Top 5 Tips to Fix a Shallow Latch
As a breastfeeding mom, you want nothing more than for your baby to latch onto the breast properly. But when it comes to shallow latching, it can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true tips that can help you get your baby to latch on deeper and create an effective seal aka the way to no-pain breastfeeding and effective milk removal to ensure you have an adequate supply!
Click here for my FREEBIE all about baby-led latching.
What is a shallow latch?
First things first, what is a shallow latch and how might you be able to spot it?
A shallow latch can occur when a baby does not open their mouth wide enough or does not position their tongue correctly to take in enough of the areola (the darker area around the nipple) when breastfeeding. This can be due to your baby’s positioning on mom, baby’s body tension, as well as tongue and lip ties.
A shallow latch can cause pain for the mother, decreased milk flow, and difficulty for the baby to effectively remove milk from the breast, which can then lead to a cascade of nipple damage and low supply issues. Click here, for my guide on navigating sore nipples. So what’s a mama to do?
Read on for my top tips on navigating a shallow latch and getting back on track.
Tip 1: Check Your Positioning
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to latch on properly, one of the first things you should do is check your positioning; both your position and the baby’s position on you. You want to make sure that your baby is in close enough proximity to your breast so that they can easily get their mouth around the nipple and areola. If they are too far away from the breast, then they won’t be able to get the proper seal necessary for effective latching.
Here are my positioning tips…
- The laid-back breastfeeding position, also known as the biological nurturing position, is a breastfeeding technique that encourages a relaxed and natural position for both the mother and the baby. In this position, the mother reclines in a comfortable chair or on a bed, with her head and shoulders supported and her back at a slight angle. The baby is placed on the mother's chest, facing the breast, think of draping your baby over your body.
- Their body weight should be fully supported and if you removed your hands, they would still be stable on your body without slipping.
- This is the Netflix and chill of breastfeeding positions and is, what I like to call, breastfeeding with training wheels.
- This won’t be the position you need to be in forever to feed your baby, but it is one of the best starting positions to help babies use all of their reflexes to effectively come to the breast.
Check out this video from Natural Breastfeeding, for quick tips for a good start.
Why is this position so great?
- This position allows the baby to initiate the breastfeeding process and find the breast on their own, which can help them establish a deeper and more comfortable latch.
- It also allows YOU to relax, which can improve milk flow and reduce the risk of tension and discomfort. All mamas can benefit from using this position, but it is particularly helpful for…
- Mamas who have had a cesarean birth
- Extra tip: draping your baby more horizontally across your body rather than vertically can help avoid your incision. It can also be helpful to cover your incision with a small towel or blanket.
- Your milk has come in and your breasts are super engorged breasts
- Extra tip: try some hand expression prior to attempting to latch your baby. Hand expression can help soften the tissue around the nipple to make latching easier. It can be very helpful when your breasts feel more like rocks and it is no small task latching to a rock.
- You are large chested mama
- Couple extra tips…support the breast if this position is feeling tricky, you can use a small pillow or rolled-up receiving blanket UNDER your breast to help your baby have stability.
Troubleshooting latching–what to check…
- Is your baby close enough to the breast? There should be no gaps between you and your baby.
- Is your baby pulled up too high? I often find mamas will need to pull their baby lower on their body before trying again.
- Is their chin tilted into the breast? If the chin is tucked into their neck and your baby’s nose is smooshed into your breast, it is time to unlatch and give it another try.
Tip 2: Get naked… no really, let skin-to-skin help you and your babe find your way.
Skin-to-skin contact helps keep babies warm, plus it gives them access to your scents and hormones, which helps calm them down! This makes it easier for your baby to find their way onto your breast correctly—and once they do, they’ll be more likely to stay put until they’ve had their fill!
Skin-to-skin is simple and makes a big difference! It can help calm your baby, regulate your milk supply, and set the stage for a positive nursing session. Simply unswaddle and undress your baby down to their diaper, remove your nursing bra or shirt, and lay your baby on your belly. You should be belly to belly with full contact. Now make your way to tip 3!
