Breastfeeding, although natural, doesn't always come "naturally" to some. Now, to clarify, yes, your body is wired to make milk, and when your baby cries, your boobs turn on the spigot, and your baby is designed to find a breast.
But we're not taught HOW to nurse, and we often need practice to get it right. One of the most common issues, and easiest to fix, is getting baby to latch. It can be way more complicated than you'd think, so here are some pointers on how to successfully get baby latched on..
- Get Comfortable. If you're uncomfortable, you can stress yourself out, and make yourself miserable and sore. That can also make baby uncomfortable too, which might even make her refuse to nurse. Find a good position -- try a combo of pillows, whatever it takes for you to be comfortable while nursing. Sitting slightly reclined with your legs propped up can help for a multitude of reasons, or a favorite with it's own benefits, the "Laid Back" or biological nursing position.
- Hold Your Breast. Until you and your baby are better at breastfeeding, or sometimes, just depending on the position, you're often going to need one hand to hold your own breast. Try putting your fingers under your breast to hold it, then a thumb on top that can push down just a little, making the nipple aim a little more up. This is called the "C Hold" and can help you get the nipple in baby's mouth.
- Make It Tempting. If you can hand-express a tiny bit of milk onto your nipple, the smell and taste can help entice baby. Rub your nipple gently on baby's lips to encourage baby to open their mouth.
- Don't Aim Straight. You're not putting baby's face flat against your breast. Baby's head should tilt back, and the chin and bottom lip should contact your breast first. Then the nipple needs to aim towards the ROOF of the mouth, not centered into baby's mouth.
This video from Ameda is AMAZING and helps you understand where the nipple is intended to go, and see the position the baby's head should be in:
(And since we're talking about nipples, you're gonna see some, fair warning.)
My ONLY, only complaint about that video brings me to another point:
- Lips Should Be Flayed Out. Like in the picture at the beginning of this article, your baby's lips should be totally visible to you, flayed far out, like a fish. If your baby tucks in a lip, you can gently pull it out with your finger or just slip a finger in the baby's mouth (to break suction!), pull your breast out and help them re-latch. If you gently move baby's bottom lip down, you should be able to see the tongue out over the bottom jaw.
- Look And Listen. Some signs that your latch isn't right include milk is leaking out, hearing a 'clicking' sound, or if baby's cheeks suck in.
- If It Hurts, Get Help. While it is true that you can be a little sore while getting used to breastfeeding, it shouldn't really HURT. Call your local La Leche League leader, go to a meeting, or call/visit a GOOD lactation consultant and get one-on-one help.
Don't get discouraged, and don't offer bottles, which can make the problem worse. Some babies even need "suck training" to help, but with a positive attitude and good support system, almost all latch problems can be overcome.
Did you have latch issues? How did you overcome them?