Many new moms think breastfeeding is something that just happens instinctually. And while breastfeeding is a completely natural process for you and your baby, it can also take patience and practice to get into the swing of things.
A successful breastfeeding latch means your little one will get as much breast milk as he needs, and you’ll get guaranteed snuggle time along with the satisfaction of knowing you’re providing the gift of great nutrition to your baby. A poor latch can create an uncomfortable experience for mom and a fussy baby, which is why it’s important to make sure you know how to make you and baby latching pros!
First things first, you need to be prepared and comfortable before breastfeeding. Use the restroom, wash your hands, and grab a glass of water and your phone. Then, settle in wherever works for you. If you like sitting up, try a deep, wide chair with low arm support and put your feet up on a coffee table, stool or ottoman to recline a bit. If you like to relax in bed to feed baby, make sure you have extra support.
There are several different ways to hold your baby while breastfeeding. Some of the most popular positions include:
- Cradle or cross-cradle: baby positioned on your chest, in your arms, facing you.
- Under the Arm or Football: baby’s body is clutched under your arm supported by pillows to the level of your breast, face toward your breast, with the back of his neck and base of head in your hand. This position is great for moms who have delivered by Cesarean or are tandem-nursing twins.
- Laid Back or Semi-Reclined: sitting semi-reclined with baby on top, tummy-to-tummy looking down at your breast.
- Side-lying: you and baby facing each other lying in bed.
Regardless of which position you choose, make sure your baby is at the same height as your breast and nipple. You’ll want him positioned with his mouth and your nipple directly opposite each other and close enough to touch, even before you attempt to latch. Your baby’s entire body should be well supported.
Learn the C-Hold
When you are comfortable and ready to breastfeed baby, cup your breast with the palm of your hand – your four fingers should be underneath your breast and your thumb should rest above your nipple, opposite of your baby’s nose. This position is called the C-Hold. Gently squeeze your breast, making your nipple protrude so it’s easier for baby to grasp.
When you’re ready, hold your breast and tickle your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. When he opens his mouth wide (like a yawn), quickly guide your baby’s head to latch onto your breast. If this doesn’t happen right away, press gently down on your baby’s chin with your finger and mimic your desired behavior by opening your mouth too. It’s normal to feel like you need several extra hands to get your baby positioned correctly. Keep trying!
Watch + Listen
You may need to stop and start a few times before your baby latches on well. Once your baby does latch, they will need to get a mouthful – about ½ inch to an inch of the areola behind the nipple. If you feel pain, break suction by gently sliding your finger between the gums, not the lips, when you take baby off the breast to re-latch. This is important if your baby “nibbles” on or “slurps” the nipple in his mouth or falls off the breast at the end of nursing, which can result in nipple soreness, or even cracking and bleeding. After a bit of practice, you’ll become used to the signs of a good latch:
- Baby’s mouth is open wide
- Their lips are turned outward (like a rosebud)
- You feel a tug when baby sucks, but are not uncomfortable
- You can hear baby swallow
Be patient, and after a couple of weeks you and your baby will have gotten a lot of practice and latching on will get easier.
For any breastfeeding mom, a Lactation Consultant can be extremely helpful in helping you establish a proper latch. (You can also use our online tool to find lactation professionals near you.) Never hesitate to ask for support – whether you are just beginning to breastfeed, or a nursing veteran.
Moms, what tips helped you latch your baby properly? Share in the comments below.