Natural Baby Latching

While I was still pregnant, I remember hearing my friends moan about how hard nursing was at the beginning and proudly thinking, “Well, yes, but I can’t imagine that I will have any problems with it!” HA! Upon leaving the hospital I was coddling cracked and very sore nipples. I didn’t anticipate that her little floppy head wanted to go everywhere except into position for a good latch, or how hard it would be to unscrunch her little body to feed successfully. And how on earth do you support the body, position the head, hold the nipple just right and bring it all together without about a dozen hands?! Yes, I have been humbled by a 7 lb 3 oz bundle of joy that did not seem to notice my discomfort.

I am sharing this with you before my Mommy brain kicks in and I forget it all. A newborn’s body is about the floppiest thing I have ever encountered. Their arms go this way their legs go that way and lets not get started on the rest of them. I was able to position her better if I swaddled her. It gave her more stability and eliminated the need for about 3 of the dozen hands I was sure were critical to the operation.

If you look at their mouths (when they aren’t crying) they are longer in one direction. I always seemed to form my nipple and areola opposite to the line of her mouth which was not so great. Not only does it not work, it hurts when they try to latch on to just the nipple, which is all they get when the areola is not being squished in the proper direction.
I found it very awkward to support her head and neck as well as shape my nipple and get it into her mouth. I got around this by standing up although not every one finds this comfortable. If I was feeding on my right side, I held her with my right arm and supported her head in the crook of my elbow. This left my left hand free to align and squish the nipple in the proper direction. In this position, everything was lined up properly and it was much easier.

Now you are looking down at your baby that is desperately searching for your nipple and sucking anything in sight, then you look at your nipple that is completely flattened out (if this is your first) and you think how on earth is this massive amount of tissue supposed to fit into such a tiny little mouth! First of all, don’t try to make it work! It is all about physics. You cannot fit a surface area the size of an orange into an orifice the size of a kumquat. If you go back, you will remember that this is not always the case. Two examples that come to mind are coldness and arousal. With either, your nipple becomes much smaller and your baby is able to get a significant amount of areola into his mouth. I am certainly not suggesting that you keep an ice cube around and I can almost guarantee that sex is going to be the last thing on your mind at this point. The same effect can be achieved however, by rolling your nipple in your fingers . . . gently . . . for a few seconds. You will still need to shape your breast into an oval in the same direction as the baby’s mouth but now the baby will be able to get enough of it in there that you will not grind your teeth in pain.

Its ok to squash your little ones head into your breast. I was quite taken aback the first time the midwife did that to my baby but it definitely worked and she didn’t even care! Whats more, she was able to get a much better less painful latch. In a proper latch, the baby has a significant amount (half) of the areola and the nipple is not pointed down in the mouth. If the nipple is pointed down, the baby’s tongue has the tendency to flip up over top of it and make for a very painful and unsuccessful feeding. The chin should also be well buried in the breast as should the nose. A baby’s nose is designed to push back the breast tissue and create a pocket and pathway for air flow. It is important to make sure the baby IS breathing so listen and watch until you get the hang of it. Most healthy babies will jerk their heads back and unlatch if their breathing is cut off but pay attention anyway, better safe than sorry.

Once you have a good latch on, you will hardly feel anything. It took me about 2 1/2 months to accomplish this consistently but now sometimes I have to look to make sure she really is suckling. Yay! All our hard work is finally paying off!

Are you having a hard time with the breast feeding experience? If you are struggling with getting a good latch, visit my blog http://naturalbabytalk.com/2010/09/latching to see some of the tips and get some information that will enable you to feel confident and enjoy the beauty of breast feeding http://naturalbabytalk.com.

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