No matter what position you use to feed your baby, it’s important to get a good latch. It takes practice, both for you and your baby. But a good latch will help avoids sore nipples, ensures sufficient milk supply, and encourages abundant milk production.
How To Ensure Proper Latch When Breastfeeding
In any of the breastfeeding positions, when the baby is well aligned, you should be able to draw a straight line connecting the ear, shoulder and hip on either side of the baby’s body.
Once you and your baby are in the correct position, the next step is to guide him to the breast so that he can latch on properly and feed. In most cases (other than lying down), your breast will need to be supported, at least for the first few days of breastfeeding, in order for your baby to latch on properly. This is especially true as milk production increases the size and weight of your breasts.
C-Hold (hold on C)
The C-Hold, also known as the palmer grasp, is the most common hand position that moms use to support the breast when latching the baby on to breastfeed.
C-Hold Breastfeeding Instructions
- With your free hand, place four fingers under your breast and your thumb on top to present the nipple to your baby. (This is where the C-hold comes from since your hand forms a letter C). Make sure your fingers are well behind the areola (the darker coloured area around the nipple) so they don’t get in the way of your baby latching onto the breast.
- Gently compress your breast with your fingers to make it easier for your baby to latch on. Alternatively, you can place your fingers on your chest in a scissor or V-hold to guide the nipple, but only if your fingers are far enough apart to expose the areola.
- Holding the breast, rub your baby’s lower lip with your nipple or touch their chin to the breast. This will cause your baby to open their mouth. (If her mouth is still closed, brush her lip again, gently press down on her chin with your index finger, and open your own mouth as well, as your baby may often mimic).
- When your baby has opened its mouth (not just a little, but as if they are yawning) draw him towards you quickly and place their mouth wide open onto your nipple. This guiding movement should be quick but smooth. Remember to draw your baby to your breast, not push the breast into their mouth. If you push your baby’s head so hard that they cannot breathe, they may become agitated or startled and refuse to breastfeed.
Good Breastfeeding Latch Position
If your baby is in the correct nursing position, his mouth will come together over your areola and his lips will seal over your breast.
Their chin and probably their nose will touch your chest. (They will be able to breathe fine, but if you are concerned about their breathing, try lifting your chest or slightly changing the angle of your body, pulling their lower body closer to you.)
Helping you latch on a bit asymmetrically so that a little more of your areola is in their mouth on the lower lip side and a little less on the upper lip side, you should position your nipple so that it points to the roof of your babies mouth.
You may feel mild discomfort the first time your baby latches onto the breast and maybe even the first few times you feed, remember that once you start to feed consistently you shouldn’t feel pain.
Any pain after the first minute or so of breastfeeding is a sign of improper latching and should be corrected immediately through practice or with the help of a pediatrician, family doctor, nurse, or lactation specialist. If the pain continues while breastfeeding, release the baby by inserting your finger into the corner of his mouth to stop the suction and release it, making sure his mouth is wide open again before latching on.
Do babies instinctively know how to latch?
Many new mothers assume that infants are born instinctively knowing how to latch onto the breast and that if they present their breast in the right way, the baby will know what to do.
Certainly, some babies are capable of latching on their own, with good technique. This is most likely to occur in the first hour after birth but can be repeated later. (Researchers have studied infants who can move from the mother’s lower stomach, where they are placed immediately after birth, to the nipple, where they latch on and begin to suck. This has been called a ‘chest crawl’.
Most newborns easily learn how to latch on to the breast and soon begin the deep, regular sucking and rhythmic swallowing that typifies successful breastfeeding. But not all babies instinctively know how to hold on. You may need to teach your baby until she experiences enough successful feedings to associate her feeding behaviours with satisfying her hunger.
The key to successful latch on involves having enough breast in her mouth so that the nipple reaches the back of the baby’s mouth and their gums and tongue compress the areola, covering about an inch or two of the areola from the base of the nipple.
This sucking motion causes your baby’s jaw to move the milk from the breast while his tongue makes a wave motion under your nipple, causing the milk to flow through the small holes in your nipple. To accomplish this, your baby’s mouth must be fully open when latching on.
Many mistakes when starting to breastfeed occur when the mother has not waited until her baby’s jaws are wide open before pulling him to her breast. As a result, the baby sucks only on the nipple, a position that limits the amount of milk he receives and soon causes pain in the nipple.
To help your baby take a large bite, use the C-Hold to lightly compress your breast; This narrows the areola and the nipple sticks out so that it is easier to latch on. While holding on, their tongue should stick out a little, cover your babies lower gum, and partially wrap around your chest. Their lips should turn outward and press against your chest.
How to ensure proper latch on Breastfeeding Videos
Words help but Videos often help even more. Check out the below Breastfeeding Videos which provide further instructions on ensuring proper latch on when breastfeeding.
The video below helps you learn how to position and support your baby for a good latch. This includes cross-cradle, football, and cradle holds.
Note: The breastfeeding and pumping recommendations in this video are intended for mothers of hospitalized babies. Not all mothers need to pump with breastfeeding
The Deep Latch Technique
This second video introduces something called the deep latch technique. The word “latch” describes the way a baby takes the breast into his/her mouth. The better the latch, the more easily the baby gets mother’s milk. The following “deep latch technique” can help your baby feed more easily. It can also prevent damaged and sore nipples.
Try, try again
If your baby cannot latch on properly the first time, gently release him by sliding your finger into his mouth and pressing down on your breast to break the suction.
You will know that your baby did not latch on properly if you see depressions on his cheeks when he sucks, hears clicks, or watches their lip roll inward. You may also move their head frequently or not swallow at all.
Holding on the wrong way can be painful for you too. Do not try to pull your baby off your breast as this can cause nipple pain.
Keep practicing this latching technique until you and your newborn have mastered it, and don’t hesitate to ask the hospital nurses and lactation specialist for help or post in our comments below.
Do you have your own breastfeeding tips?
Share them with our other new moms in our comments below.