Tips to get Your Baby to Latch On
Breastfeeding looks easy, mums just whip up their tops up and the baby gets her food – right? Wrong! While breastfeeding is very easy, getting started, getting your baby to latch on and feeding in the correct position is incredibly hard. The good news is, once you’ve mastered the latch and your positioning, breastfeeding will become as easy as eating a whole packet of biscuits!
First things first
Your baby’s face is specially designed for breastfeeding. Her little turned up nose and receding chin means she can feed happily and breath at the same time, so never worry that she cannot breathe. If she can’t she will pull away from feeding. If your baby’s nose seems to be blocked by your breast, change your positioning slightly to see if that helps or move your breast so that your baby has a clear airway.
It is important to have a proper latch when breastfeeding, firstly, so that your baby is extracting your milk in the right way and therefore getting as much milk as she needs and secondly, to avoid blisters and sore nipples for you. Here are nine tips for achieving that all-important latch:
1. Start early
The best time to start breastfeeding is the first hour after your baby is born (we know you want to rest, but it’ll be easier in the long run!) This is because babies go through a period of being alert straight after they are born, but after that they spend much of the next 24 hours asleep. Most babies will instinctively suckle at the breast soon after birth, so take advantage of this time and also having the midwives around you to help to get breastfeeding started.
Try tickling your baby’s bottom lip with your nipple to make her open her mouth wide. Once your baby’s mouth is wide you should quickly move it onto your breast. Make sure you bring your baby to you rather than leaning towards your baby, to get the ideal positioning for your baby.
3. A proper latch
When moving your baby’s mouth onto your breast, make sure that she gets about an inch of the surrounding areola (the darker area surrounding your nipple) into her mouth. You can also pull your baby’s chin down gently after she has latched on to help her take more of the areola in her mouth. Your nipple should be pulled back into your baby’s mouth so that extracting your milk is easier for her. If you find that your baby only has your nipple in her mouth, rather than the surrounding area, it is likely that your nipples will get sore and possibly blister. If you think your baby is feeding incorrectly, insert your index finger into her mouth while she is feeding and gently pull her off your nipple. Just pulling her off your nipple without a finger can be very painful!
4. Fish mouth
Make sure that your baby’s lips are rolled outwards while she is feeding so that they resemble a fish’s mouth! If her lips are inverted, gently use your finger to pop them out as this will help with her latch.
5. Hold your breast
You might need to hold your breast to help guide your nipple into your baby’s mouth. For larger breasted women you may have to do this with every feed. If you do have to hold your breast, grasp it at the sides rather than at the top or the bottom so your hand doesn’t get in the way of your baby’s mouth.
6. Nipple positioning
Your nipple should be aimed at your baby’s upper lip rather than the middle of the mouth.
7. Head positioning
Your baby’s head should be slightly tilted back and not slumped forward. Her chin should indent the lower portion of your breast.
8. Switch positions
Switch positions if one position doesn’t work. The traditional position is your baby facing towards you with ‘tummy to mummy’ and her legs around your tummy. Your could always try the football or underarm hold, where you hold your baby’s head to your breast with her tummy on her side and legs pointing behind you.
9. Don’t give up!
If you start to feel like nothing is working and your nipples are sore – try not to lose heart. Have some time out and try again when you’ve both had a bit of a break. Follow the instructions above and try not to get frustrated with your baby. It might be worth visiting your health visitor or a breastfeeding councillor to help you to get your latch right, or read our feature on breastfeeding problems.
How do I tell if I’m breastfeeding correctly?
If you’ve got the latch right:
- Your baby’s chin and nose should be touching your breast
- Your baby’s cheeks should be nice and rounded while sucking
- You should be able to hear content suckling sounds NOT clicking or smacking noises which indicate that your don’t have a good latch.
- Your baby is perfectly happy and stays on the breast for a sufficient amount of time and rarely fusses.
- When your baby is suckling there is a circular motion of her jaw rather than fast chin movement.
- You should be able to hear and to see your baby swallowing milk.
If you are not breastfeeding correctly:
- Your baby will have trouble keeping on the breast and will be frustrated at not being able to extract milk properly.
- Your baby falls asleep after a very short time nursing
- Your baby fusses when off the breast and acts hungry all the time
- Your nipples look pointed or crushed, or they are very sore and bleeding.
- Breastfeeding hurts! Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. When you first start to feed your baby you may feel a tingling sensation as your breasts let down milk, but after that you should feel no pain at all.
- Your baby’s cheeks are pulled or sucked in when she sucks
Other helpful tips:
If your baby frequently falls asleep at the breast try tickling her feet or her cheeks to wake her up. You could also undress and change her nappy to wake her up.