After working with thousands of women, I can tell you that almost every mother has some frustrations or insecurities when it comes to breastfeeding. And here’s what I have learned.
The challenges with breastfeeding break into 2 groups:
- Confidence and emotional issues and
And the number one reason mothers struggle with breastfeeding is actaully lack of confidence. This is a biggie!
Is this what you’re thinking?
“You keep switching things around, you keep thinking your doing something wrong or your stressing yourself out!”
Let me tell you, these thoughts get in the way way more than your technique!
So if you’re feeling a bit stressed out make sure you read this blog post on mindset. As for technique, all you need to do is follow these 7 steps with confidence and your off and running!
Before We Start – How To Fix Any Latching Problem You Have In Under 10 Minutes
One of the THE HARDEST things about latching is figuring it out on your own. Well no more! Let me explain……….
With my level of experience I can guarantee you if you tell me the damage you are seeing I will be able to tell you the little thing you need to change to get to a perfect latch.
We can even do it over the phone in like 10 minutes! So if your really struggling, or in emotional and physical PAIN give me a call 0414 403 208.
Now let’s get on to the 7 steps to latching success! Here is a quick break down of the steps:
- The Set Up
- Lead and Guide
- Close Contact
- Arm Angles
- Bring Together
This is everything! From start to finish and everything in between. You’ll feel like a pro in no time at all!
Step #1 The Set Up
The first step starts with your baby crying. And your instinct is to go to your baby and pick her up.
Well you are spot on! Pick your little bundle up and give a lovely cuddle! Easy! This is the start of the first step, the Set Up!
After seeing over 17000 mothers I know the set up is the most important step! But it may not come naturally to mothers. So some guidance is called for – which is what I’m here for!
Here’s what you do:
- Pick a spot to sit (chair, couch, bed, whatever suits you). With your baby cuddled in your arms, lean back a little. Leaning back gives more room for your baby on your chest and lap.
- Remove your bra on the side you want to feed on. Then place your baby facing you on the top of your bare chest.
- Your baby can either have a nappy or clothes on. But you want at least their face touching your bare skin.
- Your baby feels your bare skin and knows where they are. This is HOME. Now they will get ready to breastfeed by bobbing and licking (so cute)!
For a visual, click on my video that will demonstrate this step.
Feeling your skin is crucial for them to start the move toward your nipple.
Don’t worry if your baby gets upset in this process (I see this happen a lot!). There is no time limit, you don’t have to meet a deadline! Just keep cuddling until your baby starts bobbing and licking.
DONE that’s the set up! No big breastfeeding pillows or equipment needed. Just you and your baby.
Now what to do with all that bobbing and licking……..on to step 2.
Step #2 Lead and Guide
This next step answers the biggest problem I hear about latching! “My baby doesn’t open their mouth wide enough to latch!”
While your baby is bobbing and licking they do one awesome trick! They practice opening their mouth! They are getting read to suck!
Let me explain. Your baby is bobbing around on your bare skin in search of your nipple. They know it’s in the downwards direction!
Some babies throw themselves toward your nipple! It’s amazing to watch! Others will need guiding down, both are right!
Here’s how to help lead and guide your baby:
- Gently guide your baby towards the breast and nipple you want to feed on.
- While guiding make sure your baby is kept in contact with your skin at all times. Remember they are not looking for your nipple they are feeling their way.
- Don’t worry if your baby starts to cry. This is normal! Just start at the top of your chest again while soothing your baby.
You have it all wrapped up! Lead and guide your baby to your nipple. Enjoy the process! Step #3 will give you even more closeness. Beautiful!
Step #3 Close Contact
This step is all about enjoying very close contact with your baby. You might be asking, “why is this a step?” or “why is it so important?”
Well, there are 3 key reasons, let me explain:
- Your baby feels your skin and feels safe, relaxed and at home (this means breastfeeding will be more relaxed!)
- Your baby keeps practicing opening their mouth (also great when you latch!)
- Your baby keeps using their in-built instincts to search and find the nipple making it super easy for Mum!
So you see how important this is! Close contact is all geared to help YOU! YAY! But don’t worry if this doesn’t come naturally to you. I have a list you can follow:
- As your baby heads towards your nipple your tummy and you baby’s tummy need to be stuck together! You don’t want to see a gap between you and your baby. Not even an inch!
- Here’s a check to know if your close enough: “Can see your baby’s belly button?” If you can roll your baby into you by tilting their bottom to you.
- You can also lean back further to help your baby lie almost on top of you.
The three points above will keep your baby close. Your baby will breastfeed a lot better with this close contact! Check out the video.
Next, where do you put all those arms that are now on your body! Step 4 will give you all the answers!
Step #4 Arm Angles
You have 4 arms on your body! Yours and your baby’s! Most mothers find this awkward and challenging. Where do you put them all?
Guiding mothers for decades, I have been able to come up with the most comfortable way to hold your baby.
Don’t worry, I have you covered. Here’s some steps (or check out my video):
- As your baby slides towards your nipple on your bare chest. Place your baby’s arm (the one they are lying on) around your side (the same side as the breast you are using).
- Try not to lift your breast up just bring your baby down to where your nipple sits naturally.
- Keep your baby close so their tummy faces your tummy and their face is still touching your breast.
- Then, circle your arm around your baby’s body (the arm on the same side as the breast you are using) .
- Your baby needs to be facing your breast remember tummy to tummy.
So now you are snuggled very close and your baby’s face is touching your breast. A little like the picture below.
Just before we move on, I want to show you a simple tweak that I use with every mother with this step!
