Seasoned breastfeeding moms are always talking about the importance of having a good latch, but what does that mean? The latch is how your baby comes to the breast in order to draw out milk and drink.
It seems like a simple concept. You bring your baby close, they put your nipple in their mouth, and start happily feeding! Like we’ve said before, breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally to mom and baby. Learning how to achieve the right latch is a hard-earned skill for many new (and experienced) mamas.
How do I know if we have a good latch?
During the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, you will probably experience some discomfort and sore nipples. Your body isn’t used to being used in that way and it can take some time for your nipples to adjust to their new job. It can also take time for you and your baby to figure out what positions are most comfortable for you both.
What isn’t normal is pain, bleeding, or cracked nipples.
A good latch should feel like a gentle tugging sensation. There should be no pinching or pain as your baby sucks. It’s common to feel a tingling sensation as you experience letdown, or your milk releasing from the breast.
How do if I have a proper latch?
Although breastfeeding will look different for each mom and baby, there are a few basic guidelines a Lactation Consultant will use to assess your latch.
The main components of a good latch are:
- Your baby’s chin and tip of their nose are touching your breast
- Your baby’s lips are flanged, or turned out
- Your baby has the areola, or dark part of your breast, in their mouth along with your nipple
- You can hear baby sucking and swallowing
You also want your baby’s chest and stomach to be against you, and for their head to be straight instead of turned to the side.
How can I get a better latch?
With practice, and the help of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC), you can feel confident in your ability to get your baby to latch on the right way.
If you are unable to see an IBCLC or CLC, use these 5 steps to get the perfect latch:
- Get you and your baby into a comfortable position where their body is against yours. Use your free hand to hold your breast.
- Place your thumb above your areola (the dark part of the breast) where your baby’s nose will be touching and your index finger below the areola where their chin will be touching.
- Gently squeeze your breast to flatten it. This will make it easier for your baby to get your breast in their mouth.
- Bring your baby in close and put their mouth toward your breast, tickling the bottom lip with your nipple to have them open wide like they are yawning.
- Let your baby take your nipple and areola into their mouth. The entire areola doesn’t need to be in their mouth, but a good portion of the bottom should be in order for them to properly stimulate your breast and trigger the letdown reflux.
You might not get the perfect latch on the first try. If the latch still seems shallow or is painful, slide your finger into baby’s mouth to get them to unlatch. Reposition and try again.
Where can I go if I need more help?
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding and need more support, look at our Breastfeeding 101 class. This class has been designed for both new and experienced parents who would like more education to help them have a successful breastfeeding journey. We want you to be well informed and confident as a nursing parent.
We also offer virtual consultations with on of our IBCLC or CLCs. Get your breastfeeding questions answered by experienced professionals in the comfort of your own home. Click here to schedule your consultation.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, so please, if you are experiencing this, contact a Lactation Consultant as soon as possible. You deserve a happy and pain-free breastfeeding experience!