Breastfeeding is natural… so it should be easy right?
If you’re anything like me, that’s not true at all! I struggled so much trying to breastfeed my daughter, and I had NO IDEA there were techniques to make the experience better.
The techniques aren’t difficult; you just need to know the steps to take. When I became a certified lactation counselor, my eyes were opened with how much there is to know about breastfeeding. Things I wish I knew when I first started.
But that’s why I’m here doing what I do.
So you can have a better start than I did! And it’s SO important to know how to get a good breastfeeding latch. Here’s the best way to do it:
1. Do lots of skin-to-skin.
Spending time skin-to-skin with your baby has been shown to have many positive results. For feeding in particular, it allows mommy and baby to bond. It helps a new mommy notice the changes in her baby’s activity; these changes are known as hunger cues.
2. Watch for hunger cues.
Your baby will start to show signs of hunger.
Your baby might turn their head while opening their mouth, searching for your breast. A newborn baby will start to act more alert when feeling hungry. They may make sucking motions with their mouth or open and close their mouth repetitively. Your baby could start moving their body more, and bring their fist to their mouth.
Crying is considered a late hunger cue. It’s important to try and recognize your baby’s early hunger cues before they start crying. It is much easier to latch a baby in the early stages of hunger, rather than trying to latch a crying, over-hungry baby.
3. Make sure both you and baby are in a comfortable position.
It is important to start off right. Make sure you are in a comfortable position. Make sure that you support the base of your baby’s head with your hand, but don’t restrict your baby from being able to tilt their head back. Place your baby “tummy to tummy”, facing you. Some mommies find that skin to skin is preferable when positioning. Check out this guide for different breastfeeding positions.
4. Let baby make the move.
Your baby will let you know when they are ready. Help your baby out by lining up their nose with your nipple; this allows baby to smell your milk, and put their mouth in position to latch when their head tilts back. Gently touch your baby’s upper lip with your nipple.
When your baby is ready, they will open their mouth wide- this is when baby should latch on to your nipple. It may take a few minutes- be patient. Just keep gently stroking your baby’s upper lip with your nipple until they open their mouth.
Do not try and move the breast towards your baby’s mouth, rather let them move to your breast. Letting baby move towards your breast ensures that your milk ducts have the optimal flow of milk, as your breast isn’t distorted.
5. Be patient.
Baby might not open their mouth immediately when you place your nipple on their upper lip. It may take a few minutes, and that’s okay.
Just be patient; gently touch and stroke your baby’s upper lip with your nipple. Try expressing a drop or two of your milk and touch it to your baby’s lips- this helps your baby smell and taste your milk. If your baby is hard to rouse, try gently stroking their feet or the top of their head.
Baby will open their mouth when they are ready. Just be patient, and do not force your nipple into baby’s mouth before baby is ready.
6. Latch the lower lip first.
When baby feels mommy’s nipple on their upper lip, their mouth will open wide. This is when mommy should move her baby closer to her breast, letting the lower lip and tongue connect first, followed by the upper lip.
This is called an asymmetric latch because the lower lip and jaw will be latched much lower on your breast than the upper lip, when compared to the nipple. Your nipple should be on the roof of your baby’s mouth, rather than straight back into the back of their throat. The latch should be deep, with your nipple very far back into the baby’s mouth. Their bottom lip and jaw should be lightly pressed against the breast, with the nose free to allow breathing.
Watch this educational video, courtesy of Ameda, for a visual on how to follow these steps to latch your baby. If you are having difficulty getting your baby to latch, or if you feel pain after following these steps, you may need additional support. Little Bear Care offers online lactation counseling, just click here.
This blog post is for educational purposes only. For medical emergencies, please contact your primary health care provider or dial 911.