We’re here to explain how to get a good latch whilst breastfeeding, and what to do if things don’t feel quite right.
If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby you’ve probably heard the term “latch” a hundred times already! And rightly so…ensuring your baby latches well is really important. Getting a good latch is an essential part of breastfeeding however it’s a skill that requires practice and patience. But don’t worry over time it gets easier and will become completely automatic – we promise! To help you get the hang of things as quickly as possible we’re here to explain how to get a good latch whilst breastfeeding, and what to do if things don’t feel quite right.
Ensuring your baby latches well to the breast is important for milk production. A baby who attaches well at the breast can remove milk effectively. This is vital for maintaining milk production because well-drained breasts make milk efficiently (and that means plenty of milk to satisfy your baby’s hunger…or maybe hanger?!) A good latch also prevents your nipples from becoming sore or cracked (ouch!) and ensures breastfeeding is a comfortable and a lovely experience for you and your baby.
Whilst breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, it is totally normal for your nipples to feel a little tender in the early days whilst breastfeeding is being established. This may happen at the start of feeding when your baby first sucks. Rest assured, once a good latch is established breastfeeding should become more comfortable. If your nipples continue to feel sore it usually means the nipple needs to be further back in your baby’s mouth where it cannot be chewed or gummed. Review the steps for getting a good latch again and see if this helps.
If your nipples are sore, painful or cracked you can use a lanolin cream to help soothe them. Your breast milk also has incredible healing properties so putting a few drops directly onto your nipples will help them to heal and soothe. If you have adjusted your positioning and latch and you are still experiencing pain speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP, who will advise you further, and offer alternative options for relief.
You may have heard of tongue-tie before, but be unsure as to exactly what it is and how it can affect breastfeeding. Tongue-tie is where the strip of skin connecting a baby's tongue to the bottom of their mouth is shorter than usual. This can restrict the movement of the tongue.
Some babies with tongue-tie are not able to open their mouths wide enough to latch onto the breast properly. This unfortunately means that babies with tongue- tie often don’t breastfeed successfully, until the tongue-tie has been treated.
Tongue-tie is sometimes diagnosed during a baby’s newborn examination, but it's not always easy to see. This means that tongue-tie might not become obvious until a baby has problems feeding.
Signs that your breastfed baby may have a tongue-tie include:
Tongue-tie can sometimes also cause problems for a breastfeeding mum. Issues
If you suspect your baby has a tongue-tie contact your midwife, health visitor or GP as quickly as possible to ensure your baby is getting sufficient nourishment. They will be able to assess your baby and decide whether any treatment is required.
The more you practice latching-on, the easier it will become. It often takes lots of patience to get that latch 100% right, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen straight away. If your baby goes on the breast and you feel some discomfort or your baby doesn’t seem to be sucking properly, gently use your little finger to break the
latch and try again. After reading this if you are still concerned about your baby’s latch, contact your midwife or local breastfeeding team for some extra support. For further help with your baby’s latch, or breastfeeding in general, contact these national organisations:
National Breastfeeding helpline: National Breastfeeding Helpline – Helpline
Breastfeeding network: The Breastfeeding Network | Independent Breastfeeding Support
Association of breastfeeding mothers: Home - ABM