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Hold On, Baby: Getting Your Little One To Latch On

When you first bring your baby home, you may find that he is having trouble nursing. At this stage, most difficulties that babies have stem from latch-on problems. This can be stressful for mom and baby, but if your baby is healthy, there is no need to worry – there are proven ways to correct his latch.

To get your baby to latch on properly, follow these guidelines from La Leche League – a nonprofit organization that advocates nursing and offers breastfeeding support. First, position your baby comfortably and tickle her lips with your breast. This will encourage her to open her mouth. When she starts rooting, insert your nipple into your baby’s mouth aiming towards the roof of her mouth and bring her rapidly towards your breast. If her nose is touching your breast, at least ½ inch of your breast is in her mouth, and you hear her swallowing – you have accomplished a good latch (La Leche League, 2012). Pain-free breastfeeding is another sign of a good latch – nursing should not hurt.

To rectify common latch problems, you may need to:

  • Make sure your breasts aren’t engorged. According to Dr. Sears, when your breasts are engorged, the baby cannot get enough of the breast tissue into his mouth to compress the milk sinuses and his sucking stimulates more milk to enter the breast while he is unable to empty it, which further engorges it (Sears, Sears, Sears, & Sears, 2003). You may have to express a little milk with a breast pump or by hand first to make sure that the baby can get a good hold of your nipple.

  • Try different nursing holds. Babies are different and may need to lay a certain way to be able to latch on well. Experiment with different holds, like the football hold, the cradle hold or the cross-cradle hold until you find the one that works best for your baby.

  • If your baby continues to have trouble latching on, call a certified lactation consultant. She will meet with you at home or at her office and will guide you through the process by helping you position your infant, observing how the baby latches on and suggesting how you can correct her latch. Most likely, by the end of the visit, your little one will nurse like a pro.

Some infants have trouble latching on due to various health conditions, such as developmental problems, illness or difficulty breathing. If your baby doesn’t want to open her mouth wide enough to nurse, doesn’t seem to get any milk or you suspect that she is having trouble breathing with her mouth full, contact your pediatrician and notify your lactation consultant if you are working with one. Ultimately, most latch problems are easily corrected with practice or with a help of your lactation consultant.

La Leche League. (2012, May 29). LLLI- How do I position my baby? Retrieved July 1, 2012, from La Leche

League: http://www.llli.org/faq/positioning.html

Sears, W., Sears, M., Sears, R., & Sears, J. (2003). The Baby Book. New York: Hachette Book Group.

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