Your arm that is circling your baby (on the same side as your breast) needs to sit in just the right position on your baby’s back. I have broken it down below for you (or watch video here):
WRONG WAY – If your baby’s head is in the crook of your elbow then your hand would be holding your baby’s bottom. This pushes their nose into the breast and makes sucking difficult.
RIGHT WAY – The palm of your hand needs to be either just above your baby’s bottom or at your baby’s lower-back. Depending how long your baby is. What this means is that your baby’s head is resting on the middle of your forearm rather than the wrong way in the crook of your elbow.
TO FIX IT – Just slide your hand up off the bottom until your baby’s head tilts back slightly then relax your arm. If you feel your baby is falling away from you, just lean back further so the weight of your baby falls on top of you.
Now you are looking like a pro! So let’s bring this together and latch! It seems like lots of steps before we get to latch! It will be worth it, I promise!
Step #5 Bring Together
You have come through Steps 1-4. Well done! Now it’s time to bring it together.
Your baby is opposite your nipple. When you see their mouth open simply cuddle your baby close to you. And see if they take the nipple in and LATCH!
This seems simple, but remember, it’s about the set up FIRST and then the latch will follow. Watch my video to really cement your knowledge!
Give it a go and see what happens. This is the trial and error phase, you are building your confidence, not striving for perfection!
So now your baby may be latched, well done! But how do you know that you have the latch right? This is a great question and I have 3 clues that answer it.
Just a side note: knowing you have a good latch has nothing to do with what you SEE! So no-one can look at your latch and tell you it is correct you must feel, I’II explain below.
Clue #1 Pain Levels:
When you are learning to breastfeed you are going to have some PAIN in the first few days. This is generally just the pain of your nipple stretching. If you’re concerned about the pain and want to know more read my blog, Should breastfeeding hurt?
So this clue is about how long the pain lasts. If your pain lasts under a minute then you are on the right track!
After this minute you will feel a pull or a tug rather than pain. If pain increases and continues beyond the first few minutes it is time to take your baby off and start at step #1. (Don’t worry this happens ALOT!)
Clue #2 Watch Your Baby’s Sucking:
What your are looking for is for the sucking to keep going! What I mean is that you will see lots of BIG sucks where your baby’s jaw drops low and you see movement at their temple.
But the biggest giveaway that your baby is not latched correctly is they will FALL ASLEEP! If this happens then off to the start again!
Clue #3 Check Your Nipple:
If your pain dropped AND your baby keeps sucking, the next thing to check is your nipple when your baby comes off. Here’s how:
Your nipple needs to be round, just as it went in. If it is squished or flat on one side don’t worry! Just head back up to step #4 arm angles and check your placement.
If you have checked everything and find you are still not latched, don’t worry! The next step will get you there! Remember this is all about PRACTICE not PERFECTION!
Step #6 Shaping
You have come through Step 5 and need a little more guidance. Your baby either hasn’t latched or latched and fallen asleep! So let’s bring in another trick, SHAPING!
As odd as it may seem your baby actually breastfeeds by shaping your breast tissue with their mouth. Rather than latching on to your nipple.
The good news is it doesn’t matter what your nipple looks like – Long, short, flat or inverted.
The tricky thing is, it’s hard work for your little baby to create the shape from your breast tissue. So they let go very quickly.
This means they slip off and on when trying to latch. The best thing is, YOU can help your baby by shaping your breast before they latch!
Here’s how to shape your breast.
After working through steps 1-5 your will have one hand free. This is the hand you will use to shape your breast. Below are the steps (also take a look at my video on shaping):
- Bring your hand to the breast your baby is attempting to latch on to
- Look at the position of your baby. Notice an area on your breast opposite your baby’s nose. This is spot one for your index finger.
- Place your the pad of your index finger about 2 centimetres from your nipple on the breast. This will now be opposite your baby’s nose.
- Now you will use your middle finger and place it on your breast opposite your baby’s chin.
- Your fingers will look like scissors and are close to your baby put not touching.
- Next squeeze your fingers together to shape a piece of your breast tissue.
- Now your baby can grab on to this piece of breast tissue. It’s like biting a hamburger that is shaped the right way for your baby to take a big bite.
Now you are shaping, bring your baby to your nipple. Do this by pointing your nipple to the centre of your baby’s mouth and cuddle your baby close. This will secure the latch.
But there is just one more step that goes hand in hand with shaping, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!
Step #7 Hold
It says it all in the title, HOLD! Hold your fingers that are shaping your breast tissue. Check out my video on Step 7.
Hold the shape until your baby is sucking well. Usually the first few minutes will do the trick!
You see, if you let go too soon your baby will lose their grip AND come off!
So don’t let go, not even a little! Even if your fingers are touching your baby, don’t let go!
Give your baby the best chance to take a hold and get the rhythm going. Remember you are waiting for the 3 cues.
- Pain eases after minute,
- your baby will keep sucking and
- check your nipple is round after the feed.
After you see your baby take hold and suck well. You can loosen the grip, keeping your fingers on the breast. Then let go!
ALL DONE! Now you can enjoy your latching and build on your skill. Just have one last read of the final tip below and you are all sorted!
A Final Tip
If you find you are not getting the latch try these things:
- Give your baby a cuddle to calm and then start again
- Let a family member have some cuddles while you take a breather (this is totally ok!)
- Switch breasts and see if your baby will latch on the other side.
I know this is a lot of information! Don’t worry if it seems foreign (most mums do!) Take it step by step and learn with your baby. Or give me a call or text and we can work it out together, 0414 403 208.