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.
Some top lactation consultants from around the globe share how you can fix a shallow latch to make breastfeeding more comfortable and improve milk transfer.
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“Skin-to-skin and positions like laid-back or side-lying promote the baby’s innate ability to latch.”
-Laura Coulter, CNM, MS, IBCLC at Chicago Lactation Consultants
“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.”
“A deep asymmetrical latch needs to be shown and takes practice.”
-Nicky Pemberton, IBCLC
“A deep asymmetrical latch needs to be shown and takes practice. Watch this video which has good visuals.”
“Make sure baby’s mouth is opened wide. Visualize a hungry baby bird!”
-Teresa Carroll, MS, RD, LD, IBCLC at NuAngel, Inc.
“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.”
“If needed, you can compress your breast by making a U shape with your hand.”
-Jacqueline Kincer, IBCLC, CSOM at Holistic Lactation
“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.”
“Think of your breast like a big sandwich.”
-Nicole Kekesi RD, IBCLC, RLC at The Breastfeeding Resource Center at Virtua
“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.”
“Waiting for baby to open wide can be a huge lifesaver!”
-Lindsey Shipley, IBCLC at Lactation Link
“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!”
“If baby is still struggling, try the ‘Flipple Technique’.”
-Ashley Barrett, BA, IBCLC, RLC at Nurturing Bonds
“A lot of times, baby will self-attach deeper if you use good positioning (including laying back rather than hunching forward).
If baby is still struggling, try the Flipple Technique with baby.”
If the latch is shallow, unlatch, then attempt to latch again
-Jill Lancaster, RN BSN IBCLC at Lactivist Activist
“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.
This is all quite structured, which I don't believe needs to happen forever, just during the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding while you and baby get to know each other. Before you know it, you’ll will be latching effortlessly in many different positions!”
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