What are the best tips on getting baby to latch?

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Answered by: Laura, An Expert in the Breatfeeding Challenges Category
Getting baby to latch is the first hurdle many moms will come across during the breastfeeding journey (battle?). Getting a good latch is important both for comfort for Mom and also for baby. A stress-free feed can help soothe baby off to sleep and help Mom get some all important rest!

The best tip for getting baby to latch would be to relax. This can be hard to do when your baby is screaming at the top of their lungs or if you have your entire family watching. Do whatever you need to do to relax (except drinking wine, that's frowned upon). Pick the comfiest seat in the house. Send everybody away after demanding a cup of tea or some juice. (It's a good habit to get into - drinking with every feed. A glass of water is best or squash if you don't like the taste of water. But really any non-alcoholic liquid you can manage.)

That brings us to the next tip. Get comfortable. Once latched, baby can stay on there from anywhere between ten minutes to over an hour. All is normal so don't worry. If you let baby come off on their own (they will push the nipple out with their tongue or push their head away from you) then they will have had what they need. If you find the baby is fussy at the breast, then pulls off you and cries it may be that the breast is empty so try them on the other one.

Getting baby into the right position takes practice. When newborn they are tightly curled up and it can be difficult. Again try to relax! Once they are in the right place latching will be a lot easier. But by no means easy!

One popular position is to have baby lie across you. Rest their head in the crook of your arm on the side you want to feed, have their belly against yours and their legs resting in your lap or on the chair depending on how big they are. When ready bring baby up to the nipple. If their mouth is closed then celebrate because that means they are not crying! After you are done celebrating use your free hand to brush your nipple on their nose or on their top lip. This should stimulate the reflex to open their mouth. The wider their mouth the better the latch. If baby is crying then their mouth is already wide enough. Put the nipple in their mouth and eventually they will realize you are trying to give them what they want.

The above position may not be suitable if you have had a c-section so try the lying down on your side position. This is also a good position for those seemingly endless night feeds when you are too tired to sit up.

If it hurts a lot then the latch isn’t quite right. The best tip for this is to put your little finger in the corner of the mouth and ease them off your nipple gently and try again. They may fuss but in the long run it is better they learn to latch properly. Don’t pull them off as this will stretch the nipple and cause it to become sore(er)

Another good tip is to use nipple cream after every feed. This will help protect against cracking and soothe any soreness. It’s far easier to latch when your nipples are pain free!

Final tip is don’t give up. It takes time for you both to learn how to latch.

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