A Breastfeeding and Latching Primer

Congratulations, new mommy!  It feels great to hold your baby in your arms, doesn’t it? But, wait till your baby begins to cry…

Your little poppet is hungry and you don’t know the first thing about breastfeeding and how to get your baby to latch on to your breast. 

Please don’t feel helpless, we are here with a comprehensive, practical primer on breastfeeding. 

Preparing your breasts for breastfeeding –all you need to know 

Breastfeeding is a natural act – your breasts produce milk by themselves without you having to do very much. 

But, you have to learn to do certain things and get organized just before a breastfeeding session. We suggest that you make a note of these steps and follow them exactly while breastfeeding:

  1. Massage your breasts- This will relax your breasts and help them express milk more easily.
    Start above the breast and stroke in a circular motion while moving towards the nipple. Keep repeating the strokes till you have covered the entire breast.
  2. Always clean your nipples before your baby starts suckling but never rub them with a towel. This will remove the natural oils and make them more vulnerable to mangling. 
  3. Stimulate your nipples to make them erect before feeding by massaging them with your index finger and thumb to make them erect. This will make it easier for your infant to latch on easily.
  4. While your baby is feeding, keep pulling the skin of your breast towards your chest and press your breast. This will ensure that the nipples are protruding and breast keeps flowing.
  5. Wash your breasts with water and expose them to dry for less nipple wear and tear.
  6. And, don’t forget to wash your hands before breastfeeding.
  7. Have a support system of older moms to help and guide you. Attend breastfeeding classes in your third trimester to know how it’s done right. 
  8. Never take any medicines during breastfeeding without consulting your doctor.
  9. Seek advice from a lactation consultant to discuss any problems you may have like having less breast-milk.

How to establish a latch for breastfeeding?

One very common issue that most new moms face is trying to help their baby latch on successfully for a feed. While breastfeeding is a natural instinct for both mother and child, some infants may take some more time to get into the routine.

So, don’t get frustrated or anxious as this will only make your first breastfeeding session more difficult. 

What is latching?

A latch is when your baby gets her mouth into the correct sucking position around your nipple. This is an extremely crucial step as it helps your baby feed properly and also reduces any discomfort you may experience. We have come across instances where a new mom has been spending hours feeding her baby, while all the time the baby is not even being to latch on to her breast. This can lead to your baby staying hungry and losing weight.

How to get your baby to latch?

Perfecting a latch takes time and skill. When done successfully, you will feel a tugging sensation rather than a pinching sensation. 

Sitting in a comfortable position before latching is very important. So, sit yourself down comfortably upright in a chair. Use pillows to support your arms and your baby. Use your index finger and thumb to form a grip around the nipple and squeeze. Also, press the breast by keeping your fingers at the side of your breast.

Once you have done this, bring the baby to your breast. Place the lower jaw of your baby under the base of your nipple. Then, tilt your baby’s head to make your baby latch-on to your nipple.    

Make sure to place as much of your nipple into your baby’s mouth as possible. 

Here is how you can check if your baby’s latching correctly

You should be able to see the pink of your baby’s lips when you look down. This means that baby’s lips are turned outward which is a position that facilitates sucking.

Also, check for a gap between your baby’s mouth and the areola or the darker part of the nipple. A gap indicates that your baby doesn’t have a mouthful of your breast and is unable to feed properly.

Do remember that breastfeeding can be painful- your nipples become chapped and dry and pain. But, carry on regardless. Things will take some time for both you and your baby to get right on track, and once they do, you will enjoy the time you spend breastfeeding and bonding with your baby. We promise!

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi