Breastfeeding Tips: Getting Babies to Latch
We’ve written a lot about the many aspects of early motherhood that are portrayed as “natural” (read: easy), and yet are anything but that. Breastfeeding is one such experience. Supermodels may make it look like the most effortless pastime imaginable, but anyone who has actually tried knows that’s a fiction.
So let’s say you’re a few days home from the hospital, and you’re wearing the standard uniform of torn t-shirt, sweatpants, and bags under your eyes. And you’re thinking: how can this be so hard??!
Here are a few tips for getting babies to latch, which we’ve collected from a few mothers and baby nurses:
Don’t be afraid to squeeze your breast into various shapes
If this sounds painful, it’s because it is! But sometimes getting the best latch involves squeezing your breast into a flat (horizontal) shape, almost like holding a sandwich upside down. This gives that little mouth the best chance at getting ahold of the best section of the nipple.
Get as much boob in there as you can
We’re only being half-facetious. The first time a lactation consultant showed us this trick, we thought it would suffocate the baby. But really, a successful latch involves getting a substantial proportion of the breast into the baby’s open mouth. So don’t worry about suffocating your baby by breast, if they’re uncomfortable, they’ll drop the latch. But give this one a try if the delicate, nipple-only latching isn’t working.
Sometimes, if you’re having problems breastfeeding and getting a good latch, all you have to do is switch the baby’s position. As alternatives to the traditional hold, try a football hold (where you hold the child at the side of your body, like someone carrying an American football). The baby’s legs go straight back next to your ribs and stretch out behind you, and you hold them under the head. This small tweak can solve a latching issue almost instantaneously.
The other modification to try, if you’re happy with one position, is to alter the angle of the baby’s face. Many times, mothers try to feed a baby facing slightly upward, so that she can see what’s happening. But babies latch best head-on, or directly perpendicular to the skin of the breast. So try tilting the baby’s entire body slightly downward from what feels natural, as this is usually the angle that makes it easiest to latch.
Don’t be afraid to relatch
Sometimes, when new mothers get a latch — any latch! — they don’t want to give it up, even if it’s painful or uncomfortable or the baby seems to be struggling to hold on. Don’t be afraid to separate the baby and try again. This is the best way to test what works for you, and teach your baby how to latch effectively.