How to help your baby get a proper latch
For many first-time moms, breastfeeding will not come naturally. After all, it is a process of tuning your child and you to understand each other.
Here are some helpful tips to help your baby get a proper latch, which is the key to successful breastfeeding:
- Get comfortable: Each breastfeeding session can take up to 40 minutes, so choose a cozy place and a comfortable position to cradle your child to prevent soreness in the arms and back. A nursing pillow can be useful.
- Skin-to-skin: Holding your baby skin-to-skin, wearing only a diaper, against your bare chest can keep both of you calm. And to get the right latch, your baby needs to be close enough to you.
- Proper latch: A good latch minimizes discomforts for the mother and maximizes the amount of milk that the baby is getting.
- Express milk before feeding: Full breasts are harder for a small baby’s mouth to get full coverage. On the contrary, slow flow can frustrate a hungry infant and discourage suckling. Expressing milk a few minutes before feeding can normalize the huge influx; it can also jump-start the slow let down for your baby.
5 Steps to establish a proper latch
1. Position your baby’s torso close to your body. And, make sure to loosen your shoulders down so that your baby is below you.
2. Hold your breast with your hand with your thumb on top and your fingers below, keeping them far enough from the areola so that your baby has enough of the nipple and areola to latch onto.
3. Compress your areola between your fingers to make the nipple project out. Gently glide your nipple from the middle of your baby’s lower lip down to the chin to signal the baby to open their mouth.
4. With the mouth wide open and the tongue down, bring the little one’s mouth to latch onto your breast. Make sure the nipple points towards the roof of the mouth. The mouth must cover the areola to stimulate milk flow.
4. You will feel the tingling sensation when your baby starts suckling and the milk starts flowing; the baby will alternate between sucking and swallowing.
You know there’s a successful latching when:
- There is some milk on the corner of the mouth — this shows that milk is flowing and the baby is getting it
- The chin touches your breast, and the nose is not obstructed
- You notice the baby is swallowing after sucking. There’s a rhythm — suck, suck, and swallow, and then, sucking starts again
- The baby seems active during the session, and when they are done, they pull off from the breast and seems content
- Your breast feels deflated — less full than the other side
- The non-feeding side of the breast is leaking — a let-down reflex that is stimulated by the baby feeding on the other side. You can attach a manual pump to that side to collect the leaking milk
- Your baby makes about 6-8 wet diapers in a day
- Your baby is gaining weight by approximately 20 g per week
Breastfeeding is a process you will have to get used to. Don’t be discouraged by a few unsuccessful trials. Ask for expert advice from other moms or midwives, and keep nursing. Trust that you and your child will eventually come to master it.
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat (OB-GYN) (1 May 2022)