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Latch is such an important part of breastfeeding. I can’t stress that enough! With my first, I really had no idea what I was doing and for many reasons (not just because of latch), I ended up having to quit nursing. With my second I quickly learned that I was no better prepared and that I had no idea what good latch looked like! This time though, I was determined to make breastfeeding work and I immersed myself in every blog post and YouTube video I could find.

I found it really hard to find the specific info I was looking for on latch which why I decided to write this post. In case you’re new to my blog, though, I do need to mention that I’m NOT a breastfeeding expert. I’m just a mom who managed to have an amazing breastfeeding relationship with my second and we nursed until he was 17 months old! During that 17 months I learned so much about breastfeeding and about latch.

While I will share some of my experience in this post, my real intent for this post is to share some amazing posts and videos like the ones I found when I was struggling so that you can learn from them too (without spending as much time as I did searching everywhere!)

For starters…

Why is latch so important?

Poor latch can make breastfeeding extremely painful. It can even cause your nipples to crack or bleed. While eventually fixing your latch will prevent future nipple damage, if you wait too long, you may already be cracked and/or bleeding and need to work through the pain while your nipples heal.

Are you already cracked or bleeding? Or just feeling overwhelmed? I’ve got another 2-part post with some overarching breastfeeding tips you might like! You can find Part 1 here.

That’s what happened to me! By the time we figured out our latch situation, my nipples were already cracked and it was incredibly painful! It passed of course – but for a while I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to continue. If you’re a new mom and trying to establishing your breastfeeding relationship, please read on so you can hopefully avoid this!

Why is latch so difficult?

  1. It’s because it’s a two person activity! You are learning about breastfeeding AND teaching your baby at the same time! That means that you really need to know what you’re looking for in a good latch so that you can help guide your baby if they need it. Sure, not all babies need the help… Some babies may naturally latch correctly, but some won’t.
  2. Some nipple types can make latch more difficult. If you have flat or inverted nipples, this post may help you!
  3. Some nipple sizes can make latch difficult! Whether you are normally very large or very small, or you are just engorged, the end result may be the same. Some positions will work better than others because of your breast size. Depending on the baby’s age (and mouth size), some positions may be easier or harder for different breast sizes. So experiment!
  4. Some babies with tongue tie or cleft lip may have a really tough time latching properly. Pediatricians should be able to diagnose this and help you through it, but I’ve heard so many stories of moms not learning their baby has tongue tie for weeks! This post by La Leche League is an amazingly detailed post about Tongue-Tie!

Here’s a great video too that explains what Tongue Tie is and how it’s treated:

Characteristics of a good latch

Here are some things to look for when checking to see if your baby is latched well:

✓ You should be able to see both of your baby’s lips. If you pull down on the bottom lip slightly, you should also be able to see your baby’s tongue.

✓ Your baby’s cheeks should be rounded. This could be a bit tough when they are a newborn and still so so tiny, but it’s something to look for.

✓ You should be able to hear swallowing but you should NOT hear any clicking or smacking sounds. Clicking and smacking sounds will end in pain!

✓ Your baby’s chin should be right up against your breast.

✓ Your baby’s mouth should be wide (very wide) open when they are a newborn.

What are signs of a bad latch?

  1. I think most moms would agree that pain can be a sign of a bad latch! That said, sometimes you will feel pain after your baby latches properly if you are still healing from a prior bad latch. So don’t automatically assume that pain means your current latch is bad.
  2. Cracks or bleeding nipples are also a sign of a previous and possibly current bad latch.
  3. As previously stated, smacking or clicking sounds are likely sounds of a bad latch.
  4. If your baby’s lip appears to be curled towards his or her gums/teeth, you likely have a bad latch.

Okay so what now?

How to get a good latch

I used what I fondly called the “flick technique”. Basically, you fold your nipple up towards you. Then you line your baby up so that their chin touches the bottom of your breast (just below the areola if possible) and their nose lines up to your nipple. Once your baby is against your breast, you let go of your nipple and let it flick downwards and into your baby’s open mouth.

Did this not make sense? Don’t worry! I had countless people verbally tell me about this and I had no idea what they meant. I’ve got a video below for you! So stick with me…

Once I learned this technique, I never had another case of bad latch! It does take some getting used to but it worked wonders for me!

Since this is so difficult to visualize and so many videos use computer generated babies or dolls which didn’t help me any… I made sure to find you a good video to reference! This video shows this latch technique using a real mom and baby. I think it does a great job of showing the technique…

What if I have a flat or inverted nipple?

I don’t have flat or inverted nipples so I can’t talk to this from personal experience. I looked for resources that might help you if you do fall in this category though…

Here’s an awesome video I found about flat nipples and breastfeeding. She speaks so openly about the experience – I just love it!

…and here’s one that seems pretty good about inverted nipples! She doesn’t really show a technique, but you might like to hear her experience. I’ve heard that inverted nipples are the hardest case but she seems to be doing great!

 

The baby latched! How do I get him/her off now?

If for any reason, you need to get your baby to unlatch before they decide to unlatch themselves, then you need to be careful! Don’t just pull them off. It will hurt and upset them!

If your baby is latched properly, you will find that they have created a great seal. You will need to break that seal to get them to unlatch. Carefully slide your pinky into the corner of their mouth and you should hear the seal break! You can then easily remove the baby from your breast without any pain. (Though if your baby is still hungry, he or she will try to get right back on!)

 

Well, I hope you find some useful information in this post! I know that I only just barely skimmed the surface on this topic, but I tried to jump to the end and hopefully save you some time and pain!

If you haven’t already read my other posts about breastfeeding, then please check them out!

Have any questions or comments? Or maybe you have a great tip to add or a different experience? I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below and I’ll do my best to respond to all comments.

Happy reading and good luck!

Your breastfeeding guide to proper latch. Includes latch tips, breastfeeding videos to help you latch, and tips for determining if you have a proper or improper latch. Avoid the pain and get the right latch! Repin for later if you're pregnant or just want to reference it from time to time. Click through to watch the videos and get some great tips!

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