A good latch is essential to breastfeeding. Good latch…what exactly does that mean? I will be honest, I had no idea until I started breastfeeding.
A latch can either make or break your breastfeeding relationship. A bad latch can cause a low milk supply and painful nipples, while a good latch will allow you to have a healthy milk supply with a content, happy baby and mama.
The definition of a latch describes how a baby is attached to the mother’s nipple. So you can imagine the pain if your baby is attached wrong. I had troubles with a bad latch. I was in toe-curling pain for weeks. I tried everything that I could do for a good latch. You can read more about my breastfeeding journey here. I want to help you achieve a good latch with these essential steps below.
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1. Get comfortable
Get yourself in a comfortable position. You will be in this place for about 45 minutes so have your water, snacks, phone, etc at hand. I suggest purchasing a nursing caddy. That way, you can take all of your things with you with just one trip. So convenient! And trust me, I know this is easier said than done, but RELAX. Drop those shoulders mama and take a few deep breaths. Your baby will be able to feel you tense so try to get as comfortable as possible.
2. Be patient
Always be patient while trying to get a good latch. I know from personal experience how frustrating this time can be. Take a good, few deep breaths and try again. I have never met anyone that had the perfect latch the first time. This is all new to you and your baby, but just think, this is something that only the two of you can do together. Once you accomplish a good latch, breastfeeding will come easy. The pain does not last forever. It took me 8 whole weeks, but that is now so minor to the 8 months and going we have been breastfeeding.
3. Breastfeeding Pillow
Using a breastfeeding pillow saved my back and shoulders. I, myself tend to hold my shoulders tight and slouch a little. My favorite pillow is the Boppy Pillow. It helped support my arms and baby so that I could relax a little. This pillow is also great because it is so versatile! Even though I do not use it for breastfeeding anymore, I place it around my daughter while she is sitting on the floor.
Placing your baby skin to skin after birth has so many benefits, but it also helps in the first few weeks. Having your baby’s tummy against yours helps the baby use their natural instincts to find your breast. This can help you achieve a deeper, more comfortable latch.
5. Deep latch
To achieve a good latch, you must have a deep latch. If your baby is only at the tip of the nipple, you will be in pain and they will not receive much milk. When your baby attaches, your nipple and lower half of the areola should be in their mouth. Your nipple should be in the “soft” palate of their mouth. To help understand this, feel with your tongue the ridges and hard parts of the roof of your mouth. Now, feel the soft area right behind that; this is where your nipple should be in your baby’s mouth.
6. Different Positions
Try different positions while holding your baby to nurse. The most popular positions are the cross-cradle hold and the football hold. These two were my favorite as well first starting out.
Using the cross-cradle technique:
While attaching baby to your left breast, hold your baby with your right arm. Using your left hand, hold your breast in a “C” or “U” cup (kind of like how you hold a sandwich). When your baby opens wide, push between their shoulder blades towards your breast to allow them to attach. After they are suckling and it is comfortable, release your breast and place your left arm around your baby.
Using the football technique:
The breastfeeding pillow helped me achieve this technique. Place the opening of the pillow around the side of your waist; your stomach should not be wrapped with the pillow. For attachment to the right side, your baby’s feet should be towards your back (like you would be holding a football while running). Use your left hand to “sandwich” your breast. Hold towards the base of baby’s neck and shoulders while making a “V” with your fingers. When they open wide, push them towards your breast. After they are suckling and it is comfortable, release breast with your left hand.
7. Nipple Shield
Nipple shields saved my breastfeeding journey! I didn’t use one at first because honestly, I just couldn’t figure it out. Do yourself a favor, ask for help. Most lactation nurses do not recommend using the nipple shield for long because it can cause nipple confusion. But, the shield allows your nipples to heal from any cracks or blisters you may have. It also helps your baby latch deeper.
8. Finally, be kind and find support
Be kind to yourself mama. This is all so new! Give yourself a break and don’t beat yourself up over it. I can tell you, I was not kind to myself. I hated every second while trying to get a good latch. I look back and honestly feel sorry for beating myself up about it. I didn’t know that others were going through the struggles as well. Find other mamas or a lactation consultant that you can talk to. Heck, message me! It helps to speak with others about any struggles and you won’t feel so alone.
I hope this has helped! Feel free to comment below. As always, YOU’VE GOT THIS MAMA!