With so much importance being placed on the act of breastfeeding, it is disheartening to find out that your child is not latching properly. You may feel like the only option is giving your child a bottle, but this may exacerbate the problem, resulting in a limited milk supply and early weaning of your child. Achieving a strong latch is pivotal to your future success with breastfeeding.
If your baby is latched properly, you will hear vigorous swallowing when feeding, your milk supply will be strong and the entire process will be generally painless minus a few incidents with chapped nipples. If you look you will notice that your baby’s mouth is wide open at feedings, lips flanged out and the entire nipple is engulfed.
Signs of a Problem
According to American Academy of Pediatrics, there are many signs that your baby may not be latching correctly. Initially, you may find that your baby seems constantly hungry, even immediately after a feeding. If she is not eating enough, you will soon discover that she is underweight. You may also find that your milk never seems to come in or has come in weakly. If your milk does come in you, may find yourself becoming very engorged because your breasts are not being emptied effectively. Extreme nipple pain or a smacking sound while feeding may also be the result of a poor latch.
If your baby fails to latch properly, then breastfeeding will not work. Ultimately, you will find that your baby will not gain weight, your milk supply will dry or your nipples will be so painful that breastfeeding is impossible. Aside from the well-known health benefits that your child can derive from being breastfed, there are financial benefits as well, making breastfeeding the first choice for many.
The causes of problems with latching on during breastfeeding are widespread. Shortly after birth, a child may refuse the breast or suckle weakly due to medications administered to the mother during labor or due to an oral abnormality, according to the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute. If your baby is slightly older, you may have problems getting him to latch because he has simply grown to prefer a bottle nipple, which is easier to eat from. If you have only recently begun to have problems breastfeeding, there is a chance that your baby has a stuffy nose that makes eating more difficult. However, latching problems are often the result of poor form, which may require a lactation specialist to correct.
If you fear that your child is unhealthy or your milk supply is shrinking, you need to consult a doctor or lactation specialist as soon as possible to get back on track. However, if you have some time to work on it, try this method suggested by the Missouri Department of Health. Start by getting comfortable, possibly lying on your side, with your child facing the breast in a way that he does not need to turn his head to latch. Now cup your breast on the side away from the nipple to avoid distorting the breast’s shape. Tickle the baby’s lips with the nipple and insert the breast once the mouth opens wide. Check to make sure that the entire nipple is in the mouth with lips flanged out. If the baby latches poorly, try again from the beginning. Now make sure your baby is very close to you with chin and nose touching you. Too much distance is one of the most common latching problems, according to Dr. Jack Newman.