Latching On

Successful breastfeeding depends on your baby latching on well. Babies instinctively know how to latch on to the breast; all you need to do is place your baby on your body. Sometimes your baby will need to be guided in the right direction or moved slightly. We’ll talk about how to help your baby latch on and you can also watch the great videos below of real babies latching on well and nursing at the breast.

Self-attachment is the term used to describe how your baby latches himself on without any help. A well-latched on baby won’t give you sore nipples.

How Do I Know My Baby Is Hungry?

You will quickly learn to read your baby’s body language. When a healthy newborn baby is ready to feed they will usually give you one or more of these signs:

Opening the mouth to find the breast,

Turning his head from side to side looking for your breast,

Sticking his tongue out (licking),

Rooting or nuzzling into your breast,

Lifting his head up to look around,

Moving his body to find your breast,

Getting Started:

Remember that babies breastfeed, they don’t nipple feed. There are many different positions you can take up when nursing your baby(s). Let’s concentrate on the laid-back, comfy position first.

Make sure you have a glass or two of drinking water beside you before you settle down to breast-feed. It can be very thirsty work, some women feel thirstier than others. Have a few pillows nearby in case you need extra suppot. Skin-to-skin is best so undress baby down to his diaper and have your top half uncovered. Have a warm blanket or shawl nearby in case you get cold.

Lie back in a semi-reclining position on a bed or sofa and put baby on your torso (anywhere from abdomen to chest). Baby needs to be facing toward you; tummy to tummy (his stomach towards your stomach), that is not on his side or back.

Now move him so that he’s just below your breasts. Let him snuggle and nuzzle into you and feel the warmth of your skin. Watch as he looks around to find the breast and nipple.

Soon he will start moving towards the breast, let him show you which side he wants first. Gently hold him so that he doesn’t roll off you! Keep talking to him, giving encouraging words.

Latching On:

1. Wait until baby opens his mouth to a wide gape. If you need to, brush his bottom lip with your nipple or finger. Alternatively stroke the corner of his mouth or his cheek. This encourages him to open his mouth wider.

2. Make sure his tongue, bottom lip and chin touch your breast first.

3. Aim to have baby’s bottom lip as far down as you can from the base of your nipple.

Make sure that you don’t put your hand on baby’s head as it needs to be free for him to move back and forth. Most baby’s don’t like any pressure on the back of their heads.

latching on well, breastfeeding problems, sore nipples

What Does A Well Latched On Baby Look Like?

Take a look at the baby girl in the photo above. Her lips are nicely curled outwards. That means that she isn't sucking her lips into her mouth which can often happen. Lips that curl outwards give the baby a stronger 'chomp' on the breast. Try this so you can feel the difference yourself: suck your thumb with your lips curled into your mouth - it feels weak and awkward. Now turn your lips outward and suck again, feel the strength in your lip muscles as they press on your thumb!

With a good latch on you will see your baby’s bottom lip curled outwards and the top lip also curled outwards. You may hear a nice gluggling noise too as she swallows the colostrum or milk.

Babies’ noses are perfectly designed for breastfeeding! Their little button noses are upturned and a bit flat so that they sink right into mom’s breast while nursing. You don’t need to use a finger to press down on your breast to give baby breathing space. In fact if you do this it can lead to blocked ducts and mastitis.

If latching on has worked well you’ll feel a tingling sensation and a slight pulling (tugging) feeling. It should not hurt or be painful in any way. If it hurts, unlatch baby by placing one of your fingers in the corner of his mouth to break the suction seal of the lips. If you leave the baby latched on when it hurts you could end up with sore nipples. Then try latching on again. In the beginning it can take a few goes before latching on is easy.

As your baby gets older he or she will latch on faster and need less help from you.

Watch This Great Latching On Video:

Watch this young Indonesian mother feeding her beautiful daughter Amelia within the first hour of birth. If you don’t understand Indonesian just mute the sound and enjoy watching. Amelia’s birth is shown briefly. Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby helps Amelia latch herself on. This is a UNICEF breastfeeding promotion video so there may be parts you want to skip. The baby looking for the breast and latching on is 46 seconds into the video if you want to fast-forward.

Breastfeeding is the easy way to establish a good relationship with your newborn baby. Practicing self-attachment restores confidence in nature’s natural design and in babys' and moms’ innate capacity to breastfeed.

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