If you’re prepping for your little one’s big arrival you might be hearing all about ‘the first latch’ or ‘latching on’. It floats around a lot but no one really tells you exactly what it is. We’re here to give you the low down on exactly what latching on is and some tips and tricks on getting it right.
So what is it?
Latching on is the process of getting your little one to suckle around your nipple and areola so they can feed properly. Think of your areola as a target for your baby’s mouth and try to get them right in the bullseye! Your baby should be pressing against this target to trigger the milk flow and establish a strong milk supply for your feeding journey.
What to look out for
Even after knowing exactly what latching on is, you still might struggle with knowing if you’ve got it right or not. There are some solid signs to look out for to ensure your little one is latched properly.
Firstly, your baby’s lips should be flared out against your breast and not tucked in like they’re sucking on a straw – remember, the gums and tongue do most of the work so your nipple should be deep into their mouth for a good latch. You should be able to hear or see them suck, swallow and breathe in a steady pattern and their chin and nose should be touching your breast, without squashing them.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful if everything is going to plan. If you’re experiencing pain in your breasts and especially your nipples, your baby might not be latched correctly and might be irritating your nipples.
If your nipples are long and round after feeding, it’s likely that they were able to go deep into your baby’s mouth for a good feed. If you find that your nipple if flat or inverted, your baby may not have been able to get a good latch that time.
Some tips for a good latch
Don’t stress if you’re not getting it straight away. It takes time and perseverance to get it all going smoothly. The most important thing is for you and your baby to feel comfortable while you’re breastfeeding. Here are some of our tips for a good latch:
- Try to aim your baby’s chin on the underside of your boob and your nipple just above their top lip. This should help your baby get into a comfortable position for optimum suckling.
- If you’re really struggling with getting a good latch, move to a quiet place that you find calming. If you’re uncomfortable, your baby probably is too.
- Try and let your little one find your nipple on their own. Put them in a comfy position where the nipple is close to their mouth and gently guide them rather than, for lack of a better word, shoving them in there.
- A good rule of thumb (or finger) if you think your baby isn’t latched correctly, is to slide your finger into their mouth while they’re feeding and break the hold they have on your nipple. You can then try again to alter your position and get your baby good and latched on!
Don’t forget, it’s not supposed to be painful, you and your baby should be comfortable and you should be able to actually see your little one sucking, swallowing and breathing. If you’re struggling at all, don't be afraid to ask for help. Get in touch with your midwife or lactation specialist and they'll be able to help you out.