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July 13, 2010

After learning the proper position to breastfeed, how do you know whether our baby is latched on properly?

Latch refers to the way a baby is attached to the breast. A good latch allows your baby to extract milk efficiently. Because milk ducts extend beyond the nipple, your baby needs to have most of your areola in his/her mouth in order to properly drain milk from your breast. A baby who sucks only the nipple gets very little milk and becomes easily frustrated.

Before attempting to latch your baby to the breast, make sure his mouth is open WIDE (like in a yawn). You can get him to open wide by brushing your nipple against his lips. Once the mouth is wide open, pull baby’s chest and neck towards you (his head should follow). His mouth should cover most of your areola (the dark area around your nipple) so that when you look down you should see only a little bit of dark skin surrounding his mouth. Baby’s lips should be everted/turned outward when properly attached to your breast. Some babies will turn their lower lip inward when latching on. You can
correct this by pulling down on your baby’s chin to bring the lower lip out.

Signs of a good latch:
1. It doesn’t hurt. The initial attachment to your breast may hurt but this should be more of discomfort than real pain. Any painful sensation should be temporary. Persistent pain is a sign that your baby is not latched on properly. If you experience this, remove your baby from your breast and try again.

2. Baby’s lips are everted and very little areola is visible beyond the baby’s mouth.

3. You don’t hear a sucking noise. Although some babies may be noisy feeders – you may hear gurgling sounds, swallowing sounds, guzzling sounds, particularly in babies who are a few days/weeks old – you shouldn’t hear sucking sounds. Sucking sounds indicate the seal between the baby’s lips and your breast is not good/tight. If you hear sucking sounds, remove baby from your breast and try again.

4. You see part of your breast tugging as the baby sucks. This proves that baby is milking the breast and not just your nipple.

5. Baby is not easily removed from your breast. Try tugging backward lightly on your baby’s head. A baby that is latched on well doesn’t come off the breast easily. If your baby slides off the breast when you tug, take him off and try again.

Continuing to feed with an improper latch can cause damage to your nipples.  It also keeps your baby from getting enough milk. To properly remove your baby from your breast, try stroking the side of his cheek (this stimulates the rooting reflex) or inserting one of your fingers into the side of his mouth to break the suction on your breast.

Getting your baby to latch on properly can sometimes take several attempts. Be patient. If your baby becomes fussy, calm him down then try again. As you will soon discover, obtaining the perfect latch can be its own reward!

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