BREAST FEEDING: STEPS TO ACHIEVING A PROPER LATCH

CONTENT

-INTRODUCTION

-TIPS ON ACHIEVING A GOOD LATCH

-MILK PRODUCTION AND EJECTION

-SIGNS YOUR BABY IS PROPERLY LATCHED

 

INTRODUCTION

The term often used to describe the process of getting your baby attached to your breast for feeding is referred to as Latching. It is the most important thing to get right when starting to breast feed. Ideally, when you first start to breast feed, it is best to have a trained person such as a midwife to watch and provide skilled help and support.

 

TIPS ON ACHIEVING A GOOD LATCH

Although various positions have been described for the breast-feeding of an infant, key points to remember while trying to commence breast feeding are:

1.  Ensure your baby’s head and body are in a straight line. This is important to allow your baby to swallow easily.

2.  Hold the baby close to you and support the baby's neck, shoulders and back in a way that it is possible for the baby to tilt his/her head backward without needing to stretch to feed.

3.  Make sure you are comfortable; breast-feeding can take some time. Sometimes it helps to use a pillow or cushion for support. Your arms or back may end up aching if you are hunched up for a long period of time.

4.  Hold your baby with his/her nose opposite your nipple. Your baby needs to get a very big mouthful of breast from underneath the nipple. Placing your baby’s 'nipple to nose' will allow your baby to reach up and attach well to the breast.

5.  Let your baby tip his/her head back, to allow the top lip brush against your nipple.

6.  Wait for your baby to open his/her mouth wide. As this happens the chin will touch your breast first and the tongue will be down.

7.  Quickly bring your baby in to the breast so that a large mouthful of breast can be taken into his/her mouth.

8.  There should be more of the darker areola visible above the baby's top lip, than below the bottom lip.

 

MILK PRODUCTION AND EJECTION

The baby’s sucking of the nipples stimulates the mother’s brain to produce two chemicals (hormones) necessary for breast milk production and ejection. The first is Prolactin which is a hormone necessary for the production of the breast milk by the milk producing glands in the breast and the second is Oxytocin which is responsible for the ejection of milk out of the breast ducts lying beneath the nipples by a process known as the “let-down reflex”. Since the secretion of both hormones from the brain are partially conditioned reflexes,  the adequate production of both hormones, depend on the baby’s constant sucking of the nipples while breast feeding. Thus, the earlier and the more often you breast feed your baby, the more the secretion of these hormones and the more and stronger the production and the ejection of the breast milk by the breast.

Once well developed, the let-down reflex can easily be felt as a tingling sensation around your nipples associated with sudden fullness of your breast and sudden dripping of milk from both breasts. This is often stimulated by the mere thought of breast-feeding your baby, or hearing your baby cry, or touching your nipples by your hands or a breast pump. You may also see the milk as you are preparing yourself to breast-feed. This is the reason breast pads are required to catch this milk in other to prevent unnecessary soiling of your clothes.

 

SIGNS YOUR BABY IS PROPERLY LATCHED

Below are some tips that may suggest that the baby is properly latched on to the breast;

1.  The baby will often have a large mouthful of breast.

2.  Its chin will firmly touch the breast.

3.  While breast feeding, it shouldn’t hurt; although the initial sucks may be strong.

4.  The baby's cheeks should be rounded throughout the period of sucking.

5,  A rhythmic sucking and swallowing movement spaced with occasional pauses may be made by baby.

6.  When the baby finishes feeding, it  will come off the breast on his/her own.

If it feels uncomfortable when your baby is latched on, the position may not be adequate. Break the seal between your baby's mouth and your breast by gently inserting your little finger into the corner of your baby's mouth, while you try to re-achieve a proper latch. This is important to prevent sore or cracked nipples and other problems  that may be associated with poor latching. For more information, please kindly CHAT WITH OUR CONSULTANTS.

 

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Reference and further reading:

  1. Guide to the Baby Friendly Initiative Standards; UNICEF UK, December 2012
  2. La Leche League, www.lalecheleague.org.