Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Four Steps to Achieving a Deep Latch
As a hospital-based lactation consultant, my days are filled with teaching, supporting and encouraging new moms about breastfeeding. While there is so much to be taught, the latch is the MOST important, and probably the most difficult, thing to achieve. Many babies latch great and never look back. If yours did, then stop reading. You don’t need to know this. For the rest of you, read on.
So, how many of YOUR friends and family have negative breastfeeding reviews because they had cracked, bleeding nipples? The number one reason for this is a narrow latch. Period. We need to remember that breastfeeding is learned. Natural? Yes. But, so is crawling, walking, talking … and these, too, have to be learned. Asking for help is key.
Through the many years that I’ve been in this particular role, I’ve tweaked, molded and shaped my latch instruction into a lesson that is well received and well understood by moms and their families. (You have no idea how many partners I’ve crowned junior lactation consultants! They GET this. So have your support person read this, too!) The only thing missing is my hands-on presence. I’ve attached some video clips to hopefully close that gap, somewhat.
Step 1: POSITIONING
Positioning is very important. Hold your baby in whatever position is comfortable for YOU. There is no wrong way, but you need to be comfortable and relaxed. Starting out, I find that moms have the most success with either the cross-cradle hold or the football hold. BUT, however you hold your baby, she should be facing the breast. Your baby should not be turning her head to latch. We eat with our food in front of us, right? So should your baby.
Step 2: NOSE-TO-NIPPLE
This is also about positioning. Once your baby is positioned facing you, then you need to make sure that your baby is lying so that her NOSE, not her mouth, is touching your nipple. She should be looking straight ahead at your breast and you need to line her up so that your nipple is touching her nose. This will make it so that she has to reach UP to latch. When any of us look up slightly, we can open our mouths REALLY WIDE. If we look down slightly, that’s cut in half. Try it now and you will see what I mean.
Besides allowing for a wide latch, nose-to-nipple positioning also allows for the nipple to be aimed at, and land on, the roof of the mouth when baby opens wide and latches. I like to say that there’s a “button” or a “sensitive spot” on the roof of the baby’s mouth. If you were to put a finger (clean, of course) in your baby’s mouth and softly rest the pad of your finger on the roof of the mouth, she would close up and start sucking. It’s a reflex that babies are born with. Sometimes you may see your baby shaking her head back and forth when she’s trying to latch …. She’s looking for the “button” to be pushed. So reposition her so that she’s nose-to-nipple and have her reach up. This way the nipple will be pointing to the roof and will touch it once she latches – causing her to suck.
One other benefit of nose-to-nipple positioning ….. once baby is latched and feeding, you will notice that the nose is not buried in the breast. If you are having to hold your breast down so that her nose isn’t covered, you didn’t start out nose-to-nipple. Her nose may be touching the breast, but shouldn’t be buried. This would mean that she is looking down, instead of up. Remember what happens with the mouth when we look down? We can’t open wide.
Step 3: “SANDWICHING” THE BREAST
Think about when you eat a big, fat sandwich. In order to fit it in your mouth, you have to mash it down smaller with your fingers so that you can get your mouth on it, right? You need to do the same thing with your breast AND it needs to be sandwiched in the right direction. How do you know you are sandwiching in the right direction? Your thumb should be right in front of the baby’s nose. So, depending on how you hold her, it may not be the traditional “C-hold”. When holding your baby in the cross-cradle hold, your fingers will actually look like a “U”, rather than a “C”. Also, you need to be far enough back from the nipple so that baby can latch on the breast and not just the nipple. BUT you also have to be close enough so that you are making the sandwich skinny enough for baby to put her mouth around.
Step 4: TUCKING THE BREAST IN THE MOUTH
Again, go back to eating that big, fat sandwich …. After you mash it down, don’t you use the fingers that are in front of your nose to “tuck” a lot of it in your mouth? You need to do the same for the baby, but you will be using your thumb to do that. The baby needs to learn that she needs her WHOLE mouth to be full of breast. This will enable her to get more milk and will keep you from hurting.
Need a visual? This is fabulous video about latching. Attaching Your Baby at the Breast
WHEW! That’s a lot of info. Read it. Watch it. Practice it. Ask questions. I LOVE questions! You can do this! It just takes practice!!
The Breastfeeding Guru