If you’re wondering how to correct a shallow latch breastfeeding, you’re probably dealing with some breastfeeding struggles.
Nipple pain and bleeding can result from a shallow latch. Your baby also might not be getting enough milk which can cause your supply to drop. It’s important to correct a shallow latch because a deep breastfeeding latch ensures things so smoothly.
A deep latch shouldn’t be painful, and should leave your baby satisfied after feeding time. Keep reading to determine if you need to correct a shallow latch when your breastfeed your baby.
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What Is A Shallow Latch?
A breastfeeding latch is the way your baby attaches to your breast to breastfeed. When they connect with your breast, they use their lips and tongue to extract milk. Your baby also creates a vacuum with their mouth to stay latched on.
When your baby latches, but doesn’t get enough of your breast in their mouth it’s called a shallow latch. It’s a problem because your baby doesn’t have enough breast tissue in their mouth to be able to extract milk effectively. Your milk ducts need to be compressed by your baby’s tongue for milk to be expressed.
The Importance Of Correcting A Shallow Breastfeeding Latch
When your baby has a shallow latch, they will try to compensate to get more milk. They will suck harder and compress your nipple with more pressure. The result is not very comfortable. Your nipples can crack and start to bleed. Breastfeeding becomes painful and can lead to frustration.
When your baby isn’t able to get enough milk while breastfeeding, they may start to lose weight. Your breast milk is created by a supply and demand process. That means when your baby doesn’t extract adequate milk, your milk supply will drop. It’s so important to learn how to correct a shallow latch breastfeeding, for your own comfort and for your baby’s health.
Signs & Symptoms Of A Shallow Latch
The MOST important things to ask when concerned about a shallow latch are: is it comfortable? And is it effective?
Your nipples shouldn’t be excruciatingly painful while breastfeeding. In the beginning, they might be sore but it should be similar to breaking in a new pair of shoes. The pain should subside with time. You should never have severe pain while breastfeeding.
You’ll know your baby’s breastfeeding latch is good if they’re gaining weight as expected and have plenty of poopy diapers. Your baby will lose 5-10% of their birth weight immediately after birth. But they should start to gain weight and be back to their birth weight by 2 weeks. They should continue steadily gaining weight, which your pediatrician will monitor.
Your baby might only have 1-2 poopy diapers in the 2 days after birth. But by day 3 your little one should have at least 3 poopy diapers per day. If they do, and breastfeeding isn’t painful, then your breastfeeding latch is fine.
These Things Might Indicate A Shallow Latch
- Painful, cracked, bleeding nipples. While you may be sore when first starting out, you shouldn’t be in excruciating pain while breastfeeding. Your nipples should not be cracked and bleeding, that’s an indication something is likely wrong with the latch.
- Nipple looks pinched after unlatching. When you unlatch your baby, notice how your nipple looks. It should look rounded and normal. If it looks pinched and triangular-shaped, your baby is probably latched on too shallow.
- Weight loss in your baby. If your baby isn’t gaining weight appropriately, there might be something wrong with their latch. There are other considerations though, so if your baby continues to lose weight you should probably reach out to a lactation consultant for help.
- Your baby sucks in their cheeks while feeding. If your baby does this, you’ll see your baby’s cheeks go inward with each suck. Your baby is sucking too hard, trying to compensate for the lack of efficiency with their tongue.
- Lips aren’t flanged out while feeding. Your baby should have their lips flanged out like a fish when they’re latched on to your breast. When your baby’s lips are flanged they will have a much better attachment to your breast. When they aren’t flanged outward, there may be a space between your baby’s lips and your breast. Without a proper seal, the latch is not optimal.
If you notice one of these signs, but you don’t feel pain and baby is gaining weight then don’t worry! If what you’re doing is comfortable and effective then it’s fine. But if you notice these signs along with pain and baby losing weight then you need tools in your toolkit about how to correct a shallow latch breastfeeding. The following 4 steps will get you off to the right start.
