The best way to ensure successful breastfeeding is getting your baby to latch on well. A baby who latches on well gets milk successfully. A baby who latches on poorly has difficulty getting milk. A poor latch may also cause the mother nipple pain and trauma. If a baby is not latched well, and not receiving milk well, she will often stay on the breast for long periods, thus increasing the mother’s pain from the improper latch.
Steps to a Successful Latch:
1. Get comfortable, position baby at the breast, and relax.
2. Place four fingers under breast and thumb on top, well back from nipple and areola.
3. Lightly tickle baby’s lower lip with nipple. Have patience.
4. Wait for her to open up her mouth wide, as if yawning, then quickly pull her towards you onto the nipple. Several tries may be necessary.
Remember: bring the baby to the breast, NOT the breast to the baby.
Don’t let her latch onto the nipple only, get as much of the areola into the mouth as possible.
If she is positioned correctly, her nose will be resting on top of your breast and not buried in breast tissue. Do not press down on your breast to create breathing space. Even if her nose is pressed slightly against your breast, her nostrils should flare out at the sides allowing her to breathe. If you are concerned reattach her.
Check the latch. If it is correct her mouth will be open wide with flanged (“turned back”) lips. Her tongue will be covering the lower gum, perhaps extending to her lower lip. Her chin will pressed into your breast with her nose resting on top. If the latch isn’t right (the baby has only part of the nipple in her mouth) you are likely to experience nipple pain.
If your baby was angry, hungry or crying when put to the breast, the tongue may on top of the nipple, making the “milking movement” of the mouth impossible. Break the suction with your finger, try to calm the baby and try again.
Listen for swallowing. If she is feeding well you will see a suck- swallow motion with pauses in between. The jaw movement goes past the ears, sometimes even making the ears wiggle.
If she starts wiggling around during the feed she may need to burp. Take her off the breast, remembering to break the suction first, offer a burp and then latch her on again.
If your baby is latched on and sucking correctly, you should not feel any pain. If you feel pain, or the baby does not seem to be sucking correctly, stop and start over again. Break the suction by putting your finger in the side of the baby’s mouth between the gums. DO NOT let the baby continue to feed incorrectly, as you can develop painful and damaged nipples, and the baby may not be able to get enough milk.