Getting started with breastfeeding with my first son, Jack, was such a headache. We were supplementing with formula and he seemed to get more frustrated with nursing every day. I read everything I could find on Google. I obsessed about his latch. I remember pulling on his lips every time he latched to get the “fish lips.” A lactation consultant helped us get off formula and accomplish exclusive breastfeeding. Then whenever someone saw him nursing they would say, “What a great latch!” I felt really proud that I was able to help him breastfeed and helping him latch properly was key.
Then when my second son, Exley, was born he wasn’t gaining weight. A lactation consultant walked me through a few things I could try at home to help him transfer more milk. She said, “Do you know how to work on getting a better latch? “Yes, I do!” I said, thankful that something from my first experience was going to help me now.
Working on Exley’s latch brought back all the memories of my first breastfeeding experience; to that emotionally vulnerable place that can only be brought on by holding your own newborn baby. Are you struggling with breastfeeding? Getting a better latch can actually help with transferring more milk, nipple pain, babies that appear to pacify more than drink as well as colicky babies. (If you are not struggling with any of these issues then do not worry about your latch even if it isn’t “perfect.”)
It worked for us, again. Exley even has a lip and tongue tie that we decided not to revise and he has that stellar latch his brother has. So, here is what we did.
- Read about Laid Back Breastfeeding and watch videos on how to adjust your body, your baby and your breast. (There are 9 short videos at this link.) Laid Back Breastfeeding is a technique that uses gravity to trigger baby’s natural breastfeeding reflexes. This happens when baby feels slight pressure on her chin, torso, hips, legs, and feet. Moms who practice Laid Back Breastfeeding say they have to memorize less steps to get baby to latch on and they report less breastfeeding problems. With Laid Back Breastfeeding your baby will be in position to latch properly onto your breast. But it’s not uncommon to need to help your baby. If you need to help your baby try these next steps.
- Get into a comfortable position where your legs and arms are supported. Lean back so that your baby is belly to belly with you, preferably skin-to-skin. Do not lean over your baby, this can make your baby feel the pull of gravity away from you and struggle to latch. Make sure your baby’s spine is aligned properly with their shoulders and ears; baby needs to be comfortable too!
- Cup your breast to form a “U;” Think about how you squish a giant hamburger to fit it into your mouth. Rub your nipple across their top lip. This will help baby tip her head back and open wide. Roll your breast into her mouth starting with the bottom of your breast, getting as much bottom areola (not just nipple) into her mouth as possible. Her chin should push into your breast and her nose should be clear from obstruction. Go ahead and fish those lips out yourself if your baby needs help.
You can confirm your baby is drinking by watching her mouth movements. Open mouth – Pause – Close mouth. You can see that your baby has a good latch by pulling slightly on the bottom lip to see her tongue. You should also be more comfortable if you were struggling with pain.
Try looking at pictures of breastfeeding babies and proper latches. If you can, breastfeed with other moms like at a La Leche League meeting (link below). Seeing breastfeeding is a leading factor in successful breastfeeding.
As with any breastfeeding issue, be quick to get help from a lactation consultant. They are here to help and breastfeeding problems caught early are easier to fix.
More about getting a good latch:
Laid Back Breastfeeding: