3 Steps to Latch Success
By Valerie Fahey
If your baby isn't latched onto your breast correctly, he won't be satisfied with his meal, you may develop sore nipples, and your breasts may not produce adequate amounts of milk -- whew! Remember to bring your baby to your breast, not your breast to your baby. The best thing is to wait for baby readiness rather than trying to wake him on a predetermined schedule (like every three hours). If your baby is rooting -- turning his head and opening his mouth widely when you touch his cheek -- he's ready! Make sure he has a good deal of your areola -- the dark area around your nipple -- in his mouth. "Don't be afraid of blocking his nose," says Jan Barger, R.N., a lactation consultant in Wheaton, Illinois. "Babies can breathe well even if the tip of their nose seems to be buried in your breast." If your baby has trouble latching on because your breasts are engorged, express milk (by hand or with a pump) until they soften. Then follow these simple steps for latch-on success:
1 When you offer your breast, support it with your fingers underneath and your thumb on top. Use your dominant hand to support baby's head and the other hand to support your breast. Place your nipple between his nose and upper lip, and when he opens widely, pull him quickly onto the breast, leading with his chin so his chin is making solid contact with your breast. That will keep the nose free, and he can get a big mouthful of breast. If you wait for his rooting, his tongue will automatically come down and out, and you don't have to do anything but pull him on to the breast.
2 Let him nurse as long as he is taking long, drawing sucks. When he slows down and his eyes close, you can compress your breast deeply for about five seconds to get him sucking again. If he doesn't respond to that, you can switch sides. There is no particular number of minutes that he has to breastfeed -- most newborns will nurse 10 to 20 minutes on the first side, and 10 to 15 on the second. They get a lot more efficient as they get older and may not breastfeed as long.
3 When it's time to switch sides, slide your pinkie between your breast and your baby's gums to break the suction. When you hear a soft pop, extract your nipple from his mouth and position him on the other breast.