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Breastfeeding 101: How to Get a Good Latch

Posted on February 12 2018

Breastfeeding 101: How to get a Good Latch

Starting breastfeeding can be a challenge in the early days when you're still figuring out things like a nursing position that both you and your baby are comfortable with, and how to get the baby to latch on, relax and begin to feed in earnest.

Experts say a good "latch" is vital to successful breastfeeding. When your baby gets your entire nipple and areola into his mouth and begins to suckle, that's the moment that he's drawing out your milk and getting the nourishment he needs. A good latch will also help minimize nipple soreness and pain -- which is another concern during the early days of breastfeeding. So how do you arrive at that magical moment? Here are some tips to help you get there ...

Learn About the Latch Before Your Baby Arrives

Read a good book about breastfeeding, like the La Leche League's "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding",  and attend a breastfeeding class before you give birth to see a video demonstration and have the opportunity to ask questions.

A breastfeeding support group is also a great idea, and you can join one before you give birth which will give you an opportunity to see new mothers breastfeeding and ask questions.  Research where there is a lactation support center in your area.

Start Breastfeeding As Soon as You Can

The sooner you're able to start breastfeeding, the more likely you'll be able to take advantage of your baby's natural instinct and ability to latch on. You'll also have access to an ob-gyn nurse who can help you if you're having trouble.  You can start as soon as birth when the baby is on your chest, smelling and sensing you to lead itself instinctually to your breast. 

Guide Your Baby

As your baby draws near to your breast, she'll instinctively open her mouth, preparing to find the nourishment she wants. Give her some help by using your thumb and forefinger to guide your entire areola and nipple into her open mouth.

Gently press the nipple and whole areola into an oval shape to make it easier to guide into your baby's mouth. Do not put any fingers in the baby's mouth.  When she's latched on, her lower lip will cover most of the bottom part of your areola and her top lip will be just slightly above your nipple. Once you've done this a few times, she'll sense where she needs to be in order to get her milk.

Do not lean down and force your breast into the baby, gently lead the baby to your nipple instead. Baby's lips should be out like "fish lips" and you and baby should be "tummy to tummy". 

Ensure proper posture, a good chair, and a steady pillow to help you. 

Watch and Listen

Learn baby's hunger cues for when he's hungry.  When your baby really latches on and begins to suckle, you'll know he's drawing milk if you watch his temple, which will move rhythmically as he sucks and swallows.  His neck will be slightly back and relaxed, not pressed against his chest, and his chin against your breast. 

He might also make an occasional "aaah" sound as he exhales after swallowing, and you might hear soft swallowing sounds. 

Baby should be comfortable, you should not feel pain, and the bonding experience will get better and better as time goes on. 

Treating Sore Nipples

Start early.  If you are still pregnant, now is the time to be moisturizing your nipples with lanolin or shea butter.  You'll be ahead of the game with reducing nipple soreness.

After birth, if you've had some trouble getting your baby to latch, chances are good that your nipples are sore. Pure lanolin is the go-to soother for sore nipples, but some people are allergic to lanolin. If you're one of them there are alternatives such as coconut oil and 100% shea butter. Another all-natural soother is your own milk. Gently rub some breast milk on nipples and allow it to air dry.

You should also be aware of the fact that latch problems aren't the sole cause of sore nipples, just one of the most common. If your nipples continue to be sore or painful after you've mastered getting your baby to latch, consult a lactation expert and/or see your doctor to make sure that there's not another, more serious problem such as thrush (a yeast infection that could also be inside your baby's mouth) or a bacterial infection.

Help clogged ducts and avoid mastitis with emptying each breast. Pump if you need to empty and also try gentle massage in a warm shower. If you feel sore, heat, and pain consult your doctor to avoid infection.

Make Yourself More Comfortable

Trying to keep a tee shirt or sweater pulled up while you nurse is uncomfortable for both you and your baby. It impinges on your baby's head and face and leaves parts of you exposed that needn't be. Invest in a few staple pieces that may make nursing, and nursing in public, a little easier for you, especially when breastfeeding on demand. 

Your comfy mom style, that also offers coverage in all the right places and functionality, may make breastfeeding a better experience when you feel you can nurse when ever and where ever. 

You can find everything from casual nursing tank tops and tees to wraps, and even cozy nursing hoodies that are designed for nursing at Bun Maternity.

The styles work for bump, breastfeeding, and well beyond to make these pieces last in your mom wardrobe. 

We even offer free returns and exchanges in case you get the wrong size or just aren't happy with your selection!

Mom in image above is nursing in the Bun Maternity Swing Tank.

Discover our tips on breastfeeding while babywearing here.

Need Help? National Breastfeeding Helpline: 1-800-994-9662