Latch and Positioning
Getting your baby positioned and latched on comfortably is arguably one of the most important parts of breastfeeding. It can make the difference between an enjoyable or miserable experience for both parent and infant. Likewise, it can either prevent or be the cause of a number of other breastfeeding challenges.
So how do we get this right?
Latch - a.k.a. 'Attaching'
As I discussed on the breast and nipple pain page : When breastfeeding is working as it should, your nipple should get deep enough into your baby’s mouth that it sits where the hard and soft palate meet. There is plenty of space this far back in your baby’s mouth that allows the nipple to move freely without rubbing on anything. This also allows the baby to create the appropriate vacuum with his/her mouth and effectively massage the breast with the tongue to remove milk efficiently and comfortably! If this doesn’t happen, babies have to compensate by compressing your nipple between their tongue and the roof of the mouth (hard palate) which creates friction and leads to nipple damage and pain.
To help demonstrate this, here is an excellent video: Attaching your baby at the breast
The best way to help your baby latch or attach well is to use good positioning techniques!
I believe that there is no 'one right way' to position for all breastfeeding parents. All bodies and babies are different and so it's important for parents to know that they can and should try different things to find what's right for them.
With that in mind, there are several characteristics of good positioning that you can focus on when trying to get your baby latched. They include:
Good infant body alignment - your baby's ears, shoulders and hips should all be in a line. If your baby is looking over their shoulder, they won't be able to open their mouth wide or swallow effectively.
Tummy to tummy or good body contact - in general, your baby's tummy should be touching your tummy (or another part of your body). Babies like to have good body contact with you while breastfeeding. This helps them feel stable and it helps to 'turn on' a number of inborn reflexes that help a baby to feed optimally.
Infant's head and neck are able to extend or get into a good 'drinking position' - I often see parents helping their baby to latch by holding or inadvertently pushing their infant's head into the breast. This usually causes the baby's chin to be tucked down to the chest, which then makes it hard for babies to open their mouths wide and get into a good 'drinking position'. Try to avoid this by not putting any pressure on the back of baby's head and positioning baby so the head and neck are able to extend. If your baby needs more support, hold them by placing your hand on the back of their neck or over the shoulder blades.
Pull baby in close - babies like to be stable. By pulling our babies in nice and close we help them feel good and supported. This also helps baby to keep the breast buried deep in the mouth and not slipping out which is a problem because it makes it so that baby needs to 'clamp' down to try and hold the nipple in the mouth - ouch!
Explaining good positioning is much easier with video, here is an excellent series of videos explaining how to Improve Latch by Improving Positioning.
Here is another video that demonstrates positions with live parents and babies:
Good latch and positioning should help to resolve any pain and discomfort, for more information on healing sore and damaged nipples visit this page.