Welcome to the world of breastfeeding! If you’re a new mother, it’s natural to wonder if you’re breastfeeding correctly. Let’s be real – it’s a learning process that requires patience and practice.
So how do you know if you and your little one are on the right track? This blog will take you on a deep dive into the world of breastfeeding, revealing what a good latch looks like, signs that your baby is feeding effectively, and tips to help you achieve a successful breastfeeding experience.
The Essence of a Good Latch
A “latch” is when your baby attaches to your breast to feed. The goal is for your baby to take in both your nipple and a large part of the areola (the darker skin around your nipple). This is often called a “good latch” or a “deep latch”. But how does it feel?
The Feeling of a Good Latch
An effective latch is typically comfortable, although it may tug a little. It shouldn’t cause pain. Your baby’s chin will touch your breast, their bottom lip will be turned out like a fish lip, and you may not see their top lip. Their cheeks will look full and rounded as they suck, and their ears might wiggle slightly – a sign of active swallowing.
Tips to Achieve a Good Latch:
- Hold Your Baby Close: Keep your baby close to you, facing your breast. Baby’s belly should touch your body.
- Aim Your Nipple: Aim your nipple towards your baby’s nose, not their mouth. This encourages your baby to tilt their head back and open their mouth wide.
- Wait For the ‘Big Mouth’: Once your baby’s mouth is wide open, quickly bring them towards your breast, not your breast to the baby.
Checking for a Good Latch
You may need to look closely to confirm a good latch. You should see more of the top of the areola and less of the bottom. Your baby’s lips should be turned out, not tucked in. If you hear clicking sounds, your baby may not be latched on well and could be taking in air. But don’t panic! This is a common issue that can be resolved with time and guidance.
Understanding Your Baby’s Feeding Cues
Before your baby latches, they’ll show signs of hunger. These include opening their mouth, turning their head towards you (the ‘rooting’ reflex), sticking out their tongue, or putting their hands to their mouth. As your bond deepens, you’ll start to notice these cues more and more, making feeding times smoother for both of you.
Watching for Swallowing
A good breastfeeding latch will result in your baby getting enough milk. Watch your baby’s lower jaw and listen for swallowing sounds. If you see a pause at the peak of the suck movement, that’s a good sign your baby is getting plenty of milk.
Feeding Frequency and Duration:
- How Often Should They Feed? In the early weeks, babies usually need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours, including overnight.
- How Long Should Feedings Be? This varies greatly. Some babies feed quickly, others take their time. As a rough guide, allow 10-20 minutes per breast.
Is Your Baby Satisfied?
After feeding, your baby should seem satisfied. They will appear relaxed, may let go of your breast themselves, and often fall asleep. Regular wet and dirty diapers are another sign that they’re getting enough milk.
Signs of Potential Problems
A poor latch can result in your baby not getting enough milk and can cause you discomfort. Signs of a poor latch include pain when your baby latches on, nipple pain after feeding, flattened or pinched nipples after feeding, and your baby frequently losing suction or slipping off the nipple.
Monitoring Your Baby’s Weight Gain
A key sign your baby is getting enough milk is steady weight gain after the initial few days of slight weight loss. Your healthcare provider will regularly check your baby’s weight. If your baby is not gaining weight as expected, it could be a latch or supply issue.
Spotting Signs of Dehydration:
- Fewer Wet Diapers: Babies should have 5-8 wet diapers in 24 hours after the first week.
- No Tears When Crying: This could be a sign of dehydration which requires immediate attention.
Identifying Low Milk Supply
While rare, low milk supply can happen. Symptoms include your baby not seeming satisfied after feeds, poor weight gain, and low wet and dirty diaper output. If you suspect this is the case, a lactation consultant can provide guidance.
How To Improve Latching and Feeding
Various breastfeeding positions can help achieve a good latch. These include the cradle hold, football hold, and laid-back breastfeeding. Different positions work for different pairs – experiment to find your fit.
Soliciting Professional Support
If you’re struggling with latching, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support. Lactation consultants and breastfeeding specialists are trained to help you navigate these challenges. They can provide personalized guidance based on your and your baby’s needs.
Utilizing Tools and Accessories:
- Nursing Pillows: These can provide support, making it easier to hold your baby.
- Breast Shells: These can help your baby latch if you have flat or inverted nipples.
Self-Care for Breastfeeding Moms
Remember, taking care of yourself is critical during this period. Stay hydrated, eat healthily, and get as much rest as you can. It can be hard, but don’t forget to prioritize your wellbeing.
Breastfeeding is a journey, a deeply personal one. Whether you’re grappling with the mechanics of a proper latch or concerned about milk supply, know that you’re not alone. Reach out to professionals, find a supportive community, and trust yourself. After all, every challenge you encounter along this journey is shaping a beautiful bond, a connection between you and your baby that’s like no other.
- La Leche League International – How Do I Position My Baby To Breastfeed?
- American Academy of Pediatrics – Breastfeeding Initiatives
- World Health Organization – Breastfeeding
- Stanford Medicine – Newborn Nursery at LPCH – Breastfeeding
- Office on Women’s Health – Learning to Breastfeed
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Breastfeeding