How To Get Baby To Latch Deeper: A Complete Step By Step Guide

How To Get Baby To Latch Deeper

A common misconception is that a baby instinctively will know how to nurse from the mother. There are cases where babies do get properly latched from the beginning, but the truth is that they sometimes require a bit of help to do it correctly. So, are you wondering how to get baby to latch deeper?

The way your baby takes your nipple and areola (the areola is the darkened area surrounding the nipple) into their mouths is called latching. The effectiveness of breastfeeding will significantly depend on your baby achieving a proper latch.

A deep latch will not only allow your baby to draw more milk, but it also will stimulate your breasts to produce more. Breast milk comes out from many small openings in the nipple, not just from the tip, but your baby’s gums need to press into the areola and the milk sinuses underneath it to get it flowing.

In contrast, if your baby can’t latch correctly, you will experience pain and sore nipples that may crack and blister, and you could develop milk blebs and a low milk supply. Also, your baby won’t feed properly, so their development and growth can be compromised.

Therefore, to achieve successful breastfeeding, it’s crucial you pay close attention to your body and your baby’s behavior to identify if the baby’s breastfeeding latch is deep enough or not.

How do I know the baby is latched properly?

The first thing you will notice with a proper latch is that your entire nipple and at least an inch of your areola are inside the baby’s mouth. The baby’s lips should resemble fish lips and be flipped outward, with the baby’s chin pressed into your breast and the nose close to your skin but not blocked so they can breathe.

You will hear sucking and swallowing sounds from the baby, which is different from the clicking sounds they make when the latch is not deep enough.

It’s normal to feel some pressure and slight pain at the beginning of a feeding session, especially during the first few weeks, but it should be manageable.

However, your baby didn’t latch properly if you feel stabbing pain and soreness in your nipple that increases while the baby feeds. You will notice the baby’s cheek cave in as if they’re sucking from a closed-up straw and hear clicking noises.

Milk may dribble from the sides of their mouth, and they will want to feed again sooner or be fussy right after finishing because they don’t feel satisfied.

If this is happening and you need your baby to get a better latch, gently insert your pinky finger into the side of the baby’s mouth before pulling the baby away. You need them to break the suction, or it will be very painful. Once they release the nipple, then try latching them again and resume breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding hurts even with good latch

If your breasts are too full or you’re just starting to nurse, no matter if your baby latches properly, you will experience some level of pain.

The pressure from milk flow and let down hurt, but it should go away fast as your baby releases some pressure by feeding.

The pain from a shallow latch is different, and it doesn’t fade away; it gets worse as the baby-nurses.

How to get baby to latch deeper

The first thing you need to do is get into a comfortable position so you can endure the time your baby needs to feed and not strain your body. Ensure you have proper back support so you can comfortably carry the baby without putting too much stress on your neck and shoulders.

Sitting on a comfortable chair with a breastfeeding pillow to support your baby’s weight at the correct height you need them to be is advisable so you can endure long periods of time.

Let’s explore other things you need to take into consideration as well.

How To Get Baby To Latch Deeper

1. Baby’s position

The correct breastfeeding position, especially for newborns and small babies, is tummy to tummy, meaning that their tummy should be touching yours. And if you can add skin-to-skin to the mix, it will also soothe the baby, and studies have shown that this resolves latching issues quicker and more efficiently.

The baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip facing you should be aligned, and you need to support their back and bottom with your forearm, as well as their head and neck with your fingers.

Place your thumb behind one ear and a finger behind the other. It would be best if you didn’t place your whole hand at the back of their head to avoid pushing it forward, as this makes latching harder for them.

2. Let them open their mouth

You need to wait for the baby’s mouth open wide enough before you bring your baby towards your breast.

To achieve this, you need to activate the baby’s rooting reflex, which is a primitive response where the baby turns its head towards the stimulus and opens the mouth with tongue thrusting. Tickle the baby’s nose, cheek, and upper lip with your nipple to get them to open their mouth as if yawning and quickly bring their mouth to the mom’s nipple.

