If you are having problems with painful latch, you may have heard you aren’t doing it right. There may be some truth to that statement, but let’s not forget that breastfeeding is a relationship with two participants.
It Takes Two
Most of the advice on latching focuses on what mom does. We now know that babies are born with instinctive behaviors that allow them to be active participants in getting a good latch, often with just a little assistance from mom. Latch works best when mom and baby are relaxed and in sync. A good latch means comfort for mom and effective milk removal for baby. When mom is reclining at about a 45 degree angle with her baby on her chest, heart to heart and skin to skin, baby-led breastfeeding can occur. It’s fine for mom to help, but be aware babies use instinctive behaviors to move about, locate the nipple and achieve a good latch.
When your baby does latch, you may feel discomfort briefly as the nipple is stretched into the roof of the baby’s mouth. Count to 10 and the discomfort should be gone. If not, insert your fingertip in the corner of your baby’s mouth and between the gums, and begin again.
Nose to Nipple
One of the most common nipple injuries is a compression stripe, a blue line across the end of the nipple. This bruising may occur when a baby is placed mouth to nipple when latching. This allows the baby to take the nipple in without opening wide, resulting in a shallow latch. If you begin with your baby nose to nipple, your baby will open wide, tip back, and reach up and over the nipple to achieve a deeper latch, which prevents nipple pain and injury. Support your baby at the shoulders and neck, so his head is free to move.
Wait for It
You may prefer to breastfeed in a traditional position, sitting up with your baby in your arms. Make sure you are comfortable and your baby is well supported. A pillow or two will help. Your baby won’t be able to assist much in this position, so align the baby nose to nipple, with her chin touching your breast. Wait for her to open wide, then bring her in quick and close to latch while supporting her shoulders and neck. If there is initial discomfort, it should be gone by the time you count to 10. Check the shape of your nipple when your baby comes off. It should be round. If it is pinched or asymmetrical, keep practicing nose to nipple.
If you are convinced you and your baby have mastered latch technique and you are still experienced a painful latch, there may be other causes, such as tongue-tie, or a breast or nipple problem. It’s time to consider seeking guidance from an experienced lactation professional.