Breastfeeding help: Getting baby to latch on

As a new mom, you’re probably already fatigued — having just given birth, overwhelmed by the demands a newborn often brings… and when breastfeeding does not come as naturally as blowing your nose, well it can send any new mom reaching for a bottle of formula in a heartbeat. Here’s help.

Mom breastfeeding

But the truth of the matter is that breastfeeding often does not come easily. And for those of you struggling to get your newborn acclimated to the process of nursing (which is not always the seamless process we expect it to be), Christen Cooper, MS, RD, founder of Cooper Nutrition, who also breastfed both of her babies, offers these tips to help you get your newborn properly latched and suckling away like a champ in no time!

Breastfeeding basics

Breastfeeding is often a learned skill, not necessarily one that comes naturally. Mom and baby need practice together to get their routine down, not unlike two dancers.

1Guide your baby’s mouth

When the baby is hungry, she is usually screaming, mouth wide open. When the mouth is at its most open point, put your clean forefinger and your thumb at the edges of your areola (thumb at top, forefinger underneath) and put ALL of the brown areola and nipple into the baby’s mouth. The baby will struggle a few times to get the hang of where to put his lips, but once you guide his mouth to the right place, he sees where he has to “be” to get the milk to let down.

2Suckling and sucking are two different things

Another important tip to remember in order for the baby to drink the breast milk is that she must suckle, which is different from sucking. When you think of sucking, it’s like what you do from a straw — you purse your lips and sip inward. Suckling the breast looks more like talking or chewing something that’s at the back of your throat.

A mom will know she’s doing it optimally if she looks down and baby is not gagging, but looks content, and his throat looks like he’s swallowing. Sometimes there’s even a soft click in his throat telling you that the milk is going down.

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3Positioning is important

In order to get a proper latch you need to breastfeed in an optimal position — the nipple and areola are literally at the back of the baby’s throat and his lips are putting pressure at almost the very outer lines of the brown areola. Furthermore, don’t put the baby on your lap and dip down to feed him. Sit upright and pull him right up to the breast, so that his body is parallel with you. This makes him feel more secure and, for anybody, eating lying completely down is much more difficult than eating while lying on one’s side.

4Latch on mistakes

The common mistake that most moms make is not getting a good, tight latch that is like a “seal” that keeps the suckling going. Some moms try to get it “good enough” and then just hope some milk gets into the baby. If they don’t get the baby’s lips right around the areola, it’s like trying to blow up a balloon without your lips over the entire opening (that’s an example of suction in reverse, but you get the idea). It will just frustrate the baby to have this breast dangling in his mouth with no milk coming out.

>> Why moms choose to breastfeed

5Try the football hold

Another way to help moms who can’t seem to get the traditional latch is one called the “football hold.” Instead of cradling the baby in front of you, tuck the baby’s body under your arm on either side–the head will be in front of you, and the mouth at the nipple. The best way to stabilize the baby in this position is by using a big pillow or a “Boppy,” one of those horse shoe shaped pillows. Some moms and babies find this easier for some reason. It’s especially helpful for women with big breasts simply because there’s not so much in front of her to get in her way–just the baby’s mouth and her breast.

Remedies for cracked nipples

Simply keeping a dab of breastmilk on your nipples at all times will help nipples from becoming cracked. Yes, it sometimes means walking around in the buff from the waist up. But it feels great and breast milk has healing properties built in to help heal breast pain and cuts. Another option is Lansinoh cream, (there are other brands as well) it’s a thickish pasty cream that does not harm the baby and it soothes the pain and helps heal cracking.

Quick Tip

Don’t stress about not showering — it can actually help with the latch on! Some women worry that their babies won’t latch on if they have not washed for days, but that’s not true. In fact, babies actually prefer a nipple that has a little leftover breast milk. That’s why we love them–they like us just the way we are! Think about it- – cavewomen didn’t have formula, and their babies eventually successfully latched on! And we’re all smarter than cavewomen.

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