How can I tell if my baby is latched on correctly?
This is often the No. 1 reason that new mothers have a hard time with breastfeeding — their babies aren't latched on to their breasts properly, which can be frustrating for the babies and downright painful for their mothers.
Here's how you can make sure your little one is latched on correctly every time:
- Make sure your baby's mouth is opened wide and his or her tongue is down when latching on.
- Support your breast with your hand, positioning your thumb on top and your fingers at the bottom, keeping your thumb and fingers back far enough so that your baby has enough of the nipple and areola (the circle of skin around the nipple) to latch onto.
- Gently glide your nipple from the middle of your baby's bottom lip down to his or her chin to help prompt your baby to open his or her mouth.
- When your baby opens his or her mouth wide and the tongue comes down, quickly bring your baby to your breast (not your breast to your baby). Your baby should take as much of your areola into his or her mouth as possible.
- Make sure your baby's nose is almost touching your breast (not pressed against it), his or her lips are turned out (or flanged), and you see and hear your baby swallowing. (You should be able to tell by seeing movement along your baby's lower jaw and even in your baby's ear and temple.)
- Have a nursing session observed by someone knowledgeable about breastfeeding.
When properly latched on, you may have 30 to 60 seconds of latch-on pain (this is caused by the nipple and areola being pulled into your baby's mouth) then the pain should subside. It will then feel like a tug when your baby is sucking. If you continue to feel pain, stop feeding momentarily and reposition your baby on your breast. If you still feel pain during feeds even after repositioning, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant to make sure something else isn't going on, such as an infection.
Your baby will often give four to five sucks, followed by a 5- to 10-second pause. Your baby's sucks will increase in number as the quantity of your milk increases. As the milk flow slows, your baby's pattern will probably change to three or four sucks and pauses that last longer than 10 seconds.
Most babies will release the breast on their own. If your baby doesn't release your breast but the sucks now seem limited to the front of his or her mouth, you can slip your finger in the side of your baby's mouth (between the gums) and then turn your finger a quarter turn to break the suction. Then, try to burp your baby and switch him or her to the other breast.
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