How To Correct A Shallow Latch Breastfeeding
1. Position Baby Correctly
Make sure your baby is comfortable. They should be well-supported and not twisted. Line up your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line. Make sure your baby’s chin isn’t tucked or extended. Overall, just take a look at your baby’s position and make sure it looks comfortable.
There are all sorts of breastfeeding positions you can choose from. As long as your baby is supported, any position is fine! Be sure that you’re comfortable too. If you move too much or can’t support your baby during a feeding they may slip off the breast and become latched too shallow.
2. Aim For An Asymmetric Latch
You might think that the nipple of your breasts should go straight back into your baby’s mouth. After all, that’s what a bottle looks like when you use one. However, your baby shouldn’t latch on to your breast the way they would to a bottle.
Start with your baby’s nose to your nipple. When they open their mouth, bring them to your breast. Your nipple might look like it’s aimed for the roof of your baby’s mouth. That’s how you want it! Your baby should latch their bottom lip on first and have enough space to breathe through their nose. They will look a little off-center- your areola may be visible near and above their nose.
Having more breast tissue beneath your nipple in their mouth helps your baby latch deeply and expel breast milk. Your baby’s tongue works to massage the milk out, and they will have more breast tissue near their tongue than near their palate.
3. Use Your Finger To Break The Seal If Shallow
If you start breastfeeding and think your baby is latched on too shallow, slip your finger between their lips and your breast to break the seal. It’s okay to start over and try again. If you don’t break the suction and try to unlatch your baby, you can cause more nipple damage.
If you notice your baby’s lips aren’t flanged out, their cheeks sucking in, and/or severe pain then please don’t hesitate to start over. Sometimes babies need a little bit of time to get used to latching. As your baby grows and you become successful at latching more, it’ll be second nature.
4. Compress The Breast
If your baby doesn’t seem to open wide enough to latch deeply, you can compress your breast to make it easier. Cup your breast with your thumb on one side of your nipple and your forefinger on the other side. Line your baby’s nose up with your nipple and when your baby opens their mouth, compress your breast before latching them.
Try to keep your fingers out of the way of your baby’s lips. Some moms find that they can let go of the compression after their baby is latched on. Other moms find they need to continue compressing the breast throughout the feeding. If you feel like your baby stays latched better while compressing, don’t hold your breast too tight.
You still want milk to flow to your baby. Lightly compress your breast without adding too much pressure. You can also squeeze a bit harder when your baby sucks and relax slightly between sucks. This prevents keeping too much pressure on your milk ducts, but helps your baby expel milk during each suck.
Tips For A Deeper Breastfeeding Latch
Once you follow the steps above about how to correct a shallow latch breastfeeding, these tips can make the latch even deeper. Use these tips to make it easier to achieve a deep latch.
Be Patient. When you place your baby at your breast for a feeding, be patient! They may not latch right away but you don’t want to force your breast into their mouth when they aren’t ready. A bottle can be easily popped into a baby’s mouth, but breastfeeding is different. Wait for your baby to recognize where they are and open their mouth wide. It may take a few minutes. Once they open wide- latch them!
Skin To Skin. There are a ton of benefits with skin-to-skin. Your baby’s temperature will regulate along with their heartbeat and breathing. There’s also a regulating of hormones in both mommy and baby during skin-to-skin time. Your baby will be more in tune to their natural instincts and latch easier.
Avoid Bottles. If you can, try to avoid bottles! Your baby learns how to latch differently on your breast than on a bottle. When using a bottle, your baby may become confused. Overuse of bottles can cause nipple confusion, breast refusal, and problems with achieving a deep latch.
Correcting a Shallow Breastfeeding Latch: To Sum It Up
Follow the tips above to correct a shallow breastfeeding latch! If you still need help, you can always contact me for a lactation consultation, I’d be happy to help.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.
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