How To Latch A Baby On To Your Breast

The Steps Of A Traditional Latch

Latch
Traditional Latch. George Doyle/Getty Images

The Importance of A Good Latch

Getting your baby to latch on to your breast properly is so important. When your baby is latched on correctly the movements of her jaw and tongue can effectively compress and release the milk ducts below the areola to bring your breast milk out of your breast and into your baby's mouth. This will ensure that your baby gets enough nutrition to grow at a healthy rate. A good latch will also help you to build and maintain your milk supply while preventing breast issues such as sore nipples, plugged milk ducts, engorgement and mastitis.

Here are some step by step instructions to get your baby latched on in a traditional latch with the baby centered on your breast.  

How To Latch Your Baby On To The Breast

  • Place your baby in a comfortable nursing position. Using a nursing pillow and a nursing footstool may be helpful. These products are designed to encourage a proper latch by positioning your baby comfortably at the level of your breast.
     
  • Use one hand to support your breast in a palmar grasp, or C-hold, by placing your thumb on the top of your breast and your fingers below it. Your hand will look like it's in the shape of a C. Keep your thumb and fingers behind the areola so that they do not interfere with the latch.
     
  • If your baby's head is not turned toward your breast you can gently stroke your baby's cheek with your finger or nipple to stimulate the rooting reflex. Your baby should turn toward the breast and open her mouth. If your baby is facing your breast, touch your nipple to her lower lip or chin.
     
  • Be patient and wait for your baby to open her mouth very wide.
     
  • Once your baby opens up very wide and puts his tongue down, bring the baby toward you and place your breast into the baby's mouth. Do not lean toward your baby, bring your baby to you. Nursing your baby while you are bending over can cause strain on your back, neck and arms. Instead, keep your back straight and bring the baby to you and your breast.
     
  • Be quick but gentle and do not force your breast into your baby's mouth.
     
  • Your baby should take all of your nipple and about 1 to 2 inches of your areola into his mouth. If your baby is nursing on your nipple alone, he will not be able to fully squeeze the milk glands below the breast and therefore he will not be getting much milk.
     
  • Know the signs of good latch vs. a poor latch and compare them to your baby's latch.
     
  • If your baby is not latched on properly, break the suction to remove her from your breast and try again.

The Asymmetrical Latch

Another latch technique is called the asymmetrical latch. It is similar to the traditional latch described above except it involves placing the baby on the breast off-center as opposed to centered on the nipple. An asymmetrical latch can make breastfeeding more comfortable and may help a baby to remove the breast milk more efficiently. It can also be used for women with large breasts who may be concerned about their baby's nose getting blocked while they are nursing.

With an asymmetrical latch the baby's nose is lifted further off the breast compared to a traditional latch.

Getting Help

If you are having trouble with your baby's latch or if you are unsure whether or not your baby is latching on well, get help. Your doctor, a lactation consultant or a local La Leche group can evaluate your technique and provide you with the assistance you need to get latched on correctly.

Investing some extra time into making sure your baby is latching on correctly can make all the difference in how successful you are at breastfeeding and how long you decide to nurse your child. A good latch right from the start can make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable.  

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

Riordan, J., & Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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