Wondering if your little sweetie is latching on properly? Here are some tips to help you determine if you are getting a good latch.
Breastfeeding Shouldn’t Hurt
Feeding your new little baby shouldn’t hurt. In fact, if there is any pain at all, this is a sign that your baby isn’t breastfeeding properly.
Successful breastfeeding requires a strong latch that allows the baby to receive a smooth release of milk while remaining in control of the flow. An improper latch could hurt your nipples and is likely to frustrate your baby. If not corrected, it could interfere with your baby receiving enough milk to feel full and thrive. Whether you’re having latch problems or not, it’s important to know how to assess your baby’s latch and combat potential problems quickly.
How to Tell if Baby is Latched on Properly
Many breastfeeding mothers know that their babies are properly latched because it feels comfortable on their nipple and the baby is content. The baby remains latched throughout the feeding and doesn’t fuss or show other signs of frustration or distress. After each feeding, the baby seems full and satisfied. The baby continues to grow at an acceptable rate, which is verified through doctor checkups.
10 Signs that Baby is Latching On Properly
If you’re in that ideal position, you may still want to do some simple checks to make sure that your baby is properly latched. If you believe that your baby isn’t latching properly, the following checks will help you verify the problem.
1. If you gently pull your baby’s lower lip down during a feeding, you can see the baby’s tongue. When properly latched, your baby will push his tongue along the bottom of the nipple, which places it inside the lower lip.
2. Your baby’s mouth circles around your areolas. Some babies struggling to latch deeply will suck on just then nipple because they aren’t opening their mouths wide enough.
3. Besides the sound of good swallowing, breastfeeding is a rather quiet process. One sign of an improper latch is frequent clicks or smacks coming from the baby’s mouth and the nipple. The only noise you want to hear is the swallow, and it’s possibly a problem if you can’t hear or see the swallow.
4. Your baby’s jaw seems to make a circular motion while suckling. That smooth circular motion is characteristic of a proper latch that works well with the baby’s natural sucking pattern. If your baby isn’t latched properly, you may notice more aggressive motion primarily from the chin. Your baby is working hard to express milk, but an improper latch is preventing her from achieving that smooth suckling motion.
5. Your baby’s lips and your nipples are puckered outwards. You should look down and see your baby’s lips pushed out around your nipple rather than folded down or under. When your baby releases the latch, your nipple should also stand out from the recent stimulation. If your nipples look flat or oddly shaped, the latch is likely incorrect.
6. You don’t suffer routine soreness or dried, cracked skin on or around the nipples. An improper latch will likely feel uncomfortable and will show in the condition of your skin over time.
7. Your baby’s cheeks remain full and relaxed throughout the breastfeeding process. If you notice your little one’s cheeks sucking in, she may need some help latching so that releasing milk isn’t such a struggle.
8. Your breast meets your baby’s chin and nose. If your baby draws your breast in properly, his face will rest very close to your breast. Think of this as just more proof that breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact go together naturally.
9. Your baby seems to release the latch repeatedly. Even if you don’t see anything wrong with the latch, you have to assume that something is wrong if your baby is unable or unwilling to stay latched throughout the feeding. If he routinely drops the nipple or seems to try latching over and over with fussing or other signs of frustration, he’s struggling and needs help.
10. Your breasts aren’t emptied during feedings, and your baby wants to breastfeed constantly. If your baby can’t latch properly, she probably won’t receive enough milk to feel satisfied. She will want to feed often because she’s hungry and needs the nutritional support. If this happens for too long, your baby may not hit growth milestones and may not thrive without serious intervention.
What to Do If Your Baby Doesn’t Latch Properly
There are some steps that you can take to help your baby latch properly. Watching how your baby latches naturally and checking on the 10 signs of a proper latch listed above is a good start. That may give you some insight into what your baby is doing wrong. For instance, you may notice that your baby wants to place his tongue in the wrong place or isn’t opening his mouth wide enough to latch onto more than just the nipple.
Start by checking your breastfeeding position. There are many positions that you may choose, but make sure that the baby can easily reach your breast and is turned in toward your body. Place your hand around the outer edges of your areola and gently squeeze your nipple, creating a firmer base around the nipple that may help the baby latch.
You may assume that your baby knows how to find the nipple and latch if placed close, but newborns may need more guidance. Hold your baby’s head and gently bring him to your breast. Make sure that your nipple is placed over the baby’s tongue and his chin touches your breast as he latches. This gives you enough control to encourage a deep latch that extends around the areola rather than just on the nipple.
If the latch isn’t right the first time around, don’t hesitate to gently break the baby’s latch and start over. That may frustrate a hungry baby, but it’s best to master a proper latch right from the beginning. Placing the baby on a pillow at your side or across your front is ideal because it allows you to use both of your hands to guide your nipple and the baby’s head together.
This video is done by a midewife in the UK and is very helpful:
You may still think your baby is not latching properly. If you continue to have any trouble with your baby’s ability to latch, ask a friend, your nurse or a lactation consultant for help. The benefits of breastfeeding are so great that it is worth the effort to keep trying.
They may be able to help you assess the current problems with your baby’s latch and then intervene to correct the issues quickly.
The longer your baby struggles to latch properly, the more likely she is to suffer from health problems as a result. You may even notice your breast milk supply decreasing because your body isn’t receiving the proper signals that more milk is in demand. If it takes awhile for your baby to overcome obstacles and learn to latch properly, you may need to pump between feedings or just after feedings to make sure that you milk supply remains strong.
Once your baby gets the hang of it, you should find that she will feed happily and easily almost every time.
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