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Troubleshooting Breastfeeding Latch Problems

Susie McGee
breastfeeding latch problems

Breastfeeding latch problems can cause a variety of issues for mother and baby. In fact, learning how to help baby attach to the breast the right way is the first step to a positive breastfeeding experience.

Giving Up

While many women are determined to breastfeed their infants, some give up quickly when the reality of nursing sets in. Successful breastfeeding doesn't always happen overnight, but it can happen.

Breastfeeding will provide a variety of benefits to both the mother and the baby. Many women mistakenly believe that they just can't breastfeed either through inexperience or just sheer frustration. The more frustrated the mother becomes, the more agitated baby can be as well. This leads to a less than wonderful nursing experience for everyone involved.

Solving Breastfeeding Latch Problems

Breastfeeding latch problems typically cause the most frustration and pain during breastfeeding. The most common problems associated with this issue include the following:

  • Sore nipples-Even the most experienced of mothers may struggle with sore nipples, so don't give up if your nipples are uncomfortably sore during the first few weeks of nursing. To lessen the occurrence of soreness, however, it is important to encourage your baby's mouth to open as widely as possible. You can do this by tickling her lips with your nipple or your finger. Once her mouth is wide open, push your nipple and the surrounding areola into her mouth. If she only gets your nipple, put your finger in the corner of her mouth to break the suction and try again.
  • Inadequate milk-Breastfeeding latch problems can have a direct impact on the amount of milk your baby takes in as well. If she doesn't have good suction, she won't be able to compress the breast firmly enough to encourage the expression of milk. This could cause several problems, including reduced milk supply and poor weight gain for your infant.
  • Engorgement-Sore nipples are actually a minor irritation as opposed to breast engorgement. If your milk is not expressed properly, your breasts can become engorged, making it even more difficult for your baby to nurse. Engorged breasts can become so swollen that it is almost impossible for an infant to latch on correctly and with enough force to express a large supply of milk.
  • Mastitis-Once your breast becomes engorged, you run the risk of experiencing mastitis or plugged milk ducts. The best way to treat this is to have baby nurse even more on that breast, but this can be painful process. You may need to seek medical help if you begin to run a fever with this condition.

Steps to Follow

In order to head off any of these conditions, it is imperative that your baby learns how to latch on correctly. After a few weeks of proper breastfeeding, your breasts will soon toughen up, and you won't experience even the more minor condition of sore nipples. To ensure that your baby latches on correctly, do the following:

  • Encourage your infant's rooting reflex by tickling her lips or touching her cheek with your nipple or your finger.
  • Wait until her mouth is wide open before placing your nipple and the surrounding areola into her mouth. Don't try to stick only your nipple into her mouth.
  • Pull baby snuggly against you so that she fits comfortably along your body.

Signs That Baby is Latched on Correctly

How do you know if your baby is latched on correctly? Look for the following:

  • Look for the inner surfaces of her lips on your breast. You should be able to see her lips turned out, not hidden.
  • Her tongue should cover her lower gum, which can be checked by pulling out her lower lip.
  • Her cheeks should not be sunken in, which could indicate that she is having trouble sucking on the breast.
  • Her nose should be touching your breast as she suckles.

For more information about breastfeeding and latch on problems, contact your local La Leche League.

Troubleshooting Breastfeeding Latch Problems