A Good Latch: Breastfeeding for Millennial Moms, Part 2
A good latch. What??
When you’re learning to breastfeed, you have to learn the physical skill of breastfeeding, but there’s also an entire language you have to learn, too. The most common term you’ll hear when learning to nurse your baby is “a good latch”.
In the first part of her breastfeeding for millennial moms trilogy, guest blogger Lindsey Cure shared how to prevent and address pain during breastfeeding, and she mentioned that the most common source of pain is not achieving a good latch. Today, she’ll explain what that means and how to ensure that your baby is a latch champion.
Wtf is a good latch and how do I know if my baby is doing it properly?
A baby latch is how your baby put their mouth around your areola and nipple to suck milk from your breast. A lot of moms struggle with latching for TONS of reasons. Here’s how to tell if your baby is latched well, and how to tell if they’re latching poorly.
A good latch will look like:
The most helpful thing I was told was to hold my boob like a sandwich, and try to fit my whole areola into the mouth. Like really, put as much boob in that kid’s mouth as you can possibly fit. With a good latch, you’ll see little to no areola outside of the baby’s mouth. Your nipple should be as far back into your baby’s mouth as possible so that the tongue can properly express the milk.
You’ll hear or see your baby swallowing milk, usually this is easy to see, but sometimes the only way you can tell is when their breathing pauses momentarily and they go back to suckling. You may notice a slight pause in their chin’s up and down movement, or see their temples wiggling. (You see this when people eat, too, and if you’ve never noticed it now it’s all you’ll ever see. You’re welcome.).
A good latch shouldn’t be painful. I mean, your nipples are getting more action than they ever have before, so they may be a little sore at first, but it shouldn’t last more than a minute into the feeding. If it pinches, burns, or just doesn’t feel right, use your finger to fish hook your baby and break the suction, then reposition and try again. Have your postpartum doula help you with different feeding positions and get creative. Pillows are your bff.
A bad latch will look like:
Have you heard phrases thrown around like “tongue tie” or “lip tie”? A tongue tie happens when that piece of skin [the frenulum] under your tongue is too short or too tight; this can keep your baby from latching properly because they can’t stretch their tongue out far enough to nurse correctly. If caught early, a tongue tie can be corrected quickly with a simple procedure that some pediatricians or pediatric dentists can perform. [Note: Not all tongue tie revisions are alike! Please contact the PFB office for a recommendation on a highly qualified provider.]
A lip tie is when the skin that connects your top lip to your top gums grows too low/close to your teeth or is too short/tight. It can cause issues with latching if it’s severe and can also be fixed.
Getting your baby assessed for a tongue and/or lip tie early on can make a huge difference in your breastfeeding journey. If your baby seems to not be latching well or the latch hurts, your baby pops off your boob frequently, your baby gets a good latch and then it gets more shallow as the feed goes on, you have plenty of milk but your baby is not gaining weight appropriately, or your baby is refusing to nurse, these are a few signs that a tongue or lip tie could possibly be your problem.
Other signs that your baby is latching poorly:
- Your baby is latching on to just your nipple and not enough areola.
- You cannot see or hear swallowing during a feeding
- Your baby does not have their lips out like a fish (called “flanged”)
- You can hear clicking or smacking noises as your little one tries to suck.
- Breastfeeding is PAINFUL
- Your baby continues to show signs of hunger after a feeding [while this can be very normal newborn behavior or cluster feeding, it might indicate a latch issue]
- Your newborn is not gaining weight adequately per your pediatrician
If latching isn’t your problem and complications still arise, one of the first things we tend worry about is whether or not we’re even producing enough milk. Watch for part three next week where we’ll talk milk supply.
For more information about getting a good latch and other ways to make sure breastfeeding gets off to a great start, check out our blog Breastfeeding Basics: It’s All in the LATCH-ONS
Tags: breastfeeding, breastfeeding help, getting a good latch, latch