If you experience pain while breastfeeding your baby, it means your baby hasn’t properly latched on. Improper latching of the baby interferes with the breastfeeding process and will only make you feel uncomfortable. Breastfeeding begins with proper baby latching and in this guide, we will cover how to properly latch your baby along with tips and common warning signs.
How to Properly Latch Your Baby
To help your baby latch properly, try inserting your finger between the baby’s mouth and your nipples and re-adjust the positioning to allow the baby to get a mouthful. Here’s how you can help your baby latch properly:
- Be seated or lie down on a comfortable bed or chair with sufficient back support.
- Position your baby in such a way that she faces you.
- Make sure the baby’s ears, hips, and shoulder are aligned in that direction.
- Make sure your baby’s tongue, bottom lip and chin touch your breast (in that order).
- The baby’s nose should be free as her chin touches the breast.
Best Positions to Help Your Baby Latch Correctly
1. Cradle Position:
Proper positioning helps breastfeed the baby correctly without having to face the problem of sore nipples. The cradle position involves placing the baby on your lap and resting her by the sides. Let the baby’s mouth reach nipple height and use your pillows to lift the baby up to nipple height along with your elbows as support.
Your baby’s head will rest on your forearm along with her back and shoulders on the inner palm and arm. If positioned correctly, while looking down, you will see only the sides.
2. Cross Cradle Position:
A variation of the cradle position where you use pillows to rest your elbows and breastfeed your baby. The cross-cradle position involves making a U-shape by supporting your breast with your left hand (if you’re breastfeeding with your left breast).
You support your baby’s head with the fingers of your right hand and place them gently behind your baby’s ears. The baby’s head rests between the left hand’s thumb, index finger and the right hand’s palm for adequate support, thus forming a “second neck” for the baby.
Below the shoulder blades should be positioned the palm of your right hand. Make sure the mouth is close to your nipple before latching your baby on for a breastfeeding session.
The baby’s mouth should cover half an inch below the base of your nipple as you gently propel her body upward from the shoulder blades.
3. Football Position:
Preferred by mothers who have had a C-section, have twins, have small babies, or big breasts, this hold may take some time to master.
Place a pillow next to you, and cradle the baby in your arm facing upward, so that the baby’s neck is supported by the same hand. Tuck the baby close to your side so that the feet and legs are tucked under your arm. The baby is then encouraged to latch on from this position.
4. Side-lying position:
Ideal for mothers who have had a C-section, this position allows you some much-needed rest as you nurse.
Lie on your side with your baby next to you and facing you so that the nose is next to the nipple. You can either cradle the baby’s neck with your lower arm, or use a rolled-up receiving blanket as support for the baby’s neck, and use the other hand to support your breast.
Signs of a Correct Breastfeeding Latch
Knowing the right breastfeeding latching tips and being aware of common latching signs can make the problem of baby not latching go away in no time. It will make breastfeeding a seamless and hassle-free process. Here are the signs of proper breastfeeding latching amongst babies:
- No pain – If the breastfeeding process feels smooth and less painful, then you’ve latched your baby on properly.
- Comfortable positioning – Put pillows behind your lower back for added support. If you’re breastfeeding your baby in bed, put some pillows below your knees for cushioning and support.
- Nipple inside baby’s mouth – When you’re breastfeeding correctly, the entire nipple should be inside the baby’s mouth.
- Tummy-to-tummy position – Position your baby in a way that her tummy faces yours during the breastfeeding process.
- Head and neck alignment – Make sure the baby’s neck and head align in the same direction so that there’s no discomfort faced when bringing the baby close to your nipple.
- Breast support – Support your breast in a way that baby’s chin drives into your breast and not the other way around.
- Close positioning – Position your baby close to your nipples so that she doesn’t have to bend or turn her head to reach your breast.
- Mouth and nose facing nipple – Your baby’s mouth and nose should face the nipple with the nose touching the breast during the breastfeeding process.
- A level head and bottom – Your baby’s head should be at level with the bottom of his body during the breastfeeding process.
- Wide mouth – Encourage your baby to open his mouth wide during the breastfeeding process.
Things to Remember
There are a few things to remember before and during the baby latching process. Here are a couple of points for expecting moms and for those who need further breastfeeding latching tips:
- Learn to Breastfeed – If you’re new to breastfeeding, take a couple classes in prenatal care and attend breastfeeding classes at your local hospital or birthing centre. Baby latching instructors demonstrate with demos, video, and live recorded content which makes educating yourself so much easier.
- Find Your Ideal Position – Getting comfortable is the first note of a good latching technique. Experts recommend getting a latch at a reclined position (preferably 45 degrees) in the beginning and adjust it according to your needs until you hit the sweet spot. Gravity does most of the work when you lay back with adequate support, making the breastfeeding process a lot easier. Ask your partner to hold the baby at the beginning and help you out, if needed.
- Breastfeed as Soon as Possible – Babies breastfeed instinctively and the earlier you start the better it is, as their reflexes kick in upon skin-to-skin contact. Your smell and touch aid them in nursing and it develops the right latching habits early on, ensuring a strong milk supply as well from your part.
- Setup Your Baby Right- Do whatever works for you and your baby when adjusting the positioning. Make sure your baby latches on properly by touching the baby’s chin against your breast along with her cheeks. You can place your baby horizontally against your chest as well if that helps.
- Tugging Sensations- If your baby latches well, you will feel a pulling or tugging sensation on your breast. The temple and lower jaw of the baby will move rhythmically in response to proper latching on the mother’s breast.
- Look Out for Abnormalities- In some cases, your nipples may feel sore, compressed, bleed or cracked after a breastfeeding session. Please consult your healthcare department and be wary of any other out of the normal breastfeeding signs.
Breastfeeding your baby the right way through proper baby latching techniques ensures your baby grows and blooms into a healthy boy or girl. If you need help with breastfeeding techniques, consult your prenatal care department in your hospital or ask a paediatric specialist.
Also Read: Nipple Confusion in Babies