Common Latch Issues

By Janelle Turk

September 8, 2020

Janelle is a mother of 4 beautiful children, RN, sleep coach, lactation counselor and prenatal coach. She has a passion for working with new Mamas and easing the transition into parenthood. She believes in the value of qualified and professional support with zero judgement attached. "It's only a problem if it's a problem for you"!

Breastfeeding can be so wonderful, and yet so hard! I know I’m not alone in feeling that way and I so wish I had been given a ‘heads up’ that it could be difficult at times. Prior to having kids I honestly thought that because it was a ‘natural’ thing for a Mama to do, that it would be simple. I was in for an eye-opening experience with my first baby! There was a series of events that all contributed to having trouble with feeding, but I firmly believe that if I had more knowledge regarding breastfeeding- and specifically how a good latch should look and feel, I would have been more successful off the get-go. Knowledge is Power!

 

So what constitutes a good latch? 

A good latch is the foundation of breastfeeding. Ideally, we want to see a baby with a wide-open mouth, lips flanged outward, and attaching to the breast asymmetrically. We don’t want a baby ‘nipple-feeding’ we want ‘breastfeeding’, so the baby will have areola and nipple in his mouth. The Baby’s chin will be touching your lower breast and his nose will be in a sniffing position. When you initially begin breastfeeding you may have some tenderness, but the latch should not be painful. A good latch is comfortable and allows for the transfer of milk to the baby. 

How do you know when it isn’t right? 

The Latch Hurts 

If your latch hurts, this is a good indication that something is off. Break the seal by inserting your finger into the corner of the baby’s mouth. Ensure that baby is tummy to tummy, with his nose aligned with your nipple, wait for a big open mouth, and bring the baby to your breast. 

The Latch is Shallow 

If your baby’s latch is shallow, the sucking will be harder on your nipples, and the baby won’t be providing as much stimulation to the ducts in your breast. Waiting for the baby to give that big open mouth will help get a deep latch, along with the Sandwich hold. The sandwich hold is where you place your thumb above the areola and your fingers below and gently squeeze creating a flatter shape to your breast, this aligns better with your baby’s mouth and can help baby get more breast tissue in his mouth. 

Popping or Clicking Sound When sucking 

If you are hearing a clicking or popping sound when babies sucking this is a good indication that the latch is not good, or is too shallow. Take baby off, ensure you are doing the sandwich hold, and try again. 

What Else Can Effect the Latch? 

If your baby is fussy and upset it can be very difficult to get a good latch. Take a moment to calm the baby down before trying to feed. Once the baby is calm he is more likely to give you that big open mouth. 

A sleepy baby needs to wake enough to open his mouth and latch. Waking baby can be tricky- try unwrapping/undressing baby, change his bum, and change positions. 

Engorged breasts can be hard for a baby to latch onto. Try hand massage prior to feeding to soften the areola, so the sandwich technique can be performed. You can also pump a little 

prior to feeding, however we want to be cautious with this, as we don’t want to stimulate the production of even more milk. 

Large Breasts sometimes need to be propped up with a rolled towel, to allow for better alignment with the baby. The football hold is very useful if you have larger breasts, allowing you to see what you are doing and maintain control of baby and breast. 

Flat or inverted Nipples can be difficult for the baby to latch on to. Try using a breast pump to draw out the nipple, and then attempt to latch baby. Remember baby is breastfeeding, not nipple feeding. Use the nipple sandwich and work on getting a deep latch. 

Set yourself up for success 

Mama, you will spend hours upon hours feeding your baby, make sure you are comfortable! Find a comfortable chair, grab an extra pillow for behind your back if needed, sit upright with your feet on the ground. A nursing pillow is a lifesaver, allowing you to easily get baby in a comfortable and close position. Always remember to bring the baby to you, not your breast to baby. This can be easy to forget, especially when you are struggling to get a good latch. If you are consistent with this step your neck and back will thank you later! 

How you hold baby can make all the difference. I recommend the football or cross-cradle hold when you have a new baby. These positions allow you to have a good visual of the baby’s mouth and your breast, which is so important when working on that latch. 

Educate yourself, Mama. I’ll say it again- Knowledge is Power! Take a breastfeeding class, try Antenatal Hand Expression during pregnancy to help familiarize yourself with your breasts, and set yourself up for success. Once the baby comes don’t wait to seek help, contact your local Mama Coach for a lactation visit to ensure you are on the right track. Remember, you are both learning something new, so give yourself some grace Mama. You Got This!

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