When you give birth to your little one, your life quickly changes and this baby becomes the center of your attention. You want to give the best of everything to your child. Your milk is a gift only you can give your baby. It is often considered the best food for newborns as it protects your babies from many kinds of allergies and chronic diseases. Steering clear of the great debate of what is best, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be fed moms milk exclusively for about the first 6 months. Following the introduction of solid foods, feeding with moms milk should continue through the first year of life and is valuable even beyond.
As a new nursing mom you may have tons of questions and anxiety about this. Are you doing everything right? Are you nursing your baby properly? Is the baby getting enough milk? Is it supposed to feel this way?
A good latch is an answer to all your questions . A good latch is one of the most important aspect of breastfeeding. Your newborn needs to latch well and frequent to get enough breastmilk for nourishment and growth. Although breastfeeding is perfectly natural it doesn’t always come naturally to us. It’s critical to know and understand what a good latch should look and feel like and practice to achieve it.
So what should a good latch feel like? - The short answer: Painless and comfortable. You should feel gentle tugging at your breast as the baby sucks, but if you're feeling uncomfortable let’s focus on getting a good latch and see if it improves.
Here are a few indicators of good latch:
· The baby has a wide mouth. With a good latch your baby's mouth is wide open and your baby latches on your nipple as well as your areola (the darker area around the breast). The amount of your areola that baby takes in the mouth usually depends on the size of your nipple and the size of your baby's mouth. If after nursing the nipple is squished, shaped like a lipstick or bleeding, there is an issue with the latch.
· The latch is pain-free and comfortable for both mother and child. Repeat after me – Nursing my baby should not hurt! Sure it may feel a little different the first week, after all you likely haven’t had anyone latching to your breast… (what happens in your room stays in your room - if you have, probably not 10+ times a day) If it is hurting – focus on your latch and seek help. Don’t wait until your nipples are bleeding and you are over it to get help!!
· The lips have a good seal and milk is not leaking. When the baby has a good seal the lips are curled outwards like fish lips, and the inside of the lips sit flat against your breast. Baby’s tongue cups under your breast and your breast fills your baby's mouth. If you notice dimpling, breaks in the lips, or milk dripping – these are all indications of a poor lip seal.
· You can hear or see signs of milk transfer and a rocking jaw. You will notice as your baby is sucking the sucks will become slower and much deeper, as your baby swallows milk. Active sucking and swallowing will use more than just mouth muscles. During active sucking and swallowing the muscles in front of the baby’s ears move, indicating a strong and efficient suck that uses the entire lower jaw. This is what we refer to as a rocker motion.
This is how a good latch looks and feels. There are other indicators too. Check out our free download Latch ABC Guide here for more tips. If you are still struggling to get a good latch, reach out to a Certified Lactation Counselor or seek help.