Your Breastfeeding Coach: How To Know You Have a Good Latch

[ 0 ] June 12, 2014 |

baby and mom

Breastfeeding isn’t easy, and for many new moms, it can cause a lot of emotional angst and stress – getting a good latch is key to breastfeeding success; here’s how to make sure you’re baby is doing it right…

Knowing if your baby has a good latch while breastfeeding is key to your success. Many mothers are often asking others, “do you think this looks right?” when their baby is breastfeeding. Whether it’s their doctor, midwife, nurse or a friend, their answers may vary, leaving you still wondering. The truth is, the only one who is going to be there for all the feedings is YOU! So let’s concentrate on the person who really needs to know the answer to that question; the mother.

Related: Moms Need to Take Care of Themselves, Without Guilt

If there were one myth I could stop moms from fearing, it would have to be “breastfeeding hurts.” Breastfeeding should not hurt or be painful, at least within some specific guidelines I will now describe. Here are three questions you can ask yourself when assessing baby’s latch. The answer to all three questions should be no. Here are what I call the “Three P’s for Latch Assessment.”

#1 – Your Pain Level

Is your pain level a three or under when baby is nursing? On a pain scale of 0-10 with 0 being no pain and a 10 being the worst pain you know –  perhaps labor pain – you should have a pain level of three or under. Minimal discomfort is a normal aspect of breastfeeding. Initially you may have 30 seconds or so of pain that is greater than a three. This is usually caused by the nipple and areola being pulled into baby’s mouth. Sometimes it may take a few seconds for baby to get “organized” and into a good sucking rhythm. However, beyond the first several seconds, your pain level should be a three or under.

Related: Time Magazine Breastfeeding Cover Creates Buzz

#2 – Baby’s Productivity

Is your baby productively nursing? Babies will suck in a productive or nutritive pattern or in a non-productive or non-nutritive pattern. With the productive pattern, you will see large jaw movements, activity and motion by the ears and temple muscles. You will hear a quiet “K” sound now and again. This is the sound they make when they are swallowing. In the beginning days of breastfeeding, you may only hear swallows every 7-10 sucks. Be assured this is normal. Swallows will be heard more often in the next few days as your supply increases. You will also feel a slight tugging and pulling when baby is nursing productively. When a baby is in a non-productive nursing pattern you will likely feel more biting and chewing, which will cause your pain level to be greater than three. Your baby will have smaller jaw movements and little to no temple muscle involvement if nursing is in a non-productive pattern.

#3 – Shape of the Nipple Post-Feed

babyIs the shape of your nipple round when the feeding is finished? Your nipple should still look round after a feeding. If the nipple is coming out of the baby’s mouth looking flat, creased, pinched or shaped like a new tube of lipstick, your baby wasn’t on deeply enough. When beginning the feeding, baby should have a wide open mouth, like they are yawning or going to bite an apple. If the baby’s mouth is not open wide, they are not able to get enough of your nipple in their mouth. To examine the structure of the mouth, you can run your tongue across the roof of your own mouth; you will feel the ridge where the roof becomes softer. This is the edge of your soft palate. This placement protects your nipple from baby’s strong tongue muscle and from the firmness of the hard palate. Your baby should bring the tip of your nipple back to the soft palate. The more breast tissue the baby draws into their mouth, the more comfortable it is for you. Baby can lengthen your nipple to nearly 3 times the normal resting length while nursing. If the answer to any of these three questions is “No”, you need to get some help with latching.


Related: Breastfeeding and Formula Can Go Hand-in-Hand, Guilt-Free

jillDon’t be afraid to ask for assistance from nurses, your health-care provider and especially from a lactation consultant. Getting help sooner rather than later can make a big difference in your overall experience. I suggest you ask yourself these three questions whenever you are latching your baby to the breast. These questions will guide you to feel more comfortable and confident about breastfeeding. There are many aspects to breastfeeding, the more you know and are prepared for, and the more success you will have. I hope my book will assist and guide you to lay a strong foundation to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. Don’t doubt yourself as a mother. Remember no one knows your baby better than you do. Trust yourself and enjoy your new adventure. It’s like no other you’ve ever been on before!

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Category: Parenting, Relationships

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About Jill Lindquist: Jill Lindquist is very passionate about breastfeeding and helping moms and babies along their breastfeeding journey. She’s also about empowering the mother and giving her the confidence and education she needs to love, nurture and [...]
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