Latching-on

This page is dedicated to the Latching-on Method that works for you.

The main idea is to get your breast and nipple positioned deeply in your baby’s mouth, for a proper latch on.

The good news: There is no single, right way to attach a baby to a breast. Anything that helps your baby suck deeply and comfortably, and ends in good milk transfer, is the “right" breastfeeding position or technique for you.

Feel free to leave your latching questions below in the comment box...

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If these techniques below do not help, your best bet is to get hold of a Lactation Consultant to identify specific breastfeeding latching problems you may be having.

A Lactation consultant will suggest other latching-on positions, that could solve your specific latching problem. 


Babies are Designed to Latch

Your baby has many instinctive reflexes already in place to help him/her latch. Most babies can deal pretty well with a difficult birth, separation from mom, hunger, cold and still manage to breastfeed well. Have you seen how a baby can wriggle their way from a mothers chest to her breast and latch themselves without any help? Watch the breast crawl video here. Your baby is built to breastfeed! All you need to do is allow access to your breast and support.

Nowadays more babies struggle to breastfeed, due to more and more birth interventions and medications. This is why it is important to educate yourself on these matters before giving birth. The more natural your birth plan, the better your chances of successful nursing will be. 

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Problems Latching & a Natural Position

The laid-back method of breastfeeding will take advantage of the natural instincts that both you and your baby already have, making latching easier. 

Keeping your baby close to you will encourage your baby to breastfeed and will allow extra practice time at the breast. 


What Babies Need for a Good Latch

  • A baby needs to be calm. Be sure to notice hunger signs before your baby gets over-hungry and anxious. Take time to soothe your baby before a breastfeeding session. 
  • Make sure that your baby's body and neck are supported. 
  • Your baby's lower jaw needs space to move. Chin movement is essential for good milk transfer. Try to avoid restricting movement of the lower jaw. 
  • Your baby needs a big mouthful of the breast. Dr. Jack Newman puts it beautifully: " It's called breastfeeding, not nipple-feeding."
  • Your baby needs to breathe. If your baby's nose is buried, he/she is not going to stay latched on. Try to tip your baby's head back a little, by pulling their back and shoulders in closer to you. You can also press your hand flat on your chest between the breast and collarbone and lift slightly. 

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Latching-on Tips

The most important thing for a good latch is that you and your baby are comfortable. Get yourself a pillow to support your back. Some women feel more comfortable lying down during breastfeeding.

Find the right position for you.

The most natural way to hold your baby is with one hand behind your baby's shoulder, and the other on the bottom, ‘skin to skin,’ upright and between your breasts. Your baby's chest should be against your body.

Your shoulders, arms, and wrists should be in a relaxed, natural position and most of your baby’s weight should be supported by your body.

Always use a cushion in the small of your back, for less strain on your back and shoulders.

  • You should try breastfeeding without any clothing; clothing can affect your baby's head and neck posture and also interfered with reflex and sensory stimuli.
  • If your baby needs some help to initiate feeding, gently brush your nipple down across the little crease between your baby’s nose and top lip.
  • For a proper latch, when you bring your baby to your breast, make sure that your nipple is pointing towards his/her nose; this usually gets a baby to tilt the neck and open the mouth.

Bring your baby's chin towards your breasts first, so that your baby will close the jaw over your nipple. Remember that the more nipple and breast skin that is taken into your baby's mouth, the more milk will be removed, this is because the milk ducts are under the areola. 

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  • How do you know, if your baby is latched on properly? A good latch will usually result in a deep pulling sensation in your breast. Your baby should make a good seal on the breast, and there should be very little “popping" sounds.
  • Try to get your baby to latch on off-center, with your nipple nearer to the roof of your baby's mouth. This latching-on technique will ensure that your baby keeps a clear airway; this will help with latching, to keep the nose open during breastfeeding.
  • Your baby needs to have the chin and the bottom of his/her lip touching the breast below the nipple; this will trigger the reflex, that will get your baby to open his/her mouth wider, therefore, taking in as much of the breast as possible.
  • If you start to feel uncomfortable, or if your milk does not begin to flow within a few minutes, or if you are feeling any pain when your milk begins to flow, break the seal, by putting your finger in-between your baby's jaw and tongue and pull your baby away. Then start over again.
  • If you have very large or small breasts or nipples that are very flat, you can try to shape your breasts with your hand, creating an easier target for your baby.
  • Finger feeding can be used to entice your baby to the breast.
  • The last resort that should be used, are nipple shields; they are designed to encourage a baby to latch onto your breast.
  • Hydrogel pads can provide cool, soothing relief for mothers who may be experiencing nipple pain and who are struggling with latching-on.

How do you know if your baby is sucking right or drinking enough?


Deep Latch Technique

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After all this, my Baby Still Isn't Latching-on! 

There may be many reasons why your baby cannot latch on for the time being. Breastfeeding might not be working out at the moment, but you need to be prepared for your baby when your baby decides he/she is ready. The "Womanly art of breastfeeding" by la leche league talks about the THREE KEEPS.

  1. Keep your milk flowing - The first few days and weeks after your baby's birth are very important in determining the amount of milk you will produce later on. If your baby is not nursing or is not breastfeeding exclusively, you will need to hand express and/or pump. This will ensure that you still have enough milk for your baby when he/she finally decides to nurse. Some mothers are forced to pump exclusively for a while. 
  2. Keep your baby fed - Use alternative feeding methods if necessary. 
  3. Keep your baby close - Skin to skin contact is probably the best way to encourage your baby to breastfeed. Kangaroo Mother Care is recommended. 

References:

  • The womanly art of breastfeeding, 8th edition.
  • My personal experience and studies via childbirth international.

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