Latch On-Using Your Baby's Instincts

Probably the single most important aspect of successful breastfeeding is having the baby latched on correctly.  An incorrect latch leads to a myriad of problems including sore nipples, unrelieved engorgement, an unsatisfied baby and eventually a drop in milk production. Babies are born knowing how to find the breast, how to latch on and how to suckle correctly.  Unfortunately the unnatural setting of the hospital often hinders their natural instincts.  Both pain relievers during birth and hospital practices that separate babies and mothers may impair a baby's natural instincts and effect breastfeeding.  Fortunately, babies' feeding instincts stay strong for many months.  Helping the baby to put these instincts to work is the best way to insure a good latch.

Positioning The Baby

The baby needs to feel the breast in order to find it. He also needs to feel that his body is secure in order to concentrate on breastfeeding. No matter what position you use, hold your baby so his body is in a straight line from his head to his feet. Keep his body snug against yours to provide stability.  Support his upper back and shoulders with the arm that you are holding him with.  Leave your breast in its natural place and bring your baby to it so that your nipple touches his face just above the upper lip and his chin touches your breast.  Taking his shirt off so his bare chest is against your bare breast will help him even more.  Being in this position should cause him to open his mouth wide like a yawn, tilt his head back and keep his tongue down.   At this point you need to pull him on to the breast so that it is deep in his mouth.

Signs Of A Good Latch

The baby's top lip will land just above your nipple leaving your areola (the darker area surrounding your nipple) exposed.  This isn't a problem since babies do most of their sucking with their tongue and bottom jaw.  He will nurse more efficiently with a big mouthful of breast from underneath.

His bottom lip will be flanged out and his top lip will be neutral.  Truth is that you shouldn't be able to see the baby's bottom lip if you are holding him close enough.  Assume that he is on correctly if it doesn't hurt.  Trying to peek at his bottom lip may cause him to close up on the nipple.

His chin will be deep in the breast but his nose will be either away from the breast or just lightly touching it.  Either way, he will be able to breathe.

When your baby is efficiently fed, he will come off the breast by himself letting you know he is finished.

Breastfeeding does not hurt. In the first few weeks there may be some pain at the beginning of a feed.  This is common and usually goes away after the first two weeks.  If the pain continues throughout the feed the baby may not be latched on correctly or not sucking correctly.  Pay attention to the shape of your nipple as soon as it comes out of your baby's mouth.  It should be elongated but not pinched looking.  A pinched or squished looking nipple is a sign of a shallow latch or sucking problem.  Your first step in trying to fix any breastfeeding problem is to get the best latch possible.  Don't hesitate to get help if you need it.

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