Good latch on means you breastfeed comfortably. And, baby gets your milk smoothly because of effective suckling and a strong let-down. Here are step-by-step tips to latching, using a “nipple sandwich,” laid-back breastfeeding, and more:
It's easiest to get your baby latched on well if you're comfortable. Then, go step-by-step to get a good latch. Before you know it latching-on will be automatic for you and baby 😉
Get Set Up
You've finally gotten yourself settled, baby latched on, and the milk is flowing… then you realize you're desperately thirsty and starving. And baby? He or she has settled in to fall asleep for an hour (and you forgot your book, too).
Create a nursing “station,” at least for the early days with baby. Have a bottle of water, and a maybe a container with a few snacks. A small cooler beside your chair can hold snacks for you and for older children. Books, your phone, your iPad or tablet, or your favorite magazines can be nice to have nearby when baby falls asleep.
Now it's time to get comfy! Have plenty of pillows to support yourself. Make sure your baby is positioned comfortably at breast height – use pillows and tightly rolled blankets as support for yourself and baby. You may want to use a special pillow designed for nursing.
Alternately, you can lean back in a relaxed position* with your baby leaning forward into you. You can position your baby in a way that feels natural to you (feel free to adjust baby). Baby's belly should be to your belly. This positioning feels instinctive for many moms and keeps your hands freer to interact with older children 🙂 Pillows can support your body in laid-back positions.
Get Baby Settled
Choose whichever nursing position feels comfortable and right to you. Some moms find that a sitting position is easiest to use as you and your baby are learning how to nurse, but try laid-back and lying down positions because they give you a great chance to rest and relax while nursing.
Have your baby's ear, shoulder, and hip lined up (turn your head to the side and swallow, and you'll see why it would be hard for baby to nurse with a turned head!)
Be sure your baby's tummy is turned in towards you. If you're using the football or clutch hold be sure baby doesn't have to arch his neck to reach your breast.
Again, have baby at breast height. Using a pillow or a nursing pillow helps with this.
Offer Baby Your Breast
Cup your breast in a “C” shape with your thumb on top and your fingers on the bottom. An easy way to remember this: your thumb should be in line with your baby's nose. Your hand should be close to your chest wall. Hold the breast at its natural height.
Your baby has a rooting reflex that causes him to turn towards the breast and open his mouth wide – like a yawn. Gently brush your baby's cheek or his lips with your nipple to encourage him to open his mouth wide. Some moms also use a finger to gently brush baby's cheek. You can also open your mouth and gently encourage baby to “open up.”
Pull Baby in for the Latch-On
Time to move in for the milk! When your baby opens wide pull him in quickly and firmly. Bring baby in chin first so that his chin goes deeply over the areola. This way his hard-working jaw gets where it needs to be.
Pulling baby in is called “RAM” by some experts – it stands for “rapid arm movement.” Pull baby onto the breast quickly while his mouth is still open. Once he's latched on keep him cuddled to you tightly. His chin should be against the breast.
Some mothers worry that their baby's noses seem blocked. Babies have wide little nostrils designed to be right up against the breast and most babies can breathe just fine. If you feel like your baby is having trouble breathing just pull her hips in towards you a little and that should angle her nose out.
If your baby is latched on properly nursing should not hurt! If your baby doesn't seem to be sucking well or you're feeling pain break the suction and try again. You can break the suction by slipping your pinkie into your baby's mouth gently. Pulling your baby off your breast without breaking the suction can be painful and it may hurt sensitive breast tissue.
Some babies latch right on with little (or no!) help, but other babies need help. Patience and time will help you both get the hang of things (and never be afraid to ask for help ;)).
Try a Nipple Sandwich
The “nipple sandwich” latch-on technique may make latching your baby on easier for you if you're having trouble. Barbara Heiser, a La Leche League Leader, RN, and IBCLC developed the technique.
Hold your breast in the “C” hold. Gently compress your breast between your fingers. This makes your breast tissue flatter – like a sandwich patty 😉
Push your hand gently towards your chest wall which will make your nipple protrude farther.
Then press your thumb into your tissue a little more firmly, which will make your nipple point slightly upward toward the roof of your baby's mouth.
After making your “sandwich,” encourage your baby to open wide and pull him onto the breast using the same steps described above.
It May Take Practice
Some babies need to try several times each feeding to get a proper latch. If your baby is getting upset, walk or rock a little to calm him down. Then try again.
It's worth taking the time to get a correct latch in the early days and weeks. A good latch-on means that you're free of nipple pain or injury. And, your baby is getting milk delivered optimally for his growth and comfort.
The early weeks often fly by in a blur and before you know it, you and your baby are nursing pros and latching on is easy and automatic.
Would you like the step-by-step tips on this page in an easy-to-use reference sheet? Click Here for our 7 Steps to a Great Latch quick-reference guide and our How to Boost Milk Supply Naturally report (plus get our email mini-course on natural baby health, conscious parenting, and enjoying motherhood!). Opens in a new tab 🙂
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*More information on this “laid-back” breastfeeding position can be found in Suzanne Colson's Biological Nurturing videos. See http://biologicalnurturing.com/
Photo by sebribeiro