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Is Your Baby Latching And Feeding Properly? Here’s What To Look For

A baby is a beautiful and big change in life and many new things come with it, so it’s perfectly normal to have questions about your new reality. For instance, many new mothers find themselves uncertain about the success of their breastfeeding, often wondering: How am I doing with breastfeeding? How is the baby doing with breastfeeding? Is it working? Is my baby getting enough milk?

If these are questions you often find yourself asking, then we want you to know that there are answers. As you can also imagine, there are many things that might affect the quality of breastfeeding, either related to the mother or to the baby. Among these factors, a poor latch is surely a common cause of poor breastfeeding. The latch is important because it allows the baby to efficiently extract milk from the breast and get enough food. On top of that, a baby feeding properly means a breast emptying accordingly so that the production of milk is stimulated and breastfeeding sustained for a long period of time. In summary, ensuring that your baby gets enough milk while breastfeeding can be achieved through paying attention to positioning and latching while nursing. Here’s what you need to know to make sure that your baby gets enough milk during every breastfeeding session:

Happy baby breastfeeding
A comfortable breastfeeding experience is very rewarding!

The Steps For A Correct Latch

The first step to a successful breastfeeding latch is to make sure that you are sitting in a comfortable position. There is no “right way” to sit in order to breastfeed. Some mothers prefer to sit upright, while others prefer to recline gently on a couch or bed with their baby lying on the chest. Research has proved that both of these positions allow for effective breastfeeding, so the choice is entirely up to you.

After you and your baby are sitting comfortably, it’s time to begin the nursing process. Follow this step-by-step process to guarantee that your baby gets a good breastfeeding latch:

  1. Position your baby so their nose is level with your nipple.

  2. Tip your baby’s head back gently so their upper lip can touch the nipple.

  3. Wait for your baby to open the mouth wide. Remember, a wide-open mouth is essential to a correct breastfeeding latch. The baby needs to get a good mouthful of the breast so that the nipple will be pushed right to the back of the baby’s mouth. If a baby’s mouth is only partially opened when feeding, they won’t be able to fully latch and as a result, they might not get enough milk; this problem is known as “shallow latch”. In addition to making it more difficult for the baby to nurse (because the extraction of milk is less efficient), a shallow latch can also cause unnecessary pain for nursing mothers.

  4. Push the baby against the breast and not all the way around. It’s definitely much easier to move the tiny head of the baby rather than your entire body, also because that could force you in an uncomfortable position. Keep the baby always close to the breast, because they always need full-body contact.

  5. Make sure your baby’s chin touches your breast first as they close their mouth around the nipple. This ensures that their mouth is open wide enough to get enough milk and prevents shallow latching. The lips also need to be rolled out and not tucked in. If you see that try to flip them with your finger. Normally you should see more of the dark skin around the nipple (the areola) above the baby’s upper lip.

Deep latch vs shallow latch
Achieving a deep latch is the ultimate goal

Signs of Successful Breastfeeding

The last step in ensuring your baby feeds properly is to check for signs of successful or unsuccessful breastfeeding. While your baby nurses, their cheeks should appear round and full and not squeezed in (like they are trying to suck from a straw). In the beginning, the baby starts with rapid sucks to stimulate the milk flow but when the let-down will start, they should suck slowly and deeply with some pauses. You should be able to see your baby swallowing the milk, and they should be calm and relaxed while feeding. If your baby has gotten enough milk, then both you and your baby are likely to feel sleepy and relaxed after feeding is over.

Keep an eye on your baby throughout the first few weeks of breastfeeding so you can know for sure that they are getting enough milk. During this time, healthy babies should be gaining weight (155-240 grams per week approximately) and feeding frequently- around 8-12 times every 24 hours period. Look also to the nappies to see if they poo 3-4 times a day and pee six or more times a day (your baby should reach these figures 5-6 days after birth). Finally, if your baby is alert and active when awake, they are getting plenty of milk and it should be all good!

You should also check in on your own comfort after feeding your baby. Some people might tell you that breastfeeding is meant to hurt, or is always painful for some women; however, this is a common myth. Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong, such as a shallow latch, and a good breastfeeding latch should never be painful to the mother. If breastfeeding is painful for you, try to improve the latch by experiment with different positions and encouraging your baby to get on the breast with a wide and open mouth. Remember, every story is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to breastfeeding. What we have discussed are general concepts that are well known among mothers and lactation consultants. However, this does not mean that every baby should do exactly how it’s said in the books. There’s no right and wrong. If you are comfortable and the baby is gaining weight, while you are spending a fortune on nappies, then it should be fine!

A very useful tool to assist you is the UNICEF checklist for signs of effective breastfeeding, which you can download HERE. If you think that there is any problem, always seek some help from a lactation consultant or a midwife.

Breastfeeding is important to create and reinforce the beautiful and emotional bond between mother and baby and a comfortable latch is crucial to determine the success of breastfeeding. The benefits of it are well known and some research has proven that this stage in an infant’s life is critical to forming healthy attachment and behavioral health in the future; to maximize vital skin-to-skin contact with your baby, spending the time to find a successful breastfeeding position is essential.

One last thing to remember: latching and suckling is a complex action for babies and even though it comes as an innate behavior, it takes time to master. Don't give up too quickly and keep trying to make small changes and look for improvements. Breastfeeding might take some time before being completely established!

Latching And Bottle Feeding

Latching is not just an issue during breastfeeding. In fact, many of the most common latching problems occur during a transitional period when a breastfed baby needs to take a bottle. This is largely due to nipple confusion. When a baby becomes accustomed to feeding on a natural breast, encountering a baby bottle won’t feel the same, and the baby might not recognize the bottle as familiar and latch. This could potentially lead to the common issue of baby bottle refusal.

That’s why it’s important to look for baby bottles that mimic the shape and texture of a natural breast. The Teatle’s REALATCH technology is created with the needs of breastfed babies in mind; just like a mother’s breast, the material of The Teatle is soft and malleable, bending to fit the shape of a baby’s mouth during feeding. The natural design of this bottle encourages breastfed babies to latch just as they would with a breast, cutting down on the risk of nipple confusion and baby bottle refusal.

The Teatle and a happy baby
The Teatle is a real revolution in the world of baby bottles!

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