Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for both mother and child but many new mothers who truly wish to breastfeed give up on breastfeeding early on because of the difficulty relating to latching and how the baby is held while nursing. This is because latching and positioning are very crucial to breastfeeding, in fact, good latching is the most successful part of breastfeeding, and positioning can or may impact how well your baby is latched on. The good news is getting a good latch can be learned or achieved through practice. The best positioning that works best for you and your baby can also be discovered through practice.
This refers to how your baby fastens onto your breast while breastfeeding. When your baby is properly latched, the bottom of your areola (the area around your nipple) would be in your baby’s mouth and your nipple would be back inside your baby’s mouth, where it is soft and flexible.
If a baby is not properly latched, probably because of not having enough breast in the mouth or sucking too close to the tip of the areola, the baby would have to work harder to get milk out. When that happens, the sensitive nipple skin would press against the bones in the top of the baby’s mouth and cause a host of breastfeeding challenges, including sore, cracked or bleeding nipples, clogged milk duct, infections such as mastitis, and limited or insufficient milk supply for the baby.
Tips for Good Latch:
- You and your baby should be as comfortable as much as possible. A good nursing pillow and comfortable chair with armrests and stool to relax your feet on will make a huge difference for you and your baby.
- Bring your baby to you and do not try to lean into him or her. Your baby should be tummy-to-tummy with you while breastfeeding.
- Keep fingers far from the nipple so you don’t affect how the baby latches on.
- Try to get as much of the lower portion of the areola in the baby’s mouth.
- Let your baby latch on to the nipple with his mouth wide open, the chin dropped down, and tongue down – do not shove the nipple in and wiggle the mouth open.
- The baby’s nose should be opposite the nipple. -aim the nipple toward the baby’s upper lip or nose, not the middle of the mouth. To get the baby to open his mouth, rub the nipple across the top lip.
- The baby’s chin should indent the lower portion of your breast and should not touch his chest – the head should be slightly tilted backwards.
- To make swallowing easier, let your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip be in alignment.
- Look to see if the baby’s bottom and top lip are flanged out like fish lips. If they are not, you may use your finger to pull the bottom one down and open up the top one more.
- If you experience pain that lasts longer than few seconds, your baby is most likely poorly latched. Simply break your baby’s suction by placing a clean finger into your baby’s mouth and then help him or her latch again.
Signs of Good Latch:
- The latch feels comfortable and does not hurt or pinch.
- The Infant’s mouth is filled with breast
- The infant’s tongue is cupped under the breast, although it might not be seen.
- The infant’s swallowing can be heard or seen.
- The infant’s ears slightly wiggles.
- The infant’s chin touches the breast
- Little or no areola – depending on the size of the breast, if more areola is showing, it should seem that more is above the infant’s lip and less is below.
- The infant does not need to turn his or her head while feeding. His or her chest is close to the body.
- The infant’s lips turn outward, similar to fish lips, not inward. The infant’s bottom lip may not be seen.
There are many breastfeeding positions and you will need to try different positions to determine which works best for you and your baby. Below are the very popular positions.
Use the arm on the opposite side of the breast you want to feed from to hold and support your baby, and the hand on the side you are feeding from to support your breast.
Make sure to sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests. Lay your baby next to you, tummy-to-tummy, with your opposite hand supporting the back of his head- guide his head by holding the back of his neck. Use the other hand (on the same side the baby is feeding from) to hold and navigate your breast and nipple- Once the baby is securely latched on, you can move your arms to the cradle hold. Don’t bend over or lean forward. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast. This position is best during the early stages of breastfeeding.
This position is similar to the cross-cradle position but instead of using the opposite arm, you support your baby with the arm on the same side of the breast you are nursing from.
Let your baby’s head rest in the crook of your elbow, on the same side you are nursing from. Use the opposite hand to help hold your breast if you need to help get your baby latched on properly. Sit up straight, preferably in a chair with armrests. Use nursing Pillow for extra support and comfort. This position is best used when your baby is a few weeks old and you are more confident in your breastfeeding hold.
Lay your baby comfortably beside you, with your elbow bent and your hand supporting his head towards your breast. Let your baby’s back rest on your forearm. For extra comfort, use a pillow a chair with broad, low arms. The Football Hold is a great position to try if you had a C-section or if you have large breasts.
You and your baby should lay side by side, facing each other. Use the hand on the side you are feeding from to support your baby. Your baby’s nose should also be in line with your nipples. For extra comfort, you may use a pillow behind your back. Make sure to stay awake while breastfeeding your baby and then return him to his own bed or proper sleeping position when he is done nursing. This position is particularly good when you are tired.
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References: Breastfeeding Latch - American Pregnancy Association. Breast-feeding positions- Mayo Clinic. It's Only Natural - Office Of Women's Health.
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