Breastfeeding is no doubt the best, most nutritionally sound way to feed your baby, but perfecting breastfeeding may take some practice. Latching, or the way your baby takes your breast, is crucial for breastfeeding success. feeding may take some practice. Latching, or as the way your baby takes your breast, is crucial for breastfeeding success.
A deep latch involves your baby taking both your nipple and the surrounding areola in their mouth. This allows them to drink effectively and prevents you from feeling pain. An improper or shallow latch may lead to your baby losing weight or not gaining weight, low milk supply, and painful or sore nipples.
If you notice your baby latching on poorly, gently use a finger between your nipple and your baby’s gums to break the suction and wait for your baby to open their mouth all the way before bringing them to your breast again.
This article explains how to differentiate a good latch from a poor one, as well as tips on how to get your baby to latch deeper.
Deep Latch vs. Poor Latch
Signs of a Deep Latch
A good latch involves your baby taking your entire nipple and at least an inch of your areola in their mouth. Your baby’s latch will likely look asymmetrical, with more of the areola visible from the top.
Their tongue should lie over their lower gum, bringing your breast in. Their lips will be flipped outward as if making a fish face, and their chin should press into your breast with their nose free.
With a good latch, it is normal to hear your baby sucking and swallowing. You may also notice their sucking pattern change from strong rapid sucking or “flutter sucking” at the beginning of feeding to a slower, but still firm, sucking pace for the majority of the feed.
A proper latch should not cause you any pain, although you may feel some tingling and pressure from the let-down reflex when your baby first latches on. After you feed, your breasts should feel softer and less full.
A sure sign of a deep latch is a full, satisfied baby after feeding. If your baby is growing and gaining weight normally, you can be assured that their latch is deep.
Signs of a Poor Latch
The first sign of a bad latch is usually pain and soreness in your nipple that gets worse as breastfeeding goes on. You may see your baby’s cheeks caving in and hear a clicking noise as they try to suck.
Milk may also leak from the sides of your baby’s mouth with an improper latch. They may also get hungry quickly after feeding and lose weight.
7 Breastfeeding Deep Latch Hacks
Choose a breastfeeding position that supports your back and allows you to feed and carry your baby without straining your shoulders and neck too much. You may also want to try using a nursing pillow that supports your baby’s weight and keeps them at breast height, especially during longer feeds.
Check Your Baby’s Posture
Your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip which are facing towards you should be aligned. They should be tummy to tummy with you with their head at breast height. Support your baby’s back and bottom with your forearm and their head and neck with your hand.
Your thumb should be behind one ear with your fingers behind the other. Avoid placing your hand at the back of their head, as it may push their head forwards and make it harder for them to latch.
Incorporate Skin to Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth activates a baby’s biological instincts to look for a parent’s breast and start suckling. Studies also show that skin-to-skin contact can shorten the time it takes to resolve latching problems in older babies who are 1-16 weeks postpartum.
Try breastfeeding your baby with both of you undressed. Skin-to-skin contact may calm your baby and make them breastfeed more readily.
Wait For Your Baby to Open Their Mouth
Regardless of what position you breastfeed in, waiting for your baby to open their mouth wide before bringing their mouth to your breast will help them get a better latch from the get-go.
Before letting your baby latch on, tickle their nose, cheek, and upper lip with your nipple to activate their rooting reflex. Once they have their mouth open in a yawn-like position, pull them away slightly before quickly bring their mouth to your breast.
Manipulating your breast to fit better in your baby’s mouth may also help them get a deeper latch. When bringing your baby’s mouth to your breast, gently pinch your areola between your thumb and forefinger to form a C- or U-shape that mimics the shape of their mouth. You can let go of your breast once the latch feels okay.
Try Different Breastfeeding Positions
There are different breastfeeding positions you can try which may work for you and your baby. 5 breastfeeding positions that may help your baby latch deeper are listed below.
Laid-back nursing relies on the idea that when your baby is placed on your chest right after birth, they will instinctively find your breast and latch on. It is often the first method that parents will try.
Lay back in a reclined position with your back supported by some pillows or cushions. Do not lay completely flat. Place your baby or have someone place them on your tummy-to-tummy, with their head at breast height. You can let your baby work their way towards your nipple or you may help direct them towards your breast. Gravity will keep your baby secure on your chest as they feed.
Cradle and Cross-Cradle Hold
The cradle hold and cross-cradle hold are upright feeding positions that will give you a better view of your breast and the baby’s mouth.
Holding your baby tummy-to-tummy, align their head so that their nose is opposite your nipple. With their mouth open all the way, pull them back slightly before quickly bringing their mouth to your nipple.
The difference between the cradle and cross-cradle lies in the arm positions. With a cradle hold, you support your baby with the arm on the same side as the breast they are nursing from, with their head in the crook of your elbow. In a cross-cradle, the arm supporting your baby is the one opposite the breast from which they are feeding.
As the name suggests, a football hold involves holding your baby under your arm like a football. This position may be helpful if you have had a c-section and want to avoid putting pressure on your wound or have twins and would like to nurse them simultaneously.
Hold your baby with the arm on the same side as the breast to be fed from. Have them face upward and use place your thumb and fingers behind the ears to support their head. Use a pillow underneath your arm to support your baby’s weight so that your arm doesn’t get tired.
The dancer hand position is especially beneficial for babies who are born with low oral muscle tone or need jaw support. A dancer hand may help if your baby is preterm, is having trouble latching deeply due to a cleft lip, is sick, or has down syndrome.
Slide your pinky, ring, and middle finger under your breast as support and form a U-shape with your forefinger and thumb to support your baby’s cheeks. Keep your thumb on one cheek and your forefinger on the other and bring them to your breast. The gentle squeezing will keep help with proper areola and nipple placement in their mouth.
When breastfeeding in a side-lying position, both you and your baby are on your sides facing each other in the same direction. This position may be helpful if you have a forceful let-down, have had a c-section, or feel tired or uncomfortable sitting up to breastfeed.
Use the arm on the side you are lying on to support your baby and bring them towards you. You can also place a pillow behind your baby’s back to keep them from rolling over. Use your free arm to support your breast if needed. With their mouth open wide, quickly bring them to your breast.
Avoid Using Bottles and Pacifiers
Most babies are able to switch between bottle and breast and back without any problems, but introducing bottles and pacifiers to your baby before breastfeeding is well established can lead to nipple confusion.
Because of the way bottle nipples are shaped, milk flows from them regardless of how your baby latches on and milk flow is instant; no need to wait for parent’s let-down. With breastfeeding, your baby needs to open their mouth wide enough and position their tongue under your breast to get an effective seal and deep latch.
This difference may cause your baby to prefer bottles over breastfeeding and have difficulty getting a deep breastfeeding latch.
If your baby needs supplementation, try dropper, syringe, or cup feeding first. Wait until your baby has established breastfeeding before giving bottles and pacifiers.
Have an Expert Check
If you aren’t able to get a deep latch or if you aren’t sure whether or not your baby is latching on properly, a lactation consultant can help you find ways to make breastfeeding better and easier. If possible, have your doctor or lactation consultant check your baby’s breastfeeding latch before leaving the hospital.