Thursday, June 3, 2010

67: breastfeeding 101 – latching


I had another appointment with my midwives today and we got a chance to discuss breastfeeding some more.  I was mentioning that a lot of my friends have had difficulty with breastfeeding lately - particularly with getting the baby to latch - so the midwife went over some tips to help make the adjustment easier for me. I wanted to pass on some of what she said, as well as what I’ve learned lately in my books.


As I mentioned in my last post about breastfeeding, latching is perhaps the most important step in the process, as it ensures the baby is getting enough and helps to protect your nipples from the pain caused by a repeated insufficient latch.

The Latch

1. Lightly rub the baby’s lips or cheek with your nipple until she opens her mouth wide, then draw the baby towards you and onto your breast.

2. Ideally, you’d like for the baby to have taken in about 1 inch of the areola, in addition to the nipple, as it is the pressure of her gums on this area that pushes milk into the nipple.  If the baby doesn’t have enough of the breast in her mouth she will simply be sucking on your nipple without drawing any milk, and you’ll quickly have a frustrated baby and mom!

3. Check to make sure the baby’s lips are ‘flanged’ outwards, and not tucked in over her gums.  This will help make sure the baby can properly suck and draw milk.  If the baby’s bottom lip is tucked under try pushing on her chin a little bit to see if it will pop out.

LVFebMar04lv-latch-3 Source: La Leche League


If the baby hasn’t gotten enough of the areola on the first try, don’t be afraid to stop and start over.  You may need to use a finger to break the ‘seal’ the baby has on your nipple – if she’s hungry she’ll be sucking pretty hard!

Sometimes, particularly if you are large breasted or  engorged, it can be difficult for the baby to automatically get enough of the breast in his or her mouth, simply because it is not the right shape to fit in.  If you are engorged, try expressing a bit off by hand or with a pump to see if it changes the shape enough for the baby to be able to latch.  If not, try one of the below techniques to shape the breast for the baby’s mouth.

Sandwiching – Basically, you are squeezing your breast in your  hand in a ‘U’ or ‘C’ shape (based on the baby’s position) to create a similar shape in the breast to the baby’s mouth – you’re slightly elongating it.

latch1 Source: Stanford University

Directing the nipple – I don’t have a good term for this one, as it’s simply something I’ve seen described.  Basically, you are just cupping the breast in your hand and using your thumb to depress the area just above the areola to tilt the  nipple slightly upwards.  This method is advocated by the West Virginia Lactation Consultants and can be seen in the video below (which I also included in my positioning post, it’s a great video!).


Obviously there is no right answer (but probably a lot of wrong!) when it comes to breastfeeding and latching, and you may have to try many different techniques before finding one that works for you and your baby.  The above suggestions are simply what was recommended to me by the midwives and in the books I’ve been reading and I wanted to pass them along, but I’ll be sure to come back to the matter again once I’ve had the baby and have some real world experience!  Only 9 weeks to go!



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