Getting Baby to latch (the word used for attaching her mouth to your nipple) properly is the key to a good breastfeeding experience. In fact, many challenges can be avoided if you get the hang of this first. Why? A poor latch at the breast will cause discomfort and can make your nipples sore or even crack or bleed. And a poorly latched baby will not be able to remove milk efficiently—it's a bummer for you AND Baby!
A poor latch is usually one that is too shallow. When your baby does not have enough of the breast in her mouth, she will be sucking on just the nipple, rather than keeping her mouth wide and far back onto the areola. This is what causes soreness.
Good latch pointers:
- Get as much help as you can when you are in the hospital from your nurse and/ or lactation consultant. Have them show you how to position yourself and the baby. Ask them to check on you several times to make sure you are latching well.
- Before each feeding, make sure you are comfortable: Empty your bladder, get some water for sipping, and take your time getting into position.
- To improve the latch, make sure Baby is awake and ready to nurse before feeding. Start by un-swaddling her and changing her diaper. Now she is ready to feed.
- Your baby's mouth needs to be open wide for a proper latch. You can tickle her upper lip with your nipple to get her mouth to open. Once her mouth is open, bring her into your breast.
- A good latch should feel comfortable—like a strong tug or pull. If the latch feels like she is pinching or biting you, remove her from the breast by breaking the suction with your finger and re-latch.
- Check to see that your baby's lips are flanged out and that her mouth is back on the areola—not just grasping the nipple.
- You want to make sure your baby is really drinking at the breast and not just nuzzling. Nuzzling is fine—just make sure that she is drinking first (listen for swallows) to insure that she is getting enough to eat. If she is just nuzzling or suckling when you think she is eating, she will probably come off the breast and not be satisfied.