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Latching Techniques - Signs of and Tips for a Good Latch

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Breastfeeding can be comfortable if a person knows the correct way. This article ensures a good latch and experience of successful breastfeeding.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sonal Prasad

Published At June 16, 2022
Reviewed AtSeptember 27, 2023

Introduction:

Breast milk is an irreplaceable diet solution for infants. It contains antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds, and specific immune cells that protect babies from infections and help in the growth and development of infants. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and the babies. The secretion of milk is dependent on the baby's nutritional needs, and it continues to change in order to fulfill them. A breastfeeding latch is how the baby attaches to the mother's breast for feeding. A good latch assures that the baby is correctly connected to the breast. It provides a good milk supply to fulfill the baby's nutritional needs, and on the other hand, the mother finds the breast and nipple comfortable as well as pain-free.

What Are Latching Techniques?

A good latch comes with practice. A good latch gives a comfortable feeling to the mother and the baby. Also, with the right latch, the baby can extract most of the milk.

A person can follow these simple steps to get a good latch and provide proper breastfeeding to their baby:

Step 1: Mothers could tickle (lightly touch) their baby's lips with their nipples. Tickling makes the baby slightly uncomfortable, and the baby will want to rub it. It will make the baby open its mouth widely.

Step 2: Mothers could then place their nipples on the upper lip. While doing this, they need to avoid touching the baby's chin with their chest.

Step 3: Aim to keep the baby's lower lip away from the base of the nipple. While practicing this, the baby's lip should be positioned outward. The baby's tongue should be extended at this position, and the baby's mouth should be filled with the breast. This provides a good latch for breastfeeding and helps the baby suck milk properly.

What Are the Signs of a Good Latch?

A good latch provides a comfortable experience and easy nourishment to newborns. Mothers can easily recognize them by noticing these below-mentioned signs:

  • This procedure is pain-free.

  • They may see babies widely opening their mouths.

  • They may find the baby's head positioned straight, and the baby's chin and stomach resting against the body.

  • They may hear or see swallowing.

  • Baby's chin touches their breast.

  • Their baby's lips are placed outward.

  • They may notice that their baby fully covers the areola (the darker part of their nipple).

  • They may find their baby's tongue extended.

  • When their baby leaves their breast, their nipple does not get flattened.

  • They may notice a slight movement in their baby's ear.

What Are Some of the Tips for Getting a Good Latch?

If mothers are facing a problem in getting a good latch; then they may try these ideas while breastfeeding their baby:

  • It would help if they moved to a calmer and quiet place.

  • Mothers should try to give a skin-to-skin touch to their babies.

  • They can also try to hold their baby around their chest.

  • The mother’s hand can support the baby's neck, shoulders, and hips. While doing so, they can place their baby at their breast and then let the baby find nipples themselves.

What Are the Commonly Encountered Breastfeeding Latch Problems?

It usually takes time for a mother and their baby to get flexible at latching and learn the comfortable position. After their first delivery, almost every woman finds difficulty while breastfeeding, especially in their initial days as lactating mothers. A good latch is achieved with practice.

Successful breastfeeding should have a good latch, alertness of the baby, and an active sucking reflex. The sucking baby's ability to empty the breast determines the volume of the breast milk supply. Although proper breastfeeding is a natural process, a mother still needs support and learning from experienced mothers and lactation specialists.

Some commonly experienced breastfeeding latch problems include;

  • Pain: A person may feel tenderness in their breast during the initial days of breastfeeding. If breastfeeding hurts, it indicates that the baby is only sucking the nipples and not holding the areola (the darker area of the nipples) region. Under such circumstances, a person may break the feeding session by placing a clean finger through the corner of their mouth.

  • Inadequate milk supply.

  • They may also find their baby fussy and unsatisfied after breastfeeding.

  • Lactation Mastitis - Inflammation of the breast causing soreness in nipples.

  • Milk Blisters (Blebs) - Occur due to incorrect latch.

What Is the Best Suitable Breastfeeding Holds?

It is challenging for mothers to determine a comfortable position and provide a good latch while breastfeeding. They may experiment with different positions to know the best position for them and their baby.

Some commonly known positions are;

  • Cradle Hold: While practicing this position, the baby would be facing towards the mother, and she holds the baby in the same hand as the side of the breast. Additional support may be provided to the baby with the help of a free hand.

  • Cross Cradle: This position is similar to the cradle position, and the only difference is that the mother uses the opposite hand to support the baby. This position helps the mother to adjust the head position of the baby.

  • Side-Lying: This position can be tried when a mother wants to feed the baby while resting. In this position, the baby and the mother face each other on the bed. The mother can adjust herself to provide a good latch.

  • Football Hold: In this position, the mother sits in a semi-reclined position and holds the baby on her knees upright. Most mothers find this position very comfortable for breastfeeding.

  • Sitting-Up Position: It can be practiced with older babies who have learned head control. The mother and the baby are in a sitting position, and the lap is on the mother's lap.

Conclusion:

Learning and achieving successful breastfeeding is difficult for a new mother. It takes time and practice to determine and adapt to the most comfortable position, especially when it is their first delivery. A good latch is most important for proper breast milk supply and a pain-free breastfeeding experience for mothers.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How to Improve Latching While Breastfeeding?

 Latching can be improved by tickling the baby’s lips with the nipple, enabling the baby to open its mouth wide. The nipple should be targeted above the baby’s upper lip, and the mother should ensure that the baby’s chin is not stuck into the chest. The baby’s lower lip should be kept away from the base of the nipple, and the lips should be turned outward like a fish. The baby should lean with the chin first on the breast, then latch, then the baby’s tongue should extend, and the breast must occupy the baby’s mouth.

