Creating a perfect breastfeeding latch

Finding a good breastfeeding latch is essential to having a positive breastfeeding experience for both mom and baby.

A good latch can make all the difference for your comfort and baby getting enough milk. But, it’s not always easy or natural to get a good latch. A lactation specialist shared some things moms can do to find the perfect breastfeeding latch.

Breastfeeding positions

“The best breastfeeding positions are the ones that feel good for both mom and baby,” said Sarah Musselman, RN, a lactation specialist at OSF HealthCare.

If the baby isn’t in a good position, they won’t get a good breastfeeding latch, which can leave mom with sore and cracked nipples.

“Baby should be positioned with the front of their body facing mom – not lying on their back or having to turn their head. As adults, we don’t drink with our face turned to the side, so babies don’t do their best to drink that way, either,” Sarah said.

Mom can cradle the baby close in front of her, or she can hold the baby’s body off to the side in a football hold while baby’s face is at her breast.

“This position is good as long as baby’s ear, shoulder and hip are all lined up and baby is facing mom’s chest,” Sarah said.

Many moms worry that their baby won’t be able to breathe if the baby is pushed up too close, but the baby will still be able to breathe even if you hold them nice and close.

“You can tell they’re OK if they’re pretty pink and you can feel them sucking and breathing when your hand is resting on their back,” Sarah said.

Proper breastfeeding latch

“A good latch happens when your baby has more of the breast in their mouth than just the nipple and the breast is smooshed down like a hamburger,” Sarah said.

You’ll know if your baby is latched properly based on how comfortable it is for you and if it sounds like the baby is gulping. If there’s pain for you, it’s probably not a good latch.

How to get a baby to latch can be tricky at first. It can take a baby a few days after delivery to figure it out. If your baby struggles with latching, Sarah suggests trying skin-to-skin.

“It’s physiologically the best transition for a baby after delivery to establish the first breastfeeding session.”

For many babies, being close to mom is a comfort and the motion of sucking is soothing, so they may not unlatch when the breast is empty. If they’re comfortable, they may even fall asleep. If that happens, mom can put a clean finger gently inside the baby’s mouth to break the suction before pulling them away. You may end up with cracked and sore nipples if you pull your baby off the breast without breaking the suction.

Signs of a poor latch

  • Baby doesn’t make slurping noises
  • Breast and nipple pain
  • Baby is sucking in cheeks while trying to eat
  • Baby doesn’t look like they’re swallowing
  • Baby is making clicking or smacking noises

It’s best to address a poor latch sooner rather than later because if you keep feeding with a bad latch, you’ll likely end up with more pain and a crabby baby.

Why won’t baby latch?

Some babies continue to act hungry but won’t latch or push away. This could be a sign that they’re sensitive to something, are just crabby, don’t actually want to eat or just want to be near mom.

If your newborn fights latching, you can wait a few minutes and try again or try a different position. Make sure your baby’s face and body are turned toward the breast. Mom can hand express a little bit of milk to “tease” the baby. This may help the baby to know where to go and what they’re looking for.

When to get breastfeeding support

If breastfeeding hurts even with a good latch, it may be time to consult a lactation specialist or your baby’s pediatrician. They’ll be able to identify problems that moms can’t see from their vantage point.

“When moms are breastfeeding, their view of what’s going on with their baby is limited because they can only see from above. A lactation consultant can see things that a mom can’t necessarily see,” Sarah said.

“Fine tuning a good latch is going to make for a happy baby and a happy mama,” Sarah said.

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity