Breastfeeding Challenges: Latching Tips

Breastfeeding baby

Latch is a skill that both mother and baby need to learn when beginning breastfeeding in order to be sure that the baby gets enough milk and the mother is comfortable.

This is the end of World Breastfeeding Week, which seeks to create support systems families need for successful breastfeeding. Last weekend was The Big Latch On, a fun world record event that builds community support and brings positive attention to breastfeeding. Globally, we see support not just from peers and dedicated breastfeeding organizations but from healthcare providers, employers, and governments. Benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother are clear, so more institutions are providing services and support. That means most mothers can identify help when they need it.

Occasionally we ask our followers on Facebook about their breastfeeding challenges. Yesterday, a lot of you responded. I wrote about mastitis a couple of weeks ago, because that was the one big issue I had breastfeeding, but I wanted to back up and address an issue that has to be taken care of early on in order to start the breastfeeding relationship right. If your baby isn’t latching correctly, your baby won’t get needed nutrition and you will have pain.

Breastfeeding is a skill for both mother and baby. Yes, it’s natural, but we still have to learn how to do it well. Latching is one of those subtle skills that a mother needs to watch and adjust when it doesn’t work.

Latch refers to how the baby holds the breast in the mouth. A baby has to open very wide in order to get enough of the breast to pump the breast and pull the milk. If you have tickled or touched your baby’s chin, you know that this triggers the reflex to open wide. If your baby is sipping at the nipple alone, you will feel the pain and your baby won’t get enough milk. If you can’t see nipple and you can’t see the bottom of the areola because your baby’s turnout bottom lip is covering it, you’re doing well. That’s the latch on.

  1. Make sure you position the baby to allow enough access to your breast.
  2. Tickle or tap your baby’s chin to get a big, wide open mouth.
  3. Squeeze your breast, flattening it a bit at that start, so it fits better the wide open shape of your baby’s mouth.
  4. If your breasts are so large that the nipples aim down, hold it up toward your baby. You might find propping your breasts on a rolled up baby blanket helps you get comfortable.
  5. When you see that wide open mouth, pull the baby in close to you.
  6. If you feel discomfort as your baby is sucking, stick a finger in to break the suck and start over. Your baby probably won’t like that, but it’s worth getting the latch right.

Are there many ways to latch correctly? Absolutely. If your baby is getting milk and growing well, and if you are comfortable, you probably don’t have any latching problems.

More Breastfeeding Latch Resources

Image © Caesarone | Dreamstime.com

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