A proper breastfeeding latch is so important when first starting out.
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 what I’m here to tell you.
So you can have a better start that I did! And it’s SO important to know how to get a good breastfeeding latch. Here’s the best way to do it:
6 Tips For A Good Breastfeeding Latch
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 mom and baby to bond. Skin-to-skin helps your baby control their temperature. Also, being close to mom and hearing her heartbeat and breathing actually regulate baby’s own heartbeat and breathing!
Babies have instincts that help the breastfeed. They naturally know what to do, even if they need a little bit of coaching in the beginning. Spending time skin-to-skin enhances your baby’s natural instincts for feeding.
It helps a new mom notice the changes in her baby’s activity; these changes are known as hunger cues.
2. Watch for hunger cues
The very first step to a proper breastfeeding latch is doing it at the right time! You don’t want your baby to be overcome with hunger before you start.
Your baby will start to show signs of hunger. Catch these signs to latch them at the optimal time.
Your baby might:
- Turn their head while opening their mouth, searching for your breast.
- A newborn baby will start to act more alert when hungry.
- They may make sucking motions with their mouth or open and close their mouth repetitively.
- Your baby may 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’s 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’s important to start off right. Make sure you’re in a comfortable position. 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.
…don’t restrict your baby from being able to tilt their head back.
Place your baby “tummy to mummy”, facing you. Some moms find that skin-to-skin is preferable when positioning. Check out this guide for different breastfeeding positions.
Don’t hesitate to use as many pillows as you need! Get a foot stool, try different chairs, anything that will help. In the first few weeks learning to breastfeed, you may be in the same position for a long time. It’s important to be comfortable.
Also take a look at your baby. They should have their ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line. Make sure your baby’s chin isn’t tucked or extended too far. Sometimes a simple positioning change can make your baby more comfortable and help with breastfeeding. It’s simple, but comfort is one of my favorite tips for a proper breastfeeding latch!
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.
It may take a few minutes, be patient!
Just keep gently touching your baby’s upper lip with your nipple until they open their mouth.
Don’t 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
This was a hard one for me. I wanted my baby to breastfeed right away, and had a hard time waiting until she was ready.
Your 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, try expressing a drop or two of milk and touch it to your baby’s lips- this helps your baby smell and taste your milk.
Is your baby 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 don’t force your nipple into your baby’s mouth before they’re ready.
6. Latch the lower lip first.
When your baby opens wide, move your baby closer to your breast. Let the lower lip and tongue connect first, followed by the upper lip.
This is called an asymmetric latch. 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 pointed towards the roof of your baby’s mouth rather than straight back into their throat. The latch should be deep, with your nipple very far back into your baby’s mouth. Their bottom lip and jaw should be lightly pressed against your 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.
Still having trouble?
If you followed these tips for a proper breastfeeding latch and you’re experiencing difficulty, or if you feel pain, you may need additional support. Little Bear Care offers online lactation counseling, just click here.
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.