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Latching on

Obtaining a good latch is essential for effective feeding. There are several steps that lead to a good latch:

1. First, make sure your infant is ready to feed:
  • Your infant should be awake and alert, not upset or sleeping.
  • If your infant is upset, calm her down through other methods (for example, rocking, stroking) before attempting to feed.
  • If your infant is asleep, wake her up by changing her diaper or gently rocking and speaking to her.
fussy baby

 

2. Next, make sure your partner is sitting comfortably and any obstructive clothing is removed or pushed aside:

couch breastfeeding
  • Your partner should be sitting on a supportive chair or sofa, or laying down in bed for side-lying feeding.
  • Your partner should sit up straight and can use pillows for extra support, if sitting on a sofa or chair.

 

3. When your infant appears ready to feed, help your partner support her breast. She may want to try the "sandwich hold" to help your infant grasp the breast:

  • For the sandwich hold:
  • Your partner should place her thumb on the outside of her breast, approximately 1/2 inch from the areola.
  • Your partner should place her fingers (mainly her middle finger) on the inside of her breast.
  • Her fingers should compress the breast, much like you would compress a sandwich before you take a bite.
  • The end of the breast should be compressed such that it is the same shape as the infant's mouth when partially open.

 

4. Help your partner bring your infant close to her bare breast and get him to open his mouth WIDE:

  • Encourage your partner to hold your infant skin-to-skin and chest-to-chest
  • Still using the sandwich hold, encourage your partner to bring her nipple to your infant's nose and face
  • Have your partner touch your infant's lower lip to her breast so he can feel and smell the breast.
  • Instruct your partner to wait until your infant opens his mouth VERY WIDE
  • This should look like a very big yawn
mother infant

 

5. When your infant's mouth is open wide, have your partner bring him to the breast quickly:

  • Your partner should let your infant take the breast on his own, but she should bring your infant to the breast and should support the back of his neck.
  • Help your partner use the "flipple technique" to get your infant to latch onto her breast:
  • When (and only when!) your infant opens her mouth very wide, instruct your partner to quickly place the breast on his bottom lip.
  • As your infant starts to close her mouth, your partner should flip her nipple into her mouth to allow her to latch onto a substantial portion of breast tissue.
  • Your infant should not be sucking solely on the nipple - this may cause nipple pain for your partner.

 

6. Once your infant has latched well, your partner can settle in and relax for the remainder of the feeding.

 

7. If your partner claims the latch does not feel right, elicits pain or appears to not be appropriate, help her detach your infant and try again:

  • DO NOT JUST PULL YOUR INFANT OFF OF THE BREAST!
  • Infants produce quite a bit of suction, even with a bad latch, thus just pulling your infant off of the breast can be painful.
  • Instead, slide a clean finger in between the breast and your infant's mouth to break the suction.
  • Then your infant can be removed from the breast and the attempt to latch can be repeated.

 

Some of the information on this page was adapted from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Mommy Help Handout. Follow the link to download this handout.

 

 

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