Hi there, Mama,
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and ow.. man that really hurts. As beautiful the concept of breastfeeding is, it can be very painful for many women if it’s not done in the correct way.
A good latch is the foundation of a successful breastfeeding session. It won’t be painful for you and your little one will get enough milk in one session.
Shallow latch breastfeeding is the technical term where the baby’s mouth isn’t wide open, and she’s sucking only on the nipple.
There’s a reason it’s called breastfeeding and not nipple feeding, because a good breastfeeding latch has established when part of your breast, the areola too is inside the baby’s mouth along with the nipple.
I remember the pain I endured during the first couple of months. Even the thought of the next breastfeeding session would make me cringe in pain. The hospital where I delivered my sweet little baby boy had no good nurses who taught me the correct way to make the baby latch.
All they did was place the baby in my arms and went away as if I, a young, new mother, knew exactly how to breastfeed my 1-hour old baby.
It took a lot of practice, pain, research, cracked nipples, tubes of ointment, and a willful baby for me to master the art of breastfeeding, and once we got the perfect latch on, it’s been a smooth ride for both of us.
Breastfeeding is never supposed to be painful and if it is, then remember that the latch is not good and the baby’s not getting enough milk.
But, don’t worry mama, there are many ways to fix a shallow latch and for the breastfeeding sessions to be not painful at all.
How to fix a shallow latch?
Babies are born with a sucking reflex, so if there’s a shallow latch, then the nipple will be pinched, squeezed, or cracked due to the extreme suction, but there are ways to avoid this.
Don’t wait to feed till your baby becomes frantic
Learn to understand the early signs of hunger. If the baby is calm and not frantic with hunger, then you can build a perfect latch. Trying to get a good latch when the baby is calmer will give you enough time and concentration to get it right.
Recognizing the early signs of hunger is essential to establishing a good latch. Crying is the last resort for hungry babies.
There are several cues like:
- Your baby is putting her fist into her mouth
- Baby smacks her lips
- Baby keeps showing her tongue
- Your baby is moving her head sideways in search of a breast
Nose to nipple
To get a good latch, it’s important that you learn how to properly breastfeed. Take your baby towards you, hold her head, and bring her nose to touch your nipple. Your baby will soon open her mouth wide and grab on the nipple.
At this time, wait for her to open her mouth wide, and not just a little. Place the areola and the nipple inside her mouth, and let her have a mouthful of your breast. This way, she will get enough milk and it won’t be painful for you.
When my little one used to cry during breastfeeding, I would automatically assume that I have a low milk supply, but in reality, because the baby hasn’t gotten a good latch, he’s not getting enough milk and is getting hungrier, resulting in crying mid-breastfeeding.
Remember while breastfeeding, let the baby come to you with a wide-open mouth, instead of you bending over towards your baby to avoid getting severe backache later.
Try the ‘skin-to-skin’ technique
Go back to the good old basic position of lying down on your back and placing your naked baby on your bare chest.
Make sure to cover her with a little blanket, so she doesn’t feel cold. Skin-to-skin also increases milk supply, so it’s best if you try this technique quite often.
When it’s time to eat, your baby will automatically start to root for the breast and be ready to breastfeed.
Find a good position to breastfeed
You can either lay back or feed your baby in a side-lying position to promote the baby’s innate quality to root for the breast and extend their head to get a deeper and more comfortable latch. Support your baby’s head and neck as they begin to root.
Another breastfeeding position is the cradle hold, where you support the baby with the right arm if you’re using the right breast. Make sure that your baby’s stomach is up against yours instead of facing the ceiling.
You can also try the football hold; this position is best suited for women who just had a C-section. In this position, the baby faces you while their body is resting on your arm.
Try the sandwich technique
It’s like you trying to take a big bite of a big sandwich. You would press the top and bottom bun together and then take a bite, right?
Similarly, for the baby to get a good latch, just gently press your breast behind the areola, in U, C, or V shape, so that your baby can get a good amount of the areola and the nipple in her mouth.
Unlatch and latch again
If nothing works, unlatch by gently inserting your little finger in the side of the baby’s mouth and unlatch, and then try to latch again with the help of the above positions.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time, time and patience will certainly reward you. So, be patient, and try and try till you get that perfect latch and I assure you it’s going to be soon.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid, you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.