When you’re breastfeeding for the first time, it can be a little challenging and even painful at times. Even if you have prepared in advance by reading and researching everything you need to know about breastfeeding, things don’t always go as planned in that initial phase.
If your baby is not latching on properly, then you might feel insecure about continuing to breastfeed until you get the hang of it. It is absolutely normal for new parents to struggle with getting their newborns to latch on correctly. After all, this isn’t something that comes naturally to any of us. There are many tricks and tips out there to assist in getting your baby to latch on correctly so that breastfeeding becomes easier.
What does latching mean?
Latching is the infant breastfeeding technique used to transfer milk from a breastfeeding mother to her infant. Latching happens when the infant’s mouth comes in contact with the mother’s breast so that the infant can draw and suck milk from the mother’s nipple.
Latching is a technique that needs to be learned by the mother and the infant. The mother may have an easier time learning how to latch the infant than the infant has in latching on to the mother’s breast. When a baby latches on to the mother’s breast, he or she should create a seal around the nipple which allows the milk to flow so that the baby can draw milk from the nipple.
Why is latching so important?
If your baby is latching correctly, he or she will be able to draw all the milk from your breast and will, therefore, be satisfied and full. On the other hand, if your baby is latching incorrectly, he or she might not be able to draw the milk properly, which might result in him or her getting hungry again soon. This may then lead to problems such as inadequate weight gain or low iron levels.
Latching is important because it allows your baby to get the right amount of nutrients and calories needed to grow and develop. Moreover, your baby will obtain the antibodies present in your breast milk. Antibodies are substances that help your baby fight infections and illnesses.
How do I know if my baby has latched on properly?
A good attachment is achieved if:
- Your baby has taken most of the areola and underlying breast tissue into the mouth, forming what is called a teat. The breast tissue is stretched to form the teat, and the nipple forms about 1/3 of this teat.
- You notice that more of the areola is seen above the top lip than below the bottom lip.
- The mouth is wide open, and the tongue is seen cupping around the nipple.
- The lower lip is curved outwards, and the chin touches the breast.
Tips to help your baby latch on correctly
First, let’s talk about all the interesting reflexes that make it possible for your baby to enjoy that delicious breastmilk.
- Rooting reflex: The baby opens the mouth and puts the tongue down and forward when something touches the lips.
- Sucking reflex: The baby sucks when something touches the palate.
Now let’s get into the tips!
- Get your baby to latch on as soon as the baby is born. Newborns who are latched on shortly after birth are more likely to latch on correctly than those who are latched on later.
- Move the baby across the nipple until the mouth opens wide. Sometimes all your baby needs is a little help. As mentioned earlier in this article, the baby relies on particular reflexes to feed. If you move the baby across the nipple, the rooting reflex will be stimulated, and this will kickstart the feeding process.
- Stay calm and relaxed so that your baby is calm and relaxed. This will help the baby latch on correctly.
- Try the football hold. If you’re breastfeeding in the traditional position, your baby may struggle to latch on correctly. The football hold is a good alternative position to try in such a situation. You can also try the cross-cradle hold.
- Ensure the baby’s head and body are in line (ear, shoulder, and hip in the same plane).
- Hold the baby close to your body (chin should touch the breast).
- Position the baby facing the breast with the nose to the nipple.
- Support the baby comfortably. Ensure that you support the whole body for newborns and at least the head and shoulders for older babies.
- Manage your expectations. Breastfeeding isn’t something that comes naturally to anyone, so it’s important to manage your expectations. No two babies are the same, and everyone progresses at their own pace. Don’t compare yourself to others or get frustrated if it takes your baby a little longer to get the hang of it.
Help! My baby still won’t latch on!
If you’ve followed all the above tips and your baby still isn’t latching on correctly, then don’t get disheartened or lose hope. Instead, you should seek help from your doctor or a lactation consultant.
You need to understand that every baby is different, which is why some babies latch on correctly while others don’t. Your doctor will be able to assess the situation and recommend the best course of action to follow. Your doctor might also examine your breastfeeding technique and suggest ways to improve it.
Breastfeeding is the best and healthiest way to feed your baby in the first six months of their life. However, if you’re a first-time parent, you might find it challenging to get your baby to latch on correctly.
There are many tricks and tips out there regarding how to get your baby to latch on correctly. Make sure to follow all of them and don’t give up. With a little bit of patience, breastfeeding will become easier.