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Breastfeeding - Improve your latch

Breastfeeding - Improve your latch

February 2, 2017 - By Geraldine Miskin

Breastfeeding expert Geraldine Miskin shares tips for improving your latch. 


With a good latch, you can say goodbye to the 10 second sting and avoid the frustration your hungry baby feels when delicious warm milk is so close yet umpteen latches away.

Babies usually know that they need to open their mouths wide enough to scoop up enough breast tissue for a comfortable latch and all you need to do is get them onto the breast quickly, before their mouth closes. It sounds simple enough so why do some mums experience pain?

Here are a few simple tips that can improve your latch:

Find your ‘angle of dangle’

Once your baby has latched onto the breast, you want to see that both baby’s cheeks touch the breast evenly. This allows your baby to drain the entire breast and prevents the nipple from being pinched or compressed on the sides. 

In order to get this right, you need to look at where your nipples point. If they point forwards, you can position your baby ‘tummy to mummy’ and bring baby straight onto the breast. If your nipples point downward slightly and most nipples do, roll your baby back slightly, so that the lower cheek is able to connect with the breast once latched.

Line your baby up with your breast

Ensure that your baby is at the right height in relation to the breast before latching. To do this, you want to line your baby up to the breast when your breast is at rest. Some breastfeeding cushions place baby too high, which can result in the breast dropping out of baby’s mouth or baby ‘losing’ or ‘letting go of’ the breast during the feed. 

Some mums feel more confident holding the breast when latching and this is fine. Just remember to move baby and the breast downward simultaneously after latching, so that you don’t alter baby’s latch. If you are large breasted and find that lifting and holding the breast feels more comfortable, try rolling up a muslin cloth and popping this under the breast right against your rib cage, to raise, support and steady it. 

Helpful hand placement

Your hand placement when latching is really important. Use the opposite arm to the breast you are feeding from, to latch your baby. This will help you guide baby onto the breast and give you the speed you need to get baby onto the breast quickly and avoid 10 second latching sting. 

Place the ‘heal’ of your hand on baby’s upper back/spine area, your fingers spread open on baby’s cheek and your thumb just behind baby’s ear. Apply pressure to baby’s upper back and bring his or her body into the breast when latching. This allows your baby’s head to tilt back and the chin to indent your breast and pull the nipple into baby’s mouth. If your hand is on baby’s head, you will push baby’s nose into the breast and your baby will struggle to latch.

Good support is key 

A steady support which doesn’t move or slip away from you when latching or during the feed is vital. Every second counts when latching as your baby’s mouth begins to close once it has reached the widest gape. If your breastfeeding cushion moves away from you during the feed, sew ribbon onto the ends and tie these together to keep your cushion snuggly around you during the feed.

Not all mums need to use a breastfeeding cushion. If your baby is small, pop baby’s bottom in the crook of your arm with baby’s legs between the side of your body and your arm. If your baby is older or taller, sit baby’s bottom on the opposite thigh to the breast you are feeding from and tip baby over, to reach and latch onto the breast.

Use a lightning quick latch

The quicker you bring baby onto the breast, the quicker the nipple will flick to the back of baby’s mouth, where the hard and soft palate meet. If you bring baby onto the breast slowly, you will feel 5-10 second sting as your baby sucks the nipple into place.

Ensure that your baby is really close to you before you latch. You want to see that baby’s chest is right up against yours, so that when you bring baby onto the breast, there is just a short distance to travel to the breast and baby can latch before his or her mouth closes.

As with all skills, after a bit of practice, you will find what works well for you and your baby and be able to latch your baby onto the breast without even thinking about it. 

About the author: Geraldine Miskin is Founder of The Miskin Method and Breastfeeding Experience app www.breastfeedingexperience.com

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