Your breastfeeding journey isn’t marred just because you’re struggling with a shallow breastfeeding latch. First, take a deep breath. A million thoughts are racing through your head about hurting your bond with your baby, depleting your milk supply, and failing to give your baby enough calories. Many mothers have been here before. Most have figured out how to correct a shallow latch to continue with fulfilling, joyful breastfeeding journeys. All mothers deserve to know that options exist for how to correct a shallow latch.
It’s also essential to remind mothers that breastfeeding is a skill that can take some time to master as you connect with your baby. Will shallow latch affect milk supply? This is a common question that mothers have when dealing with a shallow breastfeeding latch. Nutrition is definitely something for new moms to have on their minds if they’re struggling with getting a good latch. Take a look at some tips for boosting a baby’s latch!
What Is A Latch?
The latch simply refers to the way a baby fastens to the breast during breastfeeding. Ideally, you want to get a tight, deep latch that allows milk to flow correctly for good nutrition. A good latch is also simply more comfortable for both baby and mother. So how do you know if your milk latch is good? These are the signs of a good latch shared by the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- The latch feels comfortable and free of pain for the mother.
- You’ll notice that the baby’s chest and stomach are resting against your body in a very natural way. The baby’s head should also be straight without any side turning.
- The baby’s chin is touching your breast.
- This one is the most important! Your baby’s mouth should open widely around the breast instead of just covering the nipple.
- You’ll notice that baby’s lips turn outward. This is often called “fish lips.” It’s a great sign!
- You should be able to observe the baby’s tongue cupping under your breast.
- Your baby seems full and content following a feeding.
You can also observe milk flow by watching your baby’s movements to confirm that your latch is secure. Babies who are latching securely will often move their ears slightly as they take in milk. In addition, you will often hear or see signs of consistent swallowing as the milk transfers to the baby. In the long term, healthy weight gain in your baby is a sign that there’s a healthy latch.
What Is a Shallow Breastfeeding Latch?
The opposite of a secure breastfeeding latch is a shallow breastfeeding latch. This simply means that the baby is not covering enough of your breast to produce the suckling needed to take in adequate amounts of milk. It can be frustrating for both baby and mother. Here are the signs of a shallow latch:
- You can feel and see that your baby is only latching onto your nipple. Most of your areola is still visible.
- You can visibly see your baby’s cheeks vigorously “sucking” while trying to extract milk.
- You might hear your baby’s lips “smacking” instead of “gulping.”
- Baby’s lips are tightly curled instead of forming the “fish mouth.”
- You feel pain and burning in your nipples during feedings.
- Your nipples are sore, dry, inflamed, or cracked after feedings.
- Your baby may also act fussy and hungry even though you are offering the breast regularly. A long-term sign of a poor latch is a lack of proper weight gain in your baby. Your baby may even drop weight after coming home from delivery. A lack of wet diapers is also a telltale sign that baby is not getting enough milk due to a poor latch.
Will Shallow Latch Affect Milk Supply?
A good latch is so important because it helps to establish milk supply! In addition to creating a frustrating lack of proper nutrition for a hungry baby today, a poor latch can set you up for a reduced milk supply in the weeks to come. Will shallow latch affect milk supply? Unfortunately, a poor latch harms milk production. When a baby has a good latch, it can suck more effectively. This helps to empty the breast during each feeding to send the signal to your body to produce milk. This allows mom and baby to build up an excellent supply-and-demand relationship.
A good latch also prevents painful chafing that can make it difficult to continue with breastfeeding. There’s also an increased risk for painful issues like clogged milk ducts and mastitis when a baby is not drinking to completion. Sore, inflamed nipples can make it very difficult to continue the breastfeeding journey comfortably. Spotting a shallow latch before it causes pain is vital for preserving the breastfeeding relationship.
Remember that a shallow latch is not a sign of failure! You should never view latching difficulty as a sign that you’re doing something wrong. Additionally, your baby isn’t behind simply because there’s a struggle to latch. Learning how to latch is a big lesson for babies and moms that requires skill and patience.
How to Correct a Shallow Latch
There are many options for how to correct a shallow latch! Here are 3 of them:
1. Reach Out For Help
First, reach out for help if you’re struggling with breastfeeding. There’s no need to struggle in silence. Pediatricians and lactation consultants provide resources for getting through the learning curve for breastfeeding.
Second, suppose you’re concerned that a poor latch is causing your baby to lose weight. In that case, you should reach out to your pediatrician right away to assess any nutritional concerns. While the breastfeeding bond is essential, your baby’s primary need is getting in the nutrients that are so essential during this critical time of rapid growth and development.
2. Experiment With Different Techniques
You can also try some simple techniques for how to correct a shallow latch from the comfort of home. Understanding what a proper latch should look like helps many mothers get into the proper position for better flow. In some cases, different feeding positions can provide the “magic button” for getting on the same page with the baby during feedings. Take a look at some simple techniques for how to correct a shallow latch for moms to try:
- Start by making sure your baby’s nose is directly across from your nipple at the start of a feeding. It’s actually a misconception that the mouth should be across from the nipple because the nose-to-nipple position sets things in motion for a deeper latch.
- Learn the latching “sweet spot” that occurs just as your baby is opening its mouth as wide as possible for latching. Then, you should actually allow your baby to “root” around for a bit. While it’s tempting to initiate a latch at the first sign of your baby’s mouth opening up, you’ll actually get a better latch if you wait for that deeper opening.
- Observe that your baby seems comfortable without any signs of twisting. When breastfeeding, a baby’s visible ear, shoulder, and hip should all make a straight line!
- Don’t be afraid to try again. If your baby’s latch only captures your nipple, start over by gently breaking the seal with your finger.
- Help your baby to latch by having the breast make contact with the lower lip first. This allows the baby to capture more of the breast when compared to latching on using the top lip.
- If your baby is struggling to get its mouth over the entire nipple, don’t be afraid to compress your breast by cupping it. This can help to direct your baby into