To get a deeper latch, sometimes you’ll need to move your breast or squeeze your nipple and the surrounding areola between your thumb and forefinger to flatten it in the shape of their mouth so the baby can get more of your breast inside their mouth. Once it’s inside, you let go of your breast to allow them to breastfeed.

3. Breastfeeding positions

Sometimes new parents need to try placing the baby in different positions until they find the one that works best for both of them.

Here are the most common and effective ones.

Laid-back

For years it’s been proven that placing the baby on the mother’s chest right after birth not only helps them bond quickly, but the baby instinctively will search for the breast and latch on, beginning to feed immediately.

So, since this is the most basic and natural position, it can be very effective in ensuring a proper latch-on for most babies.

The mother should lay back in a reclined position with some back support to be more comfortable. The baby should be placed tummy-to-tummy with their head reaching the breast. You can let the baby find their way and latch on their own, or you can guide and place them so they can begin breastfeeding.

Cradle hold

This position allows you to see if your baby’s latch is well positioned or not, primarily if the lower lip is covering enough area. You need to hold the baby tummy-to-tummy with the head angled, so the nose is opposite your nipple. When the baby opens its mouth wide, you pull them back a bit and then bring them back towards your nipple to feed your baby.

There are two variants for this position: cradle hold or cross-cradle hold, and the difference between both depends on your arm placement.

If you support your baby with the arm of the same side as the breast they are feeding on, and place their head in the crook of your elbow, then that’s a cradle hold. However, if you support the baby with the arm opposite from the breast they’re nursing, then you’re doing the cross-cradle hold.

Football hold

For this position, you’ll need to hold the baby under your arm, like a football, and it may be beneficial if you had a C-section or your midsection is tender, and you want to avoid touching the area.

Also, if you have twins and want to try nursing them simultaneously, this is the way to go.

To support your baby’s head in this position, you need to place your thumb and fingers behind the ears, and we suggest using a nursing pillow, so the baby’s weight rests on it instead of you needing to hold them on your own.

Side-lying

This may be one of the most comfortable positions, especially for those midnight breastfeeding sessions. Simply lay on your side on a bed and place your baby in the same position, mirroring you.

Support your baby with the arm on the side and bring them towards your breast. Wait for the baby to open their mouth wide enough before latching on your areola and nipple.

As a security measure to prevent your baby from rolling off the bed, place a pillow behind the baby’s back or a railing. Also, make sure there are no loose sheets around them to prevent accidental suffocation.

How To Get Baby To Latch Deeper

What else can you do?

If you’ve tried everything we’ve explained so far and still can’t manage a proper baby latch, there are other things you can try.

For example, if your child is preterm, has a cleft lip, soft palate, down syndrome, or refuses to latch because they are feeling sick, you can try the dancer hand position. This is where you slide your pinky, ring, and middle finger under your breast to support it and support your baby’s cheeks with your thumb and index finger.

You need to keep your thumb on one cheek and index finger on the other as you bring them towards you as you breastfeed.

If all these positions and hand placements sound confusing, there’re a lot of videos on YouTube that you can watch and get a more graphic explanation. They are particularly helpful for new families.

Also, consider going to a lactation consultant who can help you out and observe while you nurse your baby so they can give you pointers on how to get a deeper latch. A lactation consultant is a well-versed professional in this area, and, rest assured, they’ve seen and heard all about this and are more up to date with information than most people.

There are cases where the mother has flat or inverted nipples, which can pose a problem, but with the aid of a nipple shield, you can get the baby to latch for successful breastfeeding.

Baby won’t stay latched on and cries

If you think you’ve got your baby latched properly, and they still let go and cry, there’s something wrong.

Consult with your pediatrician, a medical specialist, or a lactation consultant to address the situation as soon as possible because there’s a probability that the baby is not getting enough milk and nutrients, which may cause future complications.

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