What to do when your latch hurts

By Agnes Mayer

December 18, 2018

I am a Mama to an amazing boy, married and have been an RN for over 15 years.

One of the most common challenges that Mamas face when breastfeeding is that the latch hurts. Initially it is normal for the latch to hurt as your nipples adjust to their new role and both you and babe are learning how to breastfeed. It can take up to a few weeks sometimes for your nipples to adjust, but in the meantime, you can look into other reasons why your latch may hurt.

So what do you do?

The first thing to look at is does your baby have a deep enough latch? Meaning is he/she latched onto not only to the nipple, but also onto the areola. If your baby isn’t latched deep enough, that could be the reason your latch hurts. If you feel like your baby can not get a deep enough latch, it may that your nipple/areola is large and it’s hard for him/her to get it into his/her mouth deep enough. Trying a nipple sandwich, where you compress your breast to see if they can get a deeper latch, may help.

If your latch hurts, immediately take your baby off the breast. To break the latch, insert your pinky into the corner of their mouth and pull them gently off of your breast. Then try latching your baby again. Initially babies, like you Mama, are learning how to breastfeed. It takes practice on both your parts to get it. Although people say breastfeeding is very natural, I would say it’s more of a learned skill, where practice makes perfect. You want to ensure that if baby isn’t latched deep enough/properly, to disengage the latch, to prevent damaging your nipples.

Tongue & Lip Tie

If your baby still isn’t latching deep enough it may be due to a lip or tongue tie. What that means is that there is connective tissue both that is tethering the tongue to the floor of the mouth or in case of a lip tie, it is tethering the lip to the top of the mouth. The connective tissue is holding the tongue or lip back, preventing your baby from latching deep enough, leading to a painful latch.

If you suspect your baby of a tongue or lip tie or both, you can contact The Mama Coach and we can come out and assess your baby’s latch and refer you to a specialist or you can go to your GP. The specialist will assess your baby’s mouth and determine if they do have a lip/tongue tie. If they confirm the lip and tongue tie, they will laser either the lip or tongue tie or in some cases both. This will allow your baby to move his/her tongue and lip deep enough to latch properly to your breast.

Latch is deep enough but the latch still hurts?

  • Ensure that you are in a comfortable position when breastfeeding
  • Your baby is tummy to tummy with you
  • You are bringing your baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby
  • Ensure their mouth is nice and wide when attempting to latch him/her onto your breast
  • Try different positions. You would be amazed at how breastfeeding in a different position can change your baby’s latch and make it less painful.

Rest your nipples!

If you have ruled out a tongue/ lip tie and the latch is deep enough it could be that your nipples just need a rest.

Rest your nipples by :

  • Using a nipple shield to give your nipples a break
  • Ensuring that you use Lanolin, colostrum, nipple cream, coconut oil, Jack Newman’s nipple cream applied directly onto nipples after each feed
  • Using a breast pump to feed your baby for a day or 2

These tips will help give your hard working nipples a much needed break. It will allow any scabs or cracks to heal and then you can go back to breastfeeding again.

If you’ve tried everything and the latch is still painful, please feel free to contact The Mama Coach in your area. We are here to help assess and give you tips on how to help with the latch. Plus we come to your home, so you don’t have to pack up your little one and make the trip to us, we come to you.

Good luck Mamas! Remember that breastfeeding is a learned skill that requires a lot of patience. We are just an email or phone call away.

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