Breastfeeding is natural, so it should be easy, right?
In this article you’ll learn about ‘latch on difficulties’, one of the most common nursing challenges most moms experience.
For some moms and babies, breastfeeding goes really well and there are very few, if any, problems. For most moms, however, there are a number of nursing challenges that can interfere with how easy it is to breastfeed.
The Latch On Challenge: What is the ‘latch on’?
The “latch on” refers to how your baby’s mouth is positioned on your nipple and areola. The better your baby latches on to your areola, the more effectively he or she will massage the milk ducts for Prolactin which stimulates your body to produce more milk. The more your baby massages the areola and, the more your baby takes at each feed, the better your milk supply will be.
A poor latch on interferes with these processes and is the most common cause of difficulties for both you and your baby.
Here are a few common Breastfeeding challenges I hear a lot and which are caused by poor latch on
- Linda, my nipples are so sore and cracked, what’s wrong?
- Everybody is telling me my milk is not enough and that I should give formula. Is this true? How will I know my baby is getting enough breastmilk?
- My baby wants to eat all the time. I need a break! What’s going on?
- Is breastfeeding supposed to hurt?
- My baby nurses for 30 minutes on each side and cries after he is finished eating. Why?
In this blog you’ll learn the symptoms of ‘latch on difficulties’, how to recognize it , and ways to correct your baby’s latch on
Symptoms of an improper ‘latch on’
- Pain in your nipples throughout the whole feed
- Your nipples may become cracked and bleed
- Your baby will not get enough milk
- Your milk supply will not come in well.
How to know your baby is latched on well
First – importantly – your nipple won’t hurt after then first 30 seconds of the feed.
Second – your baby will be happy and full after a feed
Third – you will feel your milk supply coming in. You’ll also feel your breasts are full at the beginning of a feed and empty at the end of it.
Both you and your baby will be comfortable
What are the most common causes of Latch on challenges?
- Improper breastfeeding technique is the most common cause of poor latch on
- Tongue tie in your baby. Some babies may have ‘tongue-tie’ which means they can’t extend their tongue and roll it to achieve a good latch on.
- You have inverted nipples. Inverted nipples can make it harder, but not impossible, for your baby to get a good latch on
How will you know your baby is not latched on properly?
- Nursing will hurt . More specifically, you’ll feel painful pulling on your nipple.
- Your baby’s mouth will not be open wide enough. The upper and lower lip will be very close together at the angle of the mouth.
- Your baby may make a clicking sound when nursing.
- Your nipple will look creased after the feed.
- Your nipples may begin to crack and maybe even to bleed.
- You will not feel your breasts empty during the feed and refill before the next feed.
What you can do to correct latch on difficulties
If your baby is not latching on well, don’t get discouraged. This is a very common breastfeeding problem which you can fix, with a few skills, and plenty of patience.
The key to a great latch on is to have your baby’s mouth open wide enough that you can get all (or most) of your areola in his mouth.
The areola is the colored area around your nipple and is where the milk ducts are. When your baby latches on only to your nipple he can hurt it. More importantly, he will not massage the milk ducts so your body will not get the message to make more milk.
Since it is easier for your baby to latch on just to the nipple and not the whole areola, he will probably get mad when you try to get him to open up his mouth wide. Be persistent, when you get this part right, you won’t feel pain and, your baby will be able to nurse a shorter time and get more milk. It will be worth the effort
If you are having difficulties doing this, consult with your doctor or lactation consultant if you have access to one.
Make sure to take your partner with you to the visit so you both learn what needs to be done. Your partner will be able to coach and support both of you as you correct baby’s latch on.
4 Skills to Solve Latch On Difficulties
Most babies don’t like this, especially in the beginning, because it is harder for the baby to latch on to your whole areola! He may cry and fuss, however, if you really want to be successful at breastfeeding, this is very important to get right.
Don’t worry if he fusses, in no time, as your milk supply increases your baby will be nursing like a champ!
Calm Presence and Patience: It is important that you calm yourself first
Take three deep breaths, drink some chamomile tea, ask dad to come and help you, whatever you need to do to approach the feed calmly.
When you are calm your baby will feel this and will be easier to calm down himself.
If you feel yourself getting tense, stop, take three deep breaths, snuggle your baby and calm him down and then, once you’re both calm, try again.
Expect some resistance from your little one, it is normal: despite weighing only 2.7-4 kg, (6 to 8 pounds) , your baby is pure opinion. I love babies a lot but they can be stubborn! Remember to be patient and persistent. Breastfeeding is so good for you and your baby.
Learn how to open up your baby’s mouth very wide without hurting him. Use your index finger to gently but firmly push down on his lower jaw and open his mouth wide.
Ask your partner how to help both of you doing this process. You will probably need help when you are first starting out. Your baby may be tiny but he can be very stubborn when he wants to be!
AS you open your baby’s mouth wide, hold your whole breast between your thumb and your other 4 fingers right near your ribs in a C hold. Push your thumb down gently so your nipple is facing upward. Next, keeping your hand far away from your areola, practice putting as much of your areola as possible into your baby’s mouth. Once your nipple touches the roof of his mouth, his ‘sucking reflex’ will kick in and he will begin to nurse.
Once your baby is latched on properly and is nursing, gently hold your baby’s head in place, or, if you partner is helping, have your partner gently hold your baby in place. Your baby may try to pull off and latch on just to your nipple again because it is easier. As you hold your baby’s head in place , make sure he is able to breathe from at least one of his nostrils.
After practicing these skills for a few feeds, you will feel more confident and your baby will quickly figure out that your way is better!
Once you have solved the latch on difficulty your milk supply will increase quickly, your nipples will heal, and, both you and your baby will be happier. A really good day for nursing moms is when their babies open their mouths up wide all on their own! With presence, patience and the above skills you too will be there soon!
To your holistic health and happiness,
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