.
3. Aim the nipple just above baby`s mouth, towards the baby’s nose. Offer areola/breast tissue rather than just the nipple itself.
4. Encourage a wide open mouth, with tongue well down, by stroking lower lip with breast tissue rather than the nipple. This may take a few goes to achieve.
5. Plant lower lip first, well down on the areola/breast, then roll baby on, aiming their top lip just above the nipple. Try to get breast tissue against the tongue and not so much against the roof of the mouth. If the areola is large, more should be visible above the top lip than below the lower lip.
6. Baby should have their mouth wide open and lips flanged out, creating a good seal.
7. When your baby is actively feeding their jaws and even whole head will move, their ears may wriggle and frequent swallowing can be seen or heard.
8. Baby should stay attached and not keep sliding on and off the nipple.
9. Remember some babies latch on straight away and others take a little longer.
Did you manage to latch your baby properly?
If your nipples hurt for longer than a few seconds, then the latch is probably too shallow. Gently break the suction by placing a clean finger into your baby’s mouth and help your baby latch on again.
When your baby has completed their feed and comes off your breast, your nipple should look the same or slightly longer. Pain or pinching is a sign of a poor latch.
Positioning yourself, or baby, in different ways may help with latching.