August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and in celebration, we will be doing a special series of blog posts looking at the five most common questions our staff Certified Lactation Counselor Shira Bills receives. Breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it may seem and many new moms have questions but are afraid to ask. Shira is available to answer those questions and help with any fears or concerns you might have.
In the days leading up to the birth of a child one question which is on many mothers minds is:
Will The Baby Know How To Latch?
The short answer to this question is yes, your baby will most likely know how to latch. Infants begin swallowing and sucking while still in the womb and the rooting reflex is already active when they are born. These behaviors combine to lead the baby to latch on the breast soon after birth.
The long answer is that while most babies have the skills needed to latch it can sometimes be complicated to put them all together. A good latch is seen when the baby takes the entirety of the nipple and areola (the pigmented area surrounding the nipple) into their mouth. If the baby is taking in only the nipple this can cause pain during feeding for the mother and a lower supply of milk for the child. A Certified Lactation Consultant can help mothers to improve their latch and make feeding easier. Even if a latch is unsuccessful in the first attempts, with adjustments mothers and babies can be successful at breastfeeding.
One of the ways we can see that babies know instinctively how to latch is during skin-to-skin in the first hour after birth. Skin-to-skin is great for helping regulate a baby’s temperature, breathing, blood sugar and heart rate. It also works to initiate strong breastfeeding. One of the baby’s strongest senses is their sense of smell and they are able to sniff out the breast and recognize mom right after birth. Colostrum (the very first milk) smells like the amniotic fluid which is a familiar smell for baby and helps with infant finding mothers breast.
- Bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby. This will help to ensure proper positioning of the baby as well as eliminate back and neck strain for mom.
- Bring the nipple to the nose or upper lip rather than to the center of the mouth.
- Allow baby to open wide and place more breast/areola in mouth
- Baby should not only have the nipple in the mouth if so, break the latch and attempt again. If the baby is latched incorrectly gently use a finger at the corner of the mouth to release the suction – don’t just pull the nipple out.
- An asymmetric latch is best
- Keep the baby tummy-to-tummy with mom.
- Try different positions and holds.