Breastfeeding: Latch



Breastfeeding is a passion of mine. I am passionate about supporting mothers learn about breastfeeding, I am passionate about educating mothers about breastfeeding and I am passionate about normalizing breastfeeding as well as being there for you on your breastfeeding journey. 

One of the main things that breastfeeding issues come back to continually is this: latch issues. I could write pages and pages about the effects of a poor latch or the benefits of a good latch but I am positive my toddler is going to wake up in about 20 minutes when I'm half way through this post and two, I just don't have time because there really are so many things I could write about. I'd rather keep you here with me so I'm going to just focus on a few points instead.

One key thing to remember is that a good latch will NOT be painful.  When I had my first, breastfeeding came with many many different struggles, one of them being a painful latch due to his inability to properly suck and get a deep latch because he was premie. I thought that a pain with breastfeeding was normal because that is what I had heard through all the stories of my friends or family who had breastfed. They warned me about how painful it was going to be and that my nipples would get cracked and raw and my breasts would be so engorged and so full and painful, so I prepared myself for that. So I endured mastitis, poor latch, slow milk transfer, nipple shields, lanolin cream, sore raw nipples and I just dealt with it because I thought it was normal and because I was determined to breastfeed my son. 

Fast-forward to September when I started the Douglas College Breastfeeding for Health Care Providers course and I learned that everything I endured with my son and had heard from friends and family was not normal. Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. It shouldn't be painful, and when you have a good deep latch there will be no pain, there will be good milk transfer and there will be audible sucking and a proper suck pattern. I immediately had wished I had reached out when my son was younger because had I have gone to see a lactation consultant or asked for help I probably would have saved myself a bit of pain. However, we can't change the past so I was just determined to ensure my next breastfeeding journey with Jaana would be less painful. She was born term and immediately latched right away so our breastfeeding journey already started off totally different then mine and Jackson's had. 

So like I said earlier, a poor latch will have resounding effects on breastfeeding. I'm going to list a few just to give you a bit of an idea of how important a proper latch is.

A poor latch can cause:

  1. pain
  2. decreased milk supply
  3. engorgement
  4. mastitis
  5. sore/raw/cracked/bleeding nipples
  6. slow weight gain in infant
  7. many more

It's important that if you are feeling pain, burning, pinching, etc while nursing that you have the latch looked at by someone who has specific training in breastfeeding. A proper latch helps to maintain your milk supply, promote adequate weight gain in the infant, and improves comfort for the breastfeeding mother. One of the most common reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is due to nipple pain/suspected low milk supply. These two go hand in hand and both can come back to an improper latch. 

There's some important techniques and tips to get a good latch including positioning and types of breastfeeding holds. I'll link a website below so you can go check out an article that I find super helpful, although it is pretty wordy, the diagrams help to show what the author is trying to explain. 

Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation.    



Image Courtesy of Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

Image Courtesy of Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

I wanted to add this diagram in because a lot of people don't realize that in order to get a proper latch you actually want to position the baby and breast so that your nipple is pointing upwards towards the roof of baby mouth, rather than like a bullseye into the centre of babes mouth. This is because the lower jaw and tongue do all of the work when your baby is breastfeeding. It helps to get a deeper latch and the tongue/jaw can massage the breast to fully stimulate and draw the milk out of the breast. It's also important to note the position of babe here, instead of placing your head on back of babes head you place your supporting hand at their shoulders and allow babes chin to come into the breast first. Also noting the wide mouth/gape here in this image is important because you want to bring baby to the breast when their mouth is at their widest in order to get a deep full latch. 


Image courtesy of Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

Image courtesy of Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

This second  image I've chosen to use here shows what a view from the mother may look like when doing a cradle/cross cradle hold. It's important to note the "Move Baby not breast" because you always want to ensure that you are not forcing the baby onto the breast. Breastfeeding takes learning between mother and baby, although it is an innate natural thing, sometimes it is not always easy. By keeping the breast and breastfeeding a positive environment, your baby will be more likely to latch easier and more comfortably.  I will do a post on different positions at a later date, but remembering to keep the breast a positive environment is super important for a positive breastfeeding experience.

Image courtesy of Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

Image courtesy of Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

Hopefully these diagrams have been helpful. If you are in need of having a latch assessed please contact me and I would be happy to help. Getting a proper latch is crucial and vital to a healthy breastfeeding relationship. For more resources please click on the link provided above to Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation's website. I can also provide more resources if you have questions, just send a message and I'd be happy to provide you with them.

You're doing a great job, any amount of breastmilk is better than none. Keep being amazing mama's.