If you’re getting ready for your little one’s big arrival and preparing to breastfeed, it’s likely that you’re hearing all about ‘the first latch’ or ‘latching on’ but may not know exactly what a good breastfeeding latch is, or how to achieve it.
Let’s demystify this breastfeeding lingo and run you through everything you need to know about latching on while breastfeeding.
What does latching on mean?
Latching on is the process of getting your little one to suckle around your nipple and areola so they can breastfeed properly and comfortably.
Think of your areola as a target for your baby’s mouth and try to get them right in the bullseye! Your baby should be pressing against this target to trigger the milk flow and establish a strong milk supply for your feeding journey.
If your baby is latched on properly, breastfeeding shouldn’t cause you pain and your nipples won’t become cracked or painful.
How to get a good breastfeeding latch
Even after knowing exactly what latching on is, you might still struggle when it comes down to knowing if you’ve got it right or not.
There are some signs to look out for that will let you know if your baby is latched on properly…
- Your baby’s lips should be flared out against your breast and not tucked in like they’re sucking on a straw. Remember, the gums and tongue do most of the work so your nipple should be deep into their mouth for a good breastfeeding latch.
- You should be able to hear or see them suck, swallow, and breathe in a steady pattern and their chin and nose should be touching your breast, without squashing them.
- Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful if everything is going to plan. If you’re experiencing pain in your breasts and especially your nipples, your baby might not be latched correctly and might be irritating your nipples.
- If your nipples are long and round after feeding, it’s likely that they were able to go deep into your baby’s mouth for a good feed.
- If you find that your nipple is flat or inverted, your baby may not have been able to get a good latch that time.
Getting the hang of a good breastfeeding latch that’s comfortable for you both can be tricky at first. It can take time and perseverance to get it all going smoothly!
So don’t stress and let us talk you through how to get a good latch…
- Let baby’s head tilt back and brush your nipple against their lips.
- Try and let your little one to find your nipple on their own. Put them in a comfy position where the nipple is close to their mouth and gently guide them there.
- Direct your nipple slightly above their top lip, and make sure their chin is not tucked down towards their chest.
- Aim their bottom lip away from your nipple’s base.
- Their lips should be turned outwards.
- They should lean into your breast with their chin-first, open their mouth wide, and then latch on.
- Their chin should be firmly against your breast, with nothing against their nose.
- Baby’s tongue should be able to reach as much of your breast as possible and the areola (the circular, pigmented area around your nipple) should be in their mouth as well.
- Their cheeks should look rounded as they feed with a good latch.
If you think your baby isn’t latched correctly or if your nipple hurts when they’re nursing, you can slide your finger into their mouth while they’re feeding to break the hold they have on your nipple. You can then try again and alter your position to achieve a better latch that’s more comfortable.
Don’t forget, it’s not supposed to be painful. You and your baby should be comfortable, and you should be able to see your little one sucking, swallowing, and breathing.
Your breastfeeding latch is good if…
- Breastfeeding your baby is comfortable and doesn’t cause you pain.
- You can hear or see your baby sucking, swallowing, and breathing.
- Your baby is resting their chest and stomach against your body.
- Their head is positioned straight and not turning to the side.
- Your baby’s chin touches your breast.
- Their mouth is not just open around your nipple but wide around your breast.
- Their lips are turned out.
- Their tongue is cupped underneath your breast.
- As they feed, you may also notice baby’s ears slightly move.
If you’re struggling at all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can get in touch with your midwife or lactation specialist, and they’ll be able to help you out with any breastfeeding-related issues.
How to tell if your baby has a shallow latch while breastfeeding
A shallow latch is when a baby isn’t opening their mouth wide enough to nurse without causing pain to your breast.
If you’re experiencing a shallow latch…
- Your nipples may be pinched, flattened, and squeezed.
- Feeding might be painful.
- You may find that your baby becomes frustrated or makes sucking movements. This is because a weak latch doesn’t allow them to feed properly.
- You may get a pinching feeling in the nipple during feeding.
- Your nipples might become sore, cracked, or scabbed.
Top breastfeeding latch tips
Getting a good breastfeeding latch should become easier with time.
But if you’re finding it hard, try giving these breastfeeding latch tricks and tips a try…
- If you’re struggling with getting a good latch, moving to a quiet place that you find calming can help. If you’re uncomfortable or stressed, your baby probably will be too.
- Hold your little one close and try using skin-to-skin contact to comfort them if they’re feeling frustrated.
- Chat or sing to your baby as they feed to soothe them.
- It’ll be easier to establish a deep latch if you feed your baby when they’re calm and before they get too hungry.
- Try different breastfeeding positions to find which one works best for you both.
If these tips don’t help and you’re still struggling to achieve a good latch or are concerned that your baby may be tongue-tied, consult your doctor or health visitor for advice.