Effective breastfeeding is important for proper development, good health, and the general well-being of babies. While this memorable experience can be easy and fun, it may take a little while to settle into the routine of it, as some women and their babies initially struggle with breastfeeding, especially due to latching problems.
What Is Latching All About?
For breastfeeding to be effective, your baby has to ‘latch’ properly to your nipples. This refers to the position or grip a baby’s mouth has on his/her mom’s nipple during breastfeeding. A proper latch would help him/her get the best out of every meal in the most comfortable position possible.
The Right Latch
With the right latch to the breast during breastfeeding sessions, your baby can receive breast milk easily and in the right quantity. Getting the right latch is really important for you and your baby as it helps him/her get all the nutrients needed to grow strong and healthy. In addition, the right latch makes breastfeeding easy and enjoyable for you as a mom.
While breastfeeding, your baby should have a large portion of the lower part of your areola (the dark skin around your nipple) in his/her mouth. Furthermore, your nipple should lie against the roof of his/her mouth, cupped slightly underneath by the tongue.
What Are The Signs of A Good Latch?
Whenever you breastfeed, make sure that:
- Your baby’s chin touches your breast throughout the process
- He/she is breathing properly
- The latch is not painful or overly uncomfortable
- His/her mouth is wide open and a large portion of your areola, and not just your nipple, is in his/her mouth.
If all these boxes are ticked during nursing sessions, then you and your little one have no latching problems.
One of the major issues associated with breastfeeding is latching. Although many babies latch properly immediately after birth, certain children may require some time and effort to overcome latching problems during nursing. In this period, the baby may not get enough milk while the mother can develop painful breast conditions like breast engorgement.
This results from a number of factors which include:
- Premature birth
- Flat or Inverted Nipples
- Wrong Positioning
- Underlying Medical Conditions (Jaundice, Down Syndrome and Tongue Tie)
How to Fix Latching Problems
Breastfeeding problems often come with a lot of questions, anxiety, and concerns for parents. Therefore, we have compiled the following tips that are guaranteed to help you fix latching problems while breastfeeding.
1. Change Your Position
While breastfeeding, try out different positions until you find out what works perfectly for you and your baby. In the right position, your baby’s chin should touch your breasts with his/her mouth open wide and covering most of your areola.
In order to feed effectively, your baby needs to feel comfortable and supported in every way. Make sure you’re not pushing his/her head or holding it firmly. You can slightly adjust his/her head, neck, or back in order to find the right position to get a good latch.
2. Use a Nipple Shield
Nipple shields are thin, cap-shaped structures placed directly above the nipple to protect it during nursing. In addition to protecting your nipple, a nipple shield provides a firm stimulus for your baby’s mouth. This stimulus would reach the roof of his/her mouth and eventually enhance the process of latching.
Furthermore, a nipple shield provides a large surface for latching, which is especially important for women with tiny nipples.
3. Pump Out Some Milk
If your baby still has problems with latching on the third or fourth day of life, you should get a good breast pump. With a pump, you can produce all the milk your child needs to stay nourished and healthy, even if he/she is not latching properly.
4. Have Some Skin Time
Another effective way to fix latching problems while breastfeeding is to spend at least two hours daily on ‘skin time’. This process is designed to make your child become more familiar with your skin.
To achieve this, strip your baby down to his/her nappies and lie baby down on your bare chest. This would seriously boost the hormones responsible for breastfeeding and also allow your little one to become more comfortable around you and your breasts.
In addition, effective skin time keeps your baby calm and sated during breastfeeding as a fussy child is more likely to encounter latching problems than a calm and compliant one.
5. Draw Out Your Nipples
If your nipples are flat or inverted, attempt to draw them out using a Nipple Everter, which is a small structure designed to draw out flat nipples and help your baby latch on effectively. Furthermore, you can try Nipple Formers which fit perfectly inside a nursing bra, and applies the gentle pressure needed to draw out your nipples for effective breastfeeding.
6. Get Help
If you have tried all the tips above and your baby is still not latching or feeding well, please consult your lactation consultant or pediatrician. This is really important because it may mean that he/she is not getting enough breast milk to stay healthy and grow well.
Remember, you are not alone. Support is essential to an effective breastfeeding journey. We strongly recommend that you call your pediatrician immediately if:
- Your baby does not latch on to your nipple in most feeding sessions
- Baby’s lips and mouth are always dry
- Your baby’s bowel movements are really low. That is, he/she is not having the normal amount of wet or dirty diapers (less than two stools daily in the first two weeks of life).
- The soft spot at the top of your baby’s head begins to sink into their skull
Furthermore, getting professional help with latching problems would boost your confidence and assist your child to find the right position during breastfeeding. In cases where the latching problem is associated with other medical conditions (like a tongue tie), a referral may be made to the right professional for treatment.
How to Get the Right Latch
In this section, we’ve compiled a few steps that are guaranteed to make the latch-on process easy for you and your baby.
1. Help your baby open his/her mouth
This is quite simple. What you have to do is hold your child close with your nipple at the same level as his/her nose. Next, allow your nipple to touch his/her upper lip to encourage him/her to open his/her mouth wide. Always remember that the wider the mouth is opened, the easier it is to get the right latch.
2. Assess your latching position
Before you start nursing your child, make sure his/her head, neck, and spine are in a straight line and not twisted in any way. Furthermore, your baby’s chin should be directed upwards towards your nipple and not downwards to his/her chest. In addition, your comfort is important too; you can use pillows or cushions to support your back, neck, or arms while nursing.
3. Bring your child to your breast
Immediately your baby has opened his/her mouth wide, guide him/her onto your breast, with the nipple aimed towards the top of his/her mouth. Remember, a baby’s chin must touch your breast first during nursing sessions.
4. Keep Your Baby Close
As much as you can, keep your baby close to you, with his/her chin in contact with your breasts. Thankfully, this does not affect breathing in any way. This is really important because it allows your child to become more comfortable with your skin.
5. Watch Out for the Signs
While your baby feeds, keep an eye out for the signs of a good latch. The latch should not be uncomfortable or painful. In fact, all you should feel is a slight tugging sensation.
Also, you should watch your baby; after the initial rapid sucks to stimulate milk flow, he/she would begin to suck deeply and slowly with some pauses in between. This is usually an indicator that he/she is getting enough milk.
Furthermore, you’re expected to observe notable jaw movements and hear sucking and swallowing sounds from your baby while breastfeeding. Another important sign to watch out for is your baby’s bowel movement during breastfeeding.
Problems associated with latching may impair the effectiveness of breastfeeding, cause anxiety, pain, or early weaning in most cases. However, with the tips above, most latching problems can be fixed.
We understand that breastfeeding is not always as straightforward as most people imagine. It is usually a period of learning for both mother and child.
Finally, we advise that you remain patient, cheerful, and willing to learn from us, your lactation consultant, and other health care professionals. With this, we are certain that you would overcome any current problems and have a beautiful breastfeeding journey.