Wondering how to latch your baby correctly? Read this.
Let me start by giving my latching experience as a first time mum.
I didn’t even know ‘latching’ is a word in the dictionary. And did I have any experience carrying babies prior to getting my own? Nada! Zilch!
There I was with a newborn who I thought was fragile. I was afraid of dropping him, so the anxiety made me not hold him properly.
My lactation consultant picked on my lack of confidence in how I held my son while trying to latch him. And she said: If you want to raise a confident child, be confident in how you handle him now.
That, ladies (and gents) landed.
I eventually learnt how to hold and latch my baby correctly at say 4 months.
What is a good breastfeeding latch?
A breastfeeding latch is a process by which a child fastens onto a mother’s breast to breastfeed. If latching is not done correctly, it can lead to painful sores on your nipples. Breastfeeding does not come naturally. It’s good to get maximum support, in the first week after delivery, from qualified personnel– it needn’t be a lactation consultant, it can also be a nurse.
Getting your baby to “latch on” properly takes some practice. So if you find it hard as a new mum, rest assured it gets better with time.
What are the signs of a good latch?
To know if you have achieved a good breastfeeding latch, check your baby’s lips. They shouldn’t be tucked in. They should be stretched out like a fish.
Another way of knowing you have achieved a good latch is the suck-swallow-breath sounds your baby will make.
The experience should also be painless. Painful breastfeeding means your baby isn’t latching properly. The main secret to a proper and painless breastfeeding latch is:
Ensure your baby’s mouth encloses the areola and the nipple. Not just the nipple.
Here is why.
Milk is manufactured in the fleshy part of your boob. It is then released to the ducts in the areola, which act as storage until the time is right for it to be released to the baby through the openings on the nipples. When you get painful breast engorgement, it’s because milk hasn’t been released and so it ends up getting stored in the milk-producing area of your boob.
When the baby’s mouth encloses around the areola, the gums press the sinuses, therefore, releasing milk into the mouth through the nipple. When you give your baby just the nipple, it becomes hard for them to even get satisfied. When your baby has established a good latch, the pain and soreness of your nipple are highly minimized.
Steps to a perfect breastfeeding latch
Step 1: Hold the baby’s head with one hand and support his body with the other.
Do this in a way that they will be able to find the areola on their own.
Step 2: Stimulate your baby by tapping the upper lip with your nipple.
This will get them to open their mouth wide. Once the baby’s chin is in contact with your breast, quickly shove your nipple to the roof of their mouth, making sure your areola is enclosed.
Step 3: Ensure your baby’s nose is free to breath
The suck-swallow-breath sounds your baby makes as s/he breastfeeds is exactly what you should hear.
You can try holding your baby in a different position to get a good latch.
Lack of proper latching will lead to inadequate milk supply. Reduced milk supply will lead your child to being underweight. Your breast will not also be stimulated to produce more milk. Consistent removal of milk gives your child the nutrients he needs to gain weight.
It latching is not done correctly; your breast will also create some problems like mastitis and breast engorgement. Here are more steps to get a good latch from the start.
What other latching tips could you use?
Do your homework
Before your baby arrives, you can take breastfeeding classes to acquire more knowledge. Most health facilities and birthing centers have antenatal courses that help women know how to latch a baby correctly after giving birth.
Breastfeeding sometimes becomes a challenge, especially to new mothers. Before you start breastfeeding, ensure that your baby’s head, neck, and spine are not twisted but adequately aligned. His chin should not be dropped in his chest but always up.
Make sure you feel comfortable, too, before handling your child. You can support your back, arms, and the baby using pillow and cushions. Try a different sitting positions until you get the one that works for you. Breastfeeding becomes a beautiful experience between a mother and child when a good position and latch is obtained. Once your baby has latched correctly, it should be easy to maintain whichever position you choose.
Related: Breast pumping tips for new moms
To wrap up, be on the lookout for signs of trouble
In the beginning, it’s normal for a new mum to feel uneasy about breastfeeding. Any soreness on your breast should not last the entire feeding. You have to pay attention to how your nipple look’s after breastfeeding. If you still experience pain or cracked nipple, you can try a nipple cream.
Experiencing severe pain on your nipple will interfere with breastfeeding. It also indicates your baby has not latched correctly. If you don’t hear frequent swallowing while nursing your child, it is means proper latching is not obtained.
A tongue-tied baby will not be able to extend their tongue past their lower gum. It can lead to lower weight gain. If you think your child is tongue-tied, you can visit the doctor.
Before you leave, if your baby doesn’t have enough wet diapers in a day, it could be a sign s/he isn’t satisfied. So take note of this as well.