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The importance of a good latch

The importance of a good latch

February 28, 2021

Are you someone who thinks that with breastfeeding comes pain? That you need to just grin and bear it for 15 or 20 minutes every time you nurse your baby? Well, I'm here to tell you that you don't need to, and shouldn't be, "toughing it out"!

 

A lot of mothers complain about tender nipples that make breastfeeding painful and frustrating. Sometimes this pain is short lived, but if it is a continuous issue then it needs to be addressed.  Two things that you can look at and try to address immediately are baby's position and latch, which play very important roles in breastfeeding. 

 

Having baby in an optimal position provides them with the security and stability they need to feed and also helps promote a good deep latch. Without a good deep latch subsequent issues can arise and really cause a domino effect. What starts off as sore nipples and seems like a singular issue can be accompanied by insufficient milk transfer, which then leads to insufficient draining of breastmilk, which then affects supply! So, if you're having pain, don't ignore it. 

 

How can you optimize baby's position and latch?

  • Make sure your baby is facing your breast and their head, shoulders, and hips are in alignment. (The more contact baby has with your body while nursing the better!)
  • Start with baby's nose opposite of your nipple. 
  • Try tickling baby's lower lip with your nipple. This helps elicit baby to gape by opening his/her mouth widely while tilting their head back. The lower lip and chin should reach breast first.
  • Avoid pushing baby onto your nipple. 
  • Avoid applying pressure to the back of baby's head while latching and nursing. This restricts baby from being able to perform that necessary head tilt.
  • Once baby has latched you should see more of your areola above baby's mouth than below. This helps ensure that your nipple and lower portion of your areola are filling baby's mouth.
  • Don't be afraid to break the latch and try again! Gently swipe your finger between your breast and baby's lips and try again! Practice makes perfect. 

 

What can you do to remedy sore nipples?

  • Once you have finished nursing you can allow any excess milk to dry on your nipple, which may provide some healing benefits. 
  • After nursing, applying a topical lubricant like coconut oil and/or a soothing cooling pad like these for pain relief. 
  • Some women find teabags ran under cold water provide pain relief when placed on the nipples.
  • Alternating the position you nurse your baby in may help avoid continued compression in the same spot and thus reduce pain.

 

You've tried improving position and latch but you're still having pain..now what??

It never hurts to have a trained professional take a better look. If you're still having pain and something just doesn't feel right don't hesitate to seek help. There are many factors that can affect latch, beyond positioning. Reaching out to a local board certified lactation consultant is a good place to start.

 

 

Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash



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