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Getting in a Good Latch

Latching, like most things in motherhood, is subject to moms relying on their own instincts to know whether or not they are doing it right. That can be a frustrating measuring stick when the thing you are doing means food or no food for your very new baby. Patience and practice are imperative. Here are some tips on knowing when you have a good latch.

• The latch shouldn’t hurt. You should be comfortable when the baby is feeding. There shouldn’t be any pain or pinching.
• The baby’s head should be in line with the rest of their body. Their head shouldn’t have to turn to reach the breast.
• This one is tricky, but you shouldn’t see much of your areola when the baby is at your breast. If you do see your areola there should be more above the baby’s lip than below.
• A good position will have most of your breast in the baby’s mouth.
• Baby’s tongue is cupped under the breast.
• You can see or hear the baby swallow. If you don’t actually hear swallowing, look for signs of pausing when they are breathing.
• The baby’s ears wiggle just a tiny bit.
• You will see your baby’s lips expand not turn in. The bottom lip may not show.
• Their chin should be touching your breast.

You should be concerned if these symptoms occur:

• Pain is not inevitable. With a person sucking on your breast for their very life, you do expect discomfor t– especially at the beginning — but once a good latch is established, pain can signal that the baby is only sucking the nipple. Slide your finger between the baby’s cheek and your breast to break the latch and start again. Make sure your nipple is elongated when it comes out of the baby’s mouth. Compressed or flat breasts are a sign of a bad latch.
• If you get frustrated while trying to get a good latch, simply take a break. Singing and playing with the baby is a good idea to break the tension. Also, you may want to try skin-to-skin contact with the baby closer to your breasts. Baby’s instincts may lead them to your breasts where they will naturally find a good latch.
• A weak suck may be a sign of a health problem. If you notice a weak suck, break your baby’s latch and try again. They need a deep latch to get enough milk. If you aren’t sure your baby is getting enough milk, talk to a lactation specialist or your doctor just to make sure they are getting enough milk.

Breastfeeding is a bonding experience for moms and babies. A lot of that experience comes in the work it takes to get the two of you do it correctly. Stay calm and make sure that if you have concerns, you talk to your health care professional for help.

It is your baby and your body. Trust yourself and your instincts.

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