By Jacque Ordner BSN, RN, IBCLC, RLC
As an IBCLC people are constantly asking me for insights to make breastfeeding easier. Today, I’ve got my top tips and tricks to make latching easier and more comfortable!
This advice isn’t original to me, and isn’t original to any other IBCLC or breastfeeding professional. It’s been around as long as breastfeeding has, but it hasn’t been readily passed from mother to mother in recent years the same way it likely was centuries ago.
#1 ALLOW BABY’S HEAD TO TILT BACK Let’s start with a little exercise. Tilt your chin down as if you’re looking at your toes. Can you open your mouth very wide in this position? Now, imagine taking a drink…..can you drink easily and efficiently? Not so easy is it? Let’s try another exercise. This time, look up at that wall about 6’-8’ high. Your head should be slightly tilted back and you should be able to easily open your mouth nice and wide. Imagine raising a glass to your lips in this position. Could you drink well like this? Of course you can! These same principles apply when our babies are nursing! Allowing baby to tilt his or her head back, while supporting it with your hand just at the base of the neck, will make getting those deep latches much easier! To make latching even easier, make sure baby’s chin touches the breast while the nose remains free. Sometimes, this is referred to as the asymmetrical latch technique. Click HERE for more information!
#2 CHECK BABY’S BODY POSITION We also want to make sure the rest of baby’s body is in an appropriate position to support a good latch. Just as we imagined drinking while staring at our toes, now let’s imagine drinking while looking over our shoulders. Difficult isn’t it? We want to avoid putting baby in a position where she might have to drink while looking over her shoulder as well. The best way to do this is to align the ear lobe, shoulder, and hip and place baby belly to belly with mom (or belly to side for football hold). This puts baby in a comfortable, well-aligned drinking posture.
#3 SUPPORT THE BREAST AT THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL Supporting mom’s breast can also make latching easier for both mom and baby. This is especially true for women with larger breasts. Young babies do not yet have the strength and motor function to hold a heavy breast at the appropriate height for latching or to maintain that height once they have latched. It can be especially helpful for mom to maintain support of the breast for the duration of the nursing session. We all know moms are great multi-taskers and one way to free up a hand is to use a rolled hand towel under the breast to support it during feedings. Mom can even use the freed hand to help shape her breast to make it easier for baby to latch onto.
The overall takeaway is that the number one tip for a good latch is to think about what makes up good drinking posture. Look at your baby’s neck, shoulders, and hips. Are they in a position that makes it easy and comfortable for your baby to open wide and latch on? What about your breast? Does baby have to turn his head to find the nipple or is the breast supported at the appropriate level? Taking the time to assess and adjust can make for a much easier and more comfortable nursing session! You got this, mamas!