How To Perfect Your Latch From Day 1

By Marina Macleod

August 6, 2020

Marina is a Registered Nurse with over 14 yrs of experience, a Mama Coach in Calgary, AB and area and a Mama to 2! She offers prenatal education, newborn and post-partum support, lactation counseling, infant & child CPR/Choking workshops, as well as sleep education programs based on science, empathy & support.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! And congrats again if you have already welcomed your sweet baby into the world! If you are planning to breastfeed this article is for you! So many things go into establishing breastfeeding and quite frankly it can be overwhelming. The good news is, you can break it down to steps and then take your breastfeeding journey one day at a time. The first, and most important thing to work on is the “The Latch”. It will be a game-changer if you take the time to work on getting a great asymmetrical deep latch with good body positioning. Pairing that with knowing what to watch for will help your baby get a fantastic nutritive feed each time.

I have broken it down into 5 important things to remember for a great latch when starting out your Breastfeeding journey.

Good Positioning. This first step will allow the rest to fall into place. You should start by taking a look at the different breastfeeding positions. Football hold and Cross cradle are two positions that work well when learning to breastfeed. It allows a good view of your breast and baby’s mouth, good control to be able to bring the baby to breast, and allows extra room for your free hand to support your breast in the very important “breast sandwich” position. To make the breast sandwich, place your index finger and thumb in a U or C shape (depending on which hold you are doing) positioned just back from your areola, with your other fingers resting as close to your chest wall as possible to support your breast, then slightly compress your breast to allow your nipple and breast tissue to protrude for an easier latch. Always bring your baby to your breast, not breast to baby. You are going to be doing this 8-12 times a day and you want to save your back! Finding a comfortable chair and using pillows to support both you and your baby is essential, try to sit with your back straight and knees at a 90-degree angle with feet flat on the floor. Starting this way will help with getting breastfeeding well established and then you can move onto side-lying and breastfeeding on the go!

Tummy to tummy/nipple to the nose. Repeat this to yourself and remember it! “Tummy to tummy, Nipple to nose” This is a great way to guide you in getting the ideal position for baby to be in when learning to latch. If you are holding baby with their tummy facing the ceiling then babe will have to turn their head sideways to latch to your nipple. It is better body mechanics to hold baby with their belly facing yours keeping their head and body all in alignment. Then when you are ready to latch you will tilt babies head so that your nipple is very close to baby’s nose, you can then tickle the edge of baby’s lips with your nipple, this will entice baby to open their mouth wide in a yawning motion when you will move baby to your nipple latching chin first. When you are holding baby place the palm of your hand between your baby’s shoulder blades and upper back using your fingers to hold and guide baby’s head. Try to avoid pushing on the back of the baby’s head, this will cause the baby to naturally pull their head back and will make the latch more difficult. TIP:  the best way to initiate each feed is to have baby skin to skin and feed on demand. Watch for feeding cues (bringing hands to mouth, rooting, sucking or licking lips, etc) make sure baby’s eyes are open and baby is alert then move onto positioning for the latch as soon as you see these cues.

Asymmetrical latch. This is the goal. Your nipple is not a bullseye, you don’t want to encourage baby to latch straight on. Lining your baby up nipple to nose with their head tilted back slightly will help with achieving the asymmetrical latch. When a baby is latched well there should be lower areola covered by their mouth than upper areola, the nipple should be pointed towards the roof of the mouth and be drawn far into the mouth to allow for milk transfer with sucking, baby’s lips should be flanged nice and open over the breast tissue (neither lip tucked under), baby’s chin should be touching your breast with nose away from the breast tissue and you should see a nice suck, suck, swallow pattern.

Suck Suck Swallow. This is the sucking pattern you want to see & hear after baby has latched. It will tell you if baby is getting that good effective nutritive feed or needs to be unlatched and repositioned. Look at your baby’s jaw and chin and watch for open/close movements, look at your baby’s temple region for a repetitive small indentation, and look for the pause when the chin is drawn down. Next you will listen for the swallow. It will sound like a soft “ka, ka, ka, ka” sound. If you are seeing these movements and hearing the swallows in a suck, suck then pause for swallow pattern, then baby is transferring your milk effectively!

Practice & Patience. Breastfeeding and latch is a new skill for both you and baby. It is a special time for both of you but may take some time to get well established and find your groove. Working on getting that good deep asymmetrical latch in the first few days will help get your breastfeeding journey off on the right foot. Breastfeeding should not hurt. It may feel uncomfortable or cause a tugging sensation when starting, but if it hurts when latching then unlatch baby (by breaking the seal with your little finger), reposition and try again. Allow extra time when you are starting out and give yourself LOTS of grace. You are doing an amazing job and it will get easier. A few things to look and listen for when initiating breastfeeding that you would want to talk to your healthcare provider about would be:

  • A popping or clicking sound when baby is sucking, or baby is unable to stay latched

  • Baby is constantly fussy at breast and you are not seeing/hearing sucks and swallows

  • Decrease in dirty/wet diapers

  • Baby is not gaining weight

  • Your nipple is often not rounded after a feed, but rather has an angle appearance similar to end of a lipstick tube

  • Your baby is very gassy, has extra spit-ups that seem to upset him/her and changes in their poops color and consistency

  • Any breast or nipple pain, redness, cracks/lesions/blisters, discoloration or uncomfortable sensations

Congrats again and all the best to you on your breastfeeding journey!  We are here to help. If you are looking for lactation or postpartum support be sure to contact your local Mama Coach. Take it day by day and enjoy those newborn snuggles!

*drawn images from ibconline.ca

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