2.

What Is Meant by the Deep Latch Technique?

In the deep latch technique, the baby’s head should be tilted back with the chin up, and the baby must be lifted to touch the nipple. The nipple should be just above the baby’s upper lip. When the baby opens its mouth wide, the breast should be gently scooped by positioning it on the lower jaw first. Next, the baby’s head should be tipped forward, and the upper jaw should be placed behind the nipple. The thumb should be pressed down while placing the upper jaw behind the nipple to position the lower jaw deeply.

3.

How Does a Good Latch Feel Like?

 A good latch should feel comfortable and devoid of pain, the baby’s chin must be in contact with the breast, the chest and the stomach of the baby must rest against the mother’s body, the head should be straight, the baby’s mouth is open wide around the breast and not only in the nipple area, the tongue scoops under the breast, lips are turned out, the mother can hear or see the baby swallowing, and the baby’s ears move slightly.

4.

What Does One Mean by Latching in Breastfeeding?

 Latching is how the baby clings to the breast while feeding. It is a skill that has to be mastered by the baby and the mother. A good latch is essential to prevent sore and cracked nipples and ensure a good milk flow.

5.

Which Latching Technique Is Considered the Best?

There is no ideal, right, or wrong way to feed the baby. Every mother and baby would find a particular position comfortable. A good latch should feel comfortable for the baby and devoid of pain for the mother. A deep latch technique is good since the baby’s mouth covers the breast tissue to a maximum in this technique instead of just the nipple.

6.

What Are the Different Types of Latches in Breastfeeding?

The different holding positions that enable latching in breastfeeding include cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, football hold, side-lying position, laid-back breastfeeding, upright breastfeeding or koala hold, dangle feeding, lying down with twins, double rugby ball hold, and breastfeeding in a baby carrier.

7.

What Are the Signs of a Poor Latch in Breastfeeding?

 When the baby is just latching to the nipple, the mother may be unable to hear or see the baby swallowing, which may not be a good latch. Other signs of a poor latch include the baby sucking on their cheeks, the baby’s lips not turned outwards like a fish instead tucked in or under the breast, clicking or smacking noises, sore nipples, painful breastfeeding, low milk supply, an unhappy, frustrated baby who feels hungry even after breastfeeding, and the baby is not gaining adequate weight.

8.

How Does a Bad Latch Feel?

In a bad latch, the baby latches and detaches from the breast, the baby places their mouth in the nipple region and not the entire areola, leakage of milk from the corners of the mouth, the baby pushes away while latching or shows resistance, falls asleep on the breast frequently, inadequate peeing or pooping which is not appropriate for their age, does not regularly suck in the first 10 minutes, a poor seal between the baby’s mouth and areola, the lips are tucked and not pushed outwards like a fish and the mother experiences sore and painful nipples.

9.

What Are the Reasons for a Bad Latch?

The reasons for a bad latch could be prematurity, infection, heart disease, jaundice, infection, and due to certain medications taken by the mother. Mechanical causes include tongue tie, cleft lip, or palate. These factors could interfere with the baby’s ability to remain alert or coordinate with the suck-swallow-breathe actions.

10.

How Does a Good Latch Sound?

The mother can hear a baby swallowing with a good latch. A ‘ca’ sound will be heard, especially with an increased milk supply. Gulping sounds could be appreciated when the milk supply is more. Clicking or smacking sounds indicate that the latch is bad. With a good latch, the baby will breathe out with a puff of air, which would be a ‘k-ah’ sound after swallowing.

11.

Which Is the Ideal Position to Breastfeed?

There is no ideal, right, or wrong way to feed the baby. Every mother and baby would find a particular position comfortable. A few tips for ideal breastfeeding is that the mother can lean back on a bed or sofa but not lie flat. Cushions or pillows could support the back, shoulders, and neck. Once the mother is in a comfortable position, the baby should be placed in the front with their tummy resting on the mother’s tummy.

12.

How Long Should the Latch Last?

 Newborns can take about 20 minutes or even more to nurse on one or both breasts. Older and skilled babies may take 5-10 minutes on each breast. On average, healthy babies take 5-40 minutes for each feed.

13.

What Is the Other Name for Latching?

Breastfeeding is natural and the best way to feed a baby, but it might take some time and skill for both the mother and the baby to get the hang of it. A good breastfeeding latch is also called breastfeeding attachment. Allowing the baby to search for the breast and latch can reduce the pressure on the mother and make the baby calm and relaxed. It is called baby-led latch, biological nurturing, laid-back, or baby-led breastfeeding.

14.

What Are the Available Latching Devices?

Breast pumps can mimic the baby’s sucking action and are available in manual and electric. Other methods include using nipple shields, cup or spoon feeding, finger feeding, syringe feeding, or using eye droppers. Using support pillows and feeding chairs can make latching comfortable.

15.

Why Does My Baby Not Latch Deeply?

One of the main reasons for the shallow latch is an oversupply of milk. A shallow latch can happen if the baby does not cover a mouthful of the breast into the mouth while latching. Due to this, the nipple is positioned forward in the mouth, causing it to rub on the hard palate, which can result in pain and damage. This can be corrected by gently squeezing the breast such that the hand is similar to a ‘U’ position and pushing the areola forward, also called a ‘C’ hold or a ‘V’ hold. This is called the sandwich technique and ensures that the baby’s mouth covers more breast tissue.
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Dr. Sonal Prasad
Dr. Sonal Prasad

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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