Breastfeeding and the Perfect Latch

Breastfeeding and the Perfect LatchBreastfeeding can have many variations to meet the needs of mothers and babies but there is one thing that is essential for successful breastfeeding: the perfect latch!  Latching is a skill that will take practice.  But practice makes perfect as you will learn once you and your baby get the hang of it.

A perfect latch requires a few crucial elements:

  • Your baby should get as much of your areola in her mouth as possible. You may have thought that just the nipple is important but it’s the entire areola that is necessary for perfect latch.
  • Your baby will need to open her mouth as wide as possible.
  • Your nipple should be as far back as possible in your baby’s mouth.
  • Your baby’s gums should firmly encompass and apply pressure to the areola to stimulate the milk sinuses to release milk.
  • Your baby’s tongue goes under your breast and suckles to retrieve milk.
  • Your baby’s bottom lip should protrude outwards not fold inwards.

To encourage a wide open mouth so you can ensure each of these requirements of a perfect latch are met, tickle your baby’s lips with your nipple.  At just the right moment – which may be a split second – place your breast into your baby’s open mouth.  It may take a few tries.

The power of suggestion may help too.  Say the word “open” and show your baby your mouth opening wide.  Babies like to mimic adults so your little one may learn to open wide from your example.  You can also take your finger and pull your baby’s chin downward as she begins to open her mouth.  You may need a breastfeeding helper to participate in the chin lowering for the first few tries.

If your baby only latches onto your nipple, you will likely end up with sore nipples, which are quite painful and may crack or bleed.  Nipping this improper latch in the bud immediately will help you avoid the pain and keep you on track to a productive breastfeeding relationship.  Don’t fall into bad habits early that may impede your success in the long run.

When your baby does latch incorrectly, place your finger in the side of her mouth and break the suction.  Never rip your baby from the breast as you can severely hurt yourself and startle your baby.  Show your baby an open wide mouth position again and then try to re-latch.

Good positioning is also critical to the perfect latch.  Make sure your baby’s body is in alignment and directly at mouth-level with your breast.  Try not to lean over but rather sit upright elevate your baby to your height.  Her chin should press into your breast and her nose should rest on your breast.  Do be sure your baby can breathe.  There are many breastfeeding positions you can try until you find what is most comfortable for both you and your baby.

With the perfect latch you are on your way to successful breastfeeding!

Sources:  Dr. Sears and Fit Pregnancy