Getting the right latch is everything when it comes to breastfeeding. I bet you’ve heard stories of painful, cracked, and bleeding nipples – usually, those result from a shallow, or bad, latch. A lousy latch doesn’t have to be the end of your breastfeeding journey; you can learn how to correct a shallow latch while breastfeeding.
Whether you suspect you have a latch problem or a professional told you that it’s the root of your issue, we will cover how to fix it. Don’t worry; it won’t be this way forever.
What is a Shallow Latch?
The name “shallow latch” is descriptive of the problem at hand. It’s when the nipple doesn’t get far enough back into your baby’s mouth, so it’s shallow. A proper latch should reach the back of your baby’s palate, which is softer.
When your nipple stays toward the front of your baby’s mouth, it can quickly become crushed against the hard palate or his gums. That can be uncomfortable at best and damage your nipple at worst.
Are you struggling to imagine what I mean? Try this.
- Put the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth, and slide the end of your tongue back along your hard palate. You’ll find the soft palate towards the back of your mouth when you reach the back.
- This is the path that your nipple should take when entering your baby’s mouth.
Can My Baby Still Get Milk with a Shallow Latch?
Yes! If you have a shallow latch, your baby still drinks and receives milk, but the amount of milk could be significantly lower than possible. An improper latch makes it harder for babies to remove as much milk as possible, often tiring them out before they’d naturally finish the breast.
However, your baby still receives milk! You need to learn about fixing a shallow latch to ensure your baby gets all the milk and nutrients required for proper growth and development.
What Causes a Shallow Latch?
Various issues can cause a shallow latch, and it’s individual. One baby could have the same issue without a latch problem, or their lousy latch could look different than your baby’s. However, it is good to know the potential causes to help you identify what might need to change.
Finding a good breastfeeding position is crucial to having a good latch, so if you haven’t found the right positioning, it can lead to a shallow latch. Wrong positioning can cause your baby to point his chin towards his sternum, resulting in his mouth not opening wide enough for a proper latch.
Tongue or Lip Ties
It’s not as uncommon as one might think; three of my four kids have had some tie. Ties physically prevent your child from latching correctly; they stop your baby from opening their mouth as wide as they should, leading to a shallow latch.
If you introduce a bottle or pacifier too quickly, latching onto your breast could confuse your baby. This is commonly seen when you give your breastfed baby a pacifier; they have trouble adjusting their latch when they go to the nurse.
Flat or Inverted Nipples
If you have inverted or flat nipples, latching your baby correctly will require more patience. Many women find that either pumping first or using a breast shield remedies the problem. Shallow nipples while breastfeeding can be problematic, but it’s not the end of the world!
Premature babies have a bad latch, often due to their immaturity. They tend to have a weak suck, a leak latch, or trouble latching in general until they reach a larger size.
How Do I Know If My Baby Has a Shallow Latch?
It can be hard to determine if your baby has a shallow latch problem or something else, but here are some signs.
- Your nipple looks like a lipstick tube when it comes out of your baby’s mouth.
- You’re experiencing pain and discomfort while your baby nurses.
- Cracked and bleeding nipples aren’t uncommon in these situations.
- Your baby seems to be unsatisfied or hungry soon after feeding.
- He doesn’t have enough wet diapers or isn’t gaining appropriately.
Will Having a Shallow Latch Affect My Milk Supply?
Yes, a shallow latch can affect your milk supply. In most cases, your baby won’t be able to efficiently remove as much milk as possible from your breasts due to his lousy latch.
Your milk supply relies on your baby, removing as much of the milk from your breasts each time. Then, that triggers your body to make more milk, leading to a healthy supply. If your baby cannot drain your breasts properly, your body doesn’t get the full memo, and you’ll have a low supply.
Is a Shallow Latch Always Painful?
No, but it’s a common sign that there is a problem. Plenty of women have no discomfort or pain, even with a lousy latch, but you might notice your nipple comes out looking like a lipstick tube. That’s often a sign that something is wrong.
Can You Fix a Shallow Latch?
Yes, you can fix a shallow latch; the key is learning to use a deep latch technique and following these simple tips that work for most bad latches.
Get Your Baby to Open Wide
Think about a baby bird waiting for a worm. They open their beaks wide, waiting for their mama bird.
You need your baby to be a baby bird with a wide open. When babies fail to open their mouths wide enough, it results in a shallow latch.
When you’re looking for shallow latch solutions, you’ll find that positioning is a huge culprit, and one of the easiest ways to get a solid position is to go skin-to-skin. This isn’t always possible throughout the day, but making time for it can improve your baby’s latch.
Positions like the laid-back style or side-lying encourage your baby’s instinct to search and find the nipple. When babies bring themselves to the breast, they naturally open wide and extend their heads to get a deeper, more comfortable latch.
Bring Baby to You
You mustn’t hunch over if you prefer the cradle or football-holding positions. You must bring your baby to your breast rather than leaning over to your baby. When you get yourself to the baby, the baby ends up sliding down and nursing off of just the nipple – ouch!
Unlatch and Try Again
If you have a bad latch, you don’t have to keep going, and you shouldn’t. All you have to do is unlatch and try to latch again, remembering to aim your nipple toward your baby’s nose rather than straight at his mouth.
Make sure your baby’s chin and lower lip touch the breast first!
Try the Flipple Technique
Often referred to as the exaggerated latch, this deep latching technique can help you, especially if your child has a medical condition that makes it harder to latch. Using this technique can be helpful if your baby has a tongue or lip tie.
How to Get a Deep Latch While Breastfeeding?
Learning how to use a deep latch while breastfeeding is essential – seriously. It can revolutionize and erase any problems that you have. Here is what you need to know to get that perfect deep latch!
- Find a comfortable position that allows your baby to reach the breast easily. You might want to try side-lying, for now, to help get the latch done properly.
- Use your hand and cup your breast like a C, holding your nipple between your thumb and forefinger. Make sure your fingers aren’t too close to your nipple.
- Point your nipple up at your baby’s nose, which will instinctually cause your child to lift his chin and open his mouth wide as he smells the milk.
- Now, let your breast go; it should fall into your baby’s mouth, pointing up toward the roof of your baby’s mouth.
That’s all there is to it!
Fixing a Bad Latch
Correcting a shallow latch while breastfeeding is the best way to improve your nursing relationship. You don’t have to stop nursing unless you want to do so. Overcoming a shallow latch IS possible!
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.