You’ve decided to breastfeed your newborn, but for some reason your baby doesn’t seem to be on-board with the master plan. She keeps falling asleep, her mouth isn’t opening wide enough to get any milk, and your breasts are in serious pain every time you try to feed her. And you’re thinking, This is the pits! Don’t give up yet. There are ways to help your baby latch on so that you can both—painlessly—enjoy breastfeeding.
These are four steps you can take to help your baby latch on correctly:
- Ensure that your baby has full contact with your body, from his chest down to his thighs. The feeling of safety created through contact with Mom helps a baby feel comfortable enough to focus on the task at hand.
- Check the positioning of your baby’s head. By tipping his head back slightly, his chin touches your breast under the areola; this helps him to reflexively open his mouth wide. If this isn’t enough, lightly brush your baby’s lips with your nipple and wait for him to open his mouth wide enough that it covers about one-half inch of the areola beyond your nipple.
- Quickly and firmly hug your baby’s shoulders to your breast. Hugging the shoulders in brings the head closer to the breast, positioning your nipple deep in your baby’s mouth. When your nipple touches your baby’s palate, his sucking reflex will kick in.
- Be sure your baby is swallowing and not just moving his mouth. When swallowing, a baby’s lower jaw moves in a longer, slower rhythm. You will probably hear your baby exhale through the nostrils after swallowing. Help your baby continue swallowing until he no longer wants to suck; this is your baby’s way of telling you, “I’m done!”
If you feel pain, your baby is probably not latched on correctly. Break the baby’s suction by placing one finger in the corner of her mouth between her gums, and gently pull her mouth away; then try again. Feeding incorrectly can lead to prolonged nipple pain for you and insufficient milk intake for your baby; it’s important to help your baby learn to latch on correctly.