My breastfeeding coach, Vivien, had taught me with my eldest that getting that deep latch trick was the key to breastfeeding success. In fact, until I got it right, I felt like my nipples were so sore. After that, it was so easy to feed my eldest, and later on, my youngest.
But new mamas don’t know what’s going on. I sure didn’t. I mean, how do you KNOW when you’ve got it right if you’ve never done it before?
So, today, I’m going to answer all of your pressing questions about getting that good latch with proper breastfeeding latching techniques and give you 16 tips to help you get there.
What should I do if my baby won’t stay latched on?
Unfortunately, I can’t give you one answer for this. That’s because many reasons could impact why your baby won’t stay latched on. You might have a flattened nipple after breastfeeding, your baby won’t open their mouth wide enough to latch, your nipple is too big for your newborn to latch, and lazy latching breastfeedings are all common woes. One of the things I had to deal with was my baby bobbing her head while breastfeeding. Believe me, I get it.
There are also problems with milk flow. If it’s going too quickly, it may make your baby jump off your breast. Conversely, if your flow is slow, this could anger your tiny little person.
Other times, your baby may be having a problem of their own that makes them uncomfortable. This may mean she’s got to burp or fart, has to poop, has reflux, or even needs a diaper change.
And still, other times, you may have a distracted baby on your hands. Babies have very short attention spans, so sometimes, even the littlest thing (like your husband walking into the room and asking where something is) can be a distraction.
Babies will suck for comfort and not for nutrients at times. You may have shifted your position, or the latch may be uncomfortable for your baby, who will pull off and seek to latch again.
As you can see, there are many reasons why you might not get that latch, and they’re all quite different. How you correct it will depend on what’s causing it. But don’t worry, I’ve got tips for that further below.
How to get a deep latch with small mouth?
Even babies with a small mouth (well, smaller than usual) can get a deep latch. This deep latch trick is ideal for you, even if you have large nipples. You want to have your baby’s mouth cover pretty much all of the bottom of your areola and a little above it too. Don’t just focus on the nipple.
Compress your breast gently, so you squish it down using a U-hold. Some say it’s like when you mush down a large sandwich so you can get a bite. Do this for your baby, and you will get a deep latch even with a small mouth.
Will a shallow latch correct itself?
When a baby is doing shallow latch breastfeeding, sometimes their tongues block the ducts of your breasts. They will pop off and attempt to readjust because it feels off to them. The good news is that a shallow latch will correct itself as you work on this over the next few weeks. Don’t give up, even if it feels hard. Again, I’d like to direct you to La Leche League, where you can find support in your local area to help you get a good latch.
How to get baby to latch without nipple shield?
Nipple shields are a great tool when you’re getting started, but they can make you and your baby dependent on them. The best way to get out of that habit is to let your baby eat with that shield on for a few minutes. When her eyes start closing, unlatch her, remove the shield, and latch her back on. You have to do it quickly.
As for babies that can’t latch well by themselves or perhaps are tongue-tied or have other issues, you may want to try the flipple technique.
Here’s how to do it:
You’ll put your knees lower than your hips, then put your baby’s mouth at your nipple. After that, get as much of your breast into the baby’s mouth as possible, pointing that nipple high toward their nose. Get as much as you can of your bottom areola into the baby’s mouth, then flip their top lip up after they’ve latched on.
How can I improve my breastfeeding latch?
Depending on what is causing your latching problems, these 16 breastfeeding latch tricks can be helpful to you. Remember, it’s not going to be hard all the time. This gets easier as you and baby get used to each other.
- Think of your surroundings
If your baby seems distracted often, find a calmer environment for nursing. Don’t forget, babies sense our feelings too, so if you’re uncomfortable or sitting awkwardly, it’s going to impact that latch. You need to be relaxed and calm, too, so your baby will follow suit.
- Go skin-to-skin
With newborns, that skin-to-skin contact is so important. It strengthens the bond between you and may be the key to getting the baby to latch with ease. I remember Vivien showing me this while I was still in the hospital with my eldest.