Tip 3: Waiting for a wide open mouth…
It sounds simple enough, but waiting for that perfect moment when your baby’s mouth is wide open can be a little tricky in practice. I like to try some of the following tips to help your baby open wide and help YOU take advantage of their natural reflexes. *Remember it is okay, (and very common!!), to need to unlatch your baby and have them try again.*
- Before placing the baby on the breast...
- Tickle the baby's lips with the nipple or express a little milk onto the nipple to encourage the baby to open their mouth wide. Check out our hand expression blog AND our hand expression masterclass within Boob School for more help on this one!
- Have your baby’s chin planted firmly into your breast…
- This simple positional change can make a big difference in your baby having a nice, deep latch once they do open wide.
- Letting your baby get in on the latch…
- They may seem a bit uncoordinated with their arms swinging around, BUT, letting your baby use their hands and stabilizing their feet on your body allows them to utilize their reflexes to get a deeper latch.
- Watch for signs of a good latch…
- Look for signs that the baby is latched on correctly, such as the baby's jaw moving rhythmically and the baby's cheeks appearing full. You can also listen for swallowing sounds.
Tip 4: Breast shaping…what is it and why might it be helpful
Shaping your breast before latching may provide additional support and help facilitate deeper latching by making more of the breast available for your baby to latch onto.
- Take your hand and shape the breast tissue in the direction of the baby’s latch.
- Your thumb and pointer finger should be in line with the baby’s lips as they hold your breast.
- For example: if your baby is latching in a cross-cradle position, your hand will be making a U shape to match the baby’s latch. If your baby is latching in a football position, your hand will be in a C shape shaping the breast.
- While your hands are holding your breast you can also do a breast compression. Gently, but firmly, squeeze and hold the breast as you listen for increased swallows. This can help your baby get more milk and stay more content during feeding. This is especially helpful for sleepy newborns
- Breast shaping can help a baby get more of your nipple and areola in their mouth.
- Breast compression also can increase the speed of your milk flow, which can really help a baby who is frustrated with the flow or fussy at the breast in general.
Tip 5: Offer Feeds More Frequently
For newborns, it is recommended to breastfeed every 2-3 hours, or 8-12 times in 24 hours, as they have small stomachs and need to eat frequently. As the baby grows and their stomach capacity increases, the frequency of feeds may decrease, but they will still need to feed frequently.
It's important to note that every baby is different and the frequency and duration of breastfeeding sessions will vary depending on the baby's needs. It is also important to pay attention to hunger cues, check out our blog on hunger cues and how to recognize them, here.
Feeding more frequently can help both you and baby with practicing latch, getting a deeper latch, and keeping baby content. When you can respond early to your baby’s hunger cues, (think way before you both are crying!), you will both be able to regulate better together and handle whatever comes next in the feeding session.
All in all, fixing a shallow latch doesn't have to feel like climbing Mount Everest!
With these tips, you'll hopefully be well on your way toward creating an effective seal that will ensure that both you and Baby are happy during breastfeeding sessions! Good luck, mamas!
How to get more help today…
If you are struggling with latching, in Boob School you get access to my Latched AF workshop where I lay out all my favorite latching tips.
One mom who took our latched AF program which is a part of Boob School reached out to me saying,
“I was so ready to toss in the towel (not really I was just going to keep feeding my baby while dying inside) and today’s class changed my breastfeeding game… I have now fed twice in a reclined position and the baby has fully taken control of his latch and I could cry from NOT feeling any pain!”
Breastfeeding comfortably really is possible and for some, it is as simple as getting the right education and support.
Watched the class recording and still have more questions about latching? Take your questions to our private Boob School Facebook group for community support where you can ask all your latching and any other breastfeeding question you are having. You can also reach out to a team member today for one-to-one support, here.
Cheering you on, always!!
Boob School Founder and CEO
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