Latching 101

Latching 101

Breastfeeding is a beautiful way to nourish and connect with your baby. Yet, even though it’s the most natural way to feed your baby, it can take practice!

How do I know if my baby is hungry?

If your baby moves his head from side to side, opens his mouth, sticks out his tongue, or sucks on his hands/fingers, get ready to breastfeed! Feed your baby when he indicates he’s hungry, rather than following a predetermined feeding schedule.

What’s the importance of a good latch?

Correct latching can help reduce many of the issues associated with breastfeeding, such as sore nipples, discomfort, or pain. When you find the right position for you, your nipples and your baby will be happy. Plus, a good latch means that your baby will be able to feed effectively; if this doesn’t happen, it could affect your milk supply; cause blocked milk ducts or mastitis; and affect your baby’s growth.

How to create a good latch:

  1. Get comfy. Set up your favorite tv show, or grab that book you’ve been meaning to read. Make sure you have back and arm support, as well as a foot rest if you’d like. 
  2. Position your baby. Whatever position you choose, make sure your baby isn’t twisted; his head, neck, and spine should be aligned. Support his back with your hand.
  3. Encourage your baby to open his mouth. Hold him close and touch your nipple gently against his upper lip. Once he opens, aim your nipple toward the top of his mouth. His chin should touch your breast first, and most of your areola should be in his mouth. (Don’t be worried if you can see some of your areola; all breasts are different.)

What does a good latch feel/look like?

Your nipple should be against the roof of his mouth with his tongue underneath. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable; you should feel a tugging sensation. He should take a few short sucks on your breast to stimulate the milk flow, and then he should be sucking more deeply and slowly, with some pauses. Most of your areola should be in his mouth. His chin should be touching your breast, and his little nose should be unobstructed but nearly touching your breast. Don’t worry about how long you breastfeed; your baby will let you know if he’s had enough. If your baby is latching properly, he should be gaining weight and creating a lot of wet, dirty diapers!

What does a bad latch feel like?

He shouldn’t be gnawing on your nipple or brushing the end of it with his tongue. If he is, remove the latch, and try again. If you’re experiencing nipple pain, and it hasn’t subsided even with a good latch, you may have thrush, a bacterial infection, or tongue-tie, so it’s a good idea to consult a doctor or breastfeeding/lactation specialist.

Having trouble?

There’s no shame in asking for help! There are lactation consultants and breastfeeding specialists whose purpose in life is to make sure you and your baby are getting the most out of breastfeeding. No matter what, it’s a good idea to have your latch checked by one of these professionals in the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding to make sure your baby is getting what he needs.

And remember: Breastfeeding is a journey, and everyone’s looks different. Just like there’s no right way to be a mother, it’s important for you to find a way to breastfeed that works for you and your baby.

P.S. Need lactation support? Shop our Nursing and Postpartum store


Sources: Illi.org, Medela.com, Medela.com, Medela.com, Mustelausa.com

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