How to Fix a Shallow Latch
If your baby has a shallow latch, breastfeeding can be downright painful and your baby may not get enough milk.
Painful breastfeeding and low milk transfer? Sounds terrible, right? It’s not wonder a good latch is the foundation to successful breastfeeding!
But fear not, mama, even if your baby DOES have a shallow latch, there are things you can do to fix it and help them latch more deeply.
Some top lactation consultants from around the globe share their best advice on how you can fix a shallow latch to help you reach your breastfeeding goals.
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Wait for Baby to open wide
“It’s called breastfeeding instead of nipple feeding for a reason! If baby doesn’t have enough breast tissue in his/her mouth your nipple can be pinched and even sustain damage.
Waiting for baby to open wide can be a huge lifesaver! If you feel constant nipple pinching while nursing, seek out help!”
-Lindsey Shipley, IBCLC at Lactation Link
If your nipples are sore, these are an absolute lifesaver. They’re super cheap, can be worn for multiple days (perfect when you’re trying to get a good latch), and are soooo soothing.
Skin-to-skin and certain positions promote the baby’s innate ability to latch.
“A “shallow” latch has many sources and sometimes simple changes in positioning can improve or even eliminate this common complaint.
Skin-to-skin and positions like laid-back or side-lying promote the baby’s innate ability to search and find the nipple, and latch themselves by opening wide and extending the head to achieve a deeper and more comfortable latch.
Also it’s important when you’re “latching” the baby (in positions like cross cradle or football hold) to bring him or her into the breast rather than hunching over and holding your baby at the breast, which can end up with the baby sliding down onto just the nipple.
If the latch “looks good” even to a professional, but it still hurts you, or the baby is having issues such as sleeping through the feed, feeding very frequently or for long periods of time, not gaining well, etc., it’s probably a good idea to have a thorough assessment done by a qualified and experienced IBCLC to rule out reasons other than positioning for a shallow latch.”
-Laura Coulter, CNM, MS, IBCLC at Chicago Lactation Consultants
A deep asymmetrical latch needs to be shown and takes practice.
Watch the Deep Latch Technique below…
-Nicky Pemberton, IBCLC
Visualize a hungry baby bird!
“To help encourage a deep latch, make sure baby’s mouth is opened wide. Visualize a hungry baby bird!
Gently touch your nipple to baby’s mouth to trigger the response. At the widest point, quickly bring baby to breast and latch with as much in the mouth as possible. Try again if necessary.”
-Teresa Carroll, MS, RD, LD, IBCLC at NuAngel, Inc.
If the latch is shallow, unlatch, then try again
“Make sure you’re comfortable and baby is both stable and comfortable.
If the latch is shallow, unlatch, then attempt to latch again aiming nipple toward baby's nose, rather than straight into their mouth.
Bring baby’s chin and lower lip into contact with the breast first.”
-Jill Lancaster, RN BSN IBCLC at Lactivist Activist
If needed, compress your breast by making a U shape with your hand.
“First, ensure baby is making full body contact with you and you’re reclined and comfortable.
Then make sure baby is positioned with the chin toward the breast, head slightly tilted back, and your nipple above baby’s upper lip. If needed, you can compress your breast by making a U shape with your hand.
You need to make sure your fingers won’t touch baby’s face as this can stimulate them to close their mouth. The key is to make sure baby does the work of the wide gape and you wait for baby to self-latch in this position.”
-Jacqueline Kincer, IBCLC, CSOM at Holistic Lactation
Think of your breast like a big sandwich.
“I always think of a latch like how I may take a deep bite. I cannot take a bite of, say a sandwich, without creating a “base” for my mouth. That same concept applies to obtaining a deep latch at the breast.
Think of your breast like a big sandwich and compress the breast tissue behind the areola where the babies’ nose and chin are to create that ledge. Compressing the tissue allows the infant to use that base to get that deeper latch.
Don’t let your baby slurp in your nipple and always try get them to open wide by tickling your nipple to their mouth.”
-Nicole Kekesi RD, IBCLC, RLC at The Breastfeeding Resource Center at Virtua
if baby is still struggling, try the ‘Flipple Technique’
Need more help with your baby’s lach? Check out this blog post where IBCLCs share their favorite latch tricks!
Summary of IBCLCs advice on what to do if your baby has a shallow latch:
Wait for baby to open wide
Try skin-to-skin and laid-back breastfeeding
Try the deep latch technique
Visualize a hungry baby bird
If the latch is shallow, unlatch, then try again
If needed, compress your breast by making a U shape with your hand
Think of your breast like a big sandwich
If baby is still struggling, try the ‘Flipple Technique’