So, how important is a proper latch while breastfeeding? If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have told you that breastfeeding is one thing that actually made me nervous, but I wasn't sure why. Now that I have been breastfeeding for 6 weeks, I can passionately tell you that the latch is very important if you don't want painful feeding, but feeding can definitely get better. The latch is what can make or break breastfeeding moms.

In the hospital, the lactation consultants and nurses will come to help initially with the latch, but since there are so many new things happening, I found myself listening, but not super concerned. I mean, how hard could it be to feed a baby? The lactation consultant informed me that it should not be painful if the baby was latched properly. When she was in there and had my baby latch, it seemed so simple. She got my baby to open his mouth after being in the world for a mere 5 hours and he latched within seconds. Simple.

What To Do Without The Nurses

Once the nurse left, I found myself struggling in the middle of the night trying to get my little boy to latch. The first part of the struggle was just getting in the proper position. I had a C-Section so I found it tough to move and get the pillows set up so that myself and the baby were comfortable. I didn’t understand how it was so simple a few hours earlier. Once I got home, it was a different story. Baby would latch, but the pain was awful. This made me dread feeding because I knew it would be unpleasant.

Soothing Treatment for Sore Nipples

For sore nipples, Aeroflow Breastpumps has many great products that can help ease your pain and discomfort until proper latching is mastered. Check out the Lansinoh Lanolin, Lansinoh Therapy Packs, Hydrogel Pads and Bamboobies Boob-Ease Organic Nipple Balm! I now actually enjoy feeding my baby (though, I could do without the middle of the night feedings) and can honestly tell you that it gets MUCH easier with practice.

Remember, if you'e dreading breastfeeding because of pain or an improper latch, take heart! It can get better.Below are a few simplified steps that can actually make breastfeeding an enjoyable experience for you and baby!

Tips Prior to the Actual Latch

  1. Get in a comfortable position. Your baby can most likely tell when you are uncomfortable which will cause them stress. Also, you may be in the breastfeeding position for up to 30 minutes so comfort will make feeding time better for you. Sitting upright in an armchair or even in bed with plenty of pillows to support your joints is helpful. Keep your back straight. You also will need a pillow to get baby up to the level of your breasts. The Boppy Feeding Pillow is great for feeding sessions!
  2. Make sure baby is awake and alert. It’s tough to get a proper latch when baby is groggy. Some lactation consultants recommend undressing baby for skin to skin contact while feeding, burping prior to feeding, talking to baby to make sure baby is awake and even tickling their collar bone while feeding if they start to drift.

The Actual Latch

  1. When offering the breast it helps to get a few drops of milk on the nipple, then cup your breast with your hand, palm and fingers underneath and thumb on top.
  2. You will want to get your baby to open their mouth very wide. This part can be tough since babies open and close their mouths a lot quicker than you would think. The goal is for them to get as much of your areola in their mouth as possible and not just your nipple. To do this, rub your nipple along baby’s top lip, which will trigger them to open their mouth. Then, move baby’s head towards your breast, NOT your breast towards their mouth.
  3. Your baby’s mouth should look somewhat like a fish if they are latched properly with the top and bottom lip turned out. When the bottom lip isn’t turned out that usually means they just have your nipple. I like to push down a little on babies chin and his lip usually turns out - problem solved!
  4. Their chin should be pressed into the breast so that they can breathe through their nose. If you are unsure if you’re baby is getting enough air you can always push down on your breast to create a better airway.

In Summary

With a proper latch, baby puts most of mother's areola into his mouth. Mother's nipple goes to the back of baby's mouth. The baby's gums compress the milk sinuses that lie about an inch behind the nipple. The tongue is forward, underneath the breast, over the lower gum, and its motion helps baby draw out the milk.

Follow the steps above for a much more enjoyable experience for you and your little one. If you continue to have issues, it is always helpful to contact a lactation consultant so they can physically demonstrate and assist you.


Janel Littlejohn

About the Author

Hi! My name is Janel Littlejohn, I'm 29 years old, and I grew up in Sharpsville, Indiana. Prior to Aeroflow, I have worked in higher education as an adjunct professor, assistant athletic director and women's basketball coach. I married my husband, Corey in September 2016 and we are expecting our first child in September of this year (a little boy)!

Learn more about Janel!