- Try a new position
This goes along with the environment, but if you adjust to a different breastfeeding position, it may be much easier for you and your baby. After having c-sections, my most comfortable position was the side-lying. For all the positions and which are best for you, check out this post to learn about cradle, cross-cradle, football, and more.
If your baby has acid reflux, Australian hold is an effective option.
- Follow baby’s lead
We often forget that sometimes babies just want to be close to us. They were held by us 24/7 in the womb. So, if you’ve just nursed your baby and she seems agitated, you try to nurse her again, hold her and see if she bobs her head against you to tell you she wants milk. She’ll also look at you and show the other cues for hunger if she’s ready for her next meal.
- Don’t force things
Babies instinctively look for the nipple and make a move to latch on. If you see her trying, you can help her out but let things go naturally and see first.
- Try a tickle
If you’re struggling to get your baby to open her tiny mouth wide enough, a tickle may be all you need. Tickle her lips with the nipple, and it should result in an open mouth that will latch right on. It would help if you also pulled her close, so the chin and lower jaw move into your breast. This combined move is how I got my first good latch on my own with my breastfeeding coach there.
- Go for the flipple technique
I described the flipple technique above, but it really does work. Again, you’ll aim high with your nipple at the nose and then get as much in there as you can while flipping up the baby’s upper lip.
Squishing your breast down so it will fit much as you do with a large sandwich when you’re eating can also work for getting your baby latched on well.
- Bring baby to you
I know I was doing one thing wrong at the beginning of my breastfeeding days: moving myself to the baby. When your baby opens her mouth up, bring her to you. Do not lean over to bring your breast to her.
Not only will it cause you to have poor posture, but also, this improper posture will make your milk letdown change. It could be too fast or, more likely, too slow. You need to be comfortable, too, so get into a position that allows you to feel relaxed.
- Aim the nipples to the roof
The roof of your baby’s mouth that is! This way, more of the bottom of your areola will be in their mouth. Aiming the nipple to the roof means it hits their soft palate and your areola all around so that you won’t feel pain. This tip if for mamas to enjoy comfortable breastfeeding and avoid cracked nipples (which hurt!).
- Know how to break the suction
Sometimes, even when you’re getting good at this latch thing, you may get the nipple in the wrong place. So you’ll need to remove the latch and try again, or else your baby will pull your nipple, and you’ll be in pain. Make sure your fingers are clean, put your finger in the crease of the baby’s lips and your breast, and then push on your breast to break that suction easily. Reposition and latch again!
- Fix the lips
When your baby is nursing, something else you want to do is make sure their lips are out. Gently pushing down on your baby’s chin with your thumb can help widen their latch and push the bottom lip out like a fish. This will make both you and your baby more comfortable.
- Don’t just use the nipple
They don’t call it “nipple feeding.” Why? Because you’re not just using your nipples when you’re nursing. You want to make sure you get enough of your areola in there, too, so they get the proper latch and you aren’t in pain.
- Pay attention to hunger cues
Babies are so cute, but they do get frustrated easily. This is especially true when they’re hungry, and can you blame them? Babies will root or lick their lips when hungry. Getting your baby latched on before she reaches the point of frustration will ensure you have a smoother nursing experience.
- Try some helpful products
Again with the comfort, you may be having trouble getting that good latch because you’re not comfortable. And if you’re not comfortable, the baby isn’t satisfied either. A nursing stool or a nursing pillow may be a massive help for you when feeding a baby.
I recommend them because they keep you comfortable, and a comfortable mama means a well-fed and happy baby.
- Find your happy place
Something that works for your bestie with nursing may not work for you. And vice versa! It’s ok to try different things. Even things that worked with my eldest weren’t helpful for my youngest. Motherhood is a lot of trial and error to find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to keep trying until you get that perfect combo.
One last thing about breastfeeding latch tricks…
Please don’t give up. Your baby needs you so much right now, more than she ever will. Breastfeeding should never hurt. In fact, when you get the latch right, you will fall asleep while nursing your baby. In a side-lying position, I always fell fast asleep feeding my girls when they were babies.
If you find you’re having trouble, though, I urge you to contact a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding coach in your area. They will help you by showing you how to latch right and giving you the support and encouragement you need. You’ll get it, you’ll see!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.