There are many techniques to latching a baby and you may find that different professionals will have different ideas and styles.
Whilst the government guidelines recommend a ‘hands off’ method with breastfeeding support, it’s likely at some stage, a health care professional will try latching your baby onto your breast for you. If you’re struggling this can be useful, but may also be intrusive, baby isn’t always keen and it doesn’t help you to learn the process.
You may also have had suggestions to shape your breast and aim the nipple towards the roof of your baby’s mouth whilst bringing baby on and latching. Again this is sometimes helpful if you’re having difficulties, but if not done correctly it could lead in a poor latch.
Decide for yourself what you’re happy with and what works for you.
This is the general theory to latching a baby onto the breast. ‘Hands off’ method.
- Aim your nipple towards your baby’s nose.
- Your baby will need to tilt their head back, open their mouth wide and their tongue should protrude out and flat against the floor of their mouth.
- The Mother’s manoeuvre should be swift as she brings baby towards the breast aiming the chin first towards the soft breast tissue underside of the areola (dark part around the nipple)
- The bottom lip should be at the bottom of the areola and the top lip should scoop on and over the nipple.
- Your baby’s tongue should draw your breast into their mouth and the nipple should end up sat at the back on the soft part of baby’s palette.
- Hold baby close to establish a good latch. A suction is created and your baby’s bottom jaw and tongue will massage the breast compressing the milk cells and forcing milk to eject up and out of the ducts, through the nipple and into baby’s mouth.
- Your baby will begin a sucking sequence to stimulate milk ejection. Your body releases a hormone ‘Oxytocin’ which stimulates the release of milk. This is called the let down reflex and can also be stimulated by knowing your baby is due a feed, smelling your baby, seeing or thinking about your baby.
- Once the milk is flowing your baby will develop a feeding rhythm of suck, suck ,suck, suck swallow. After a few rounds they’ll pause for a break and allow the ducts to fill back up again.
- The initial latch may make your toes curl with pain, but should settle after 30 seconds. Then after it should feel like your baby is drawing the breast into their mouth. If you feel a biting, chewing or pinching, then the nipple is not far enough back in baby’s mouth and is sat on the hard palette. Use a small finger to break the seal and re attach baby.
- Keep baby well supported throughout the feed. You may choose to use a breastfeeding cushion for support. These can be good for younger babies.
- You can swap arms once the latch is right but ensure the feed is well on its way as baby may slip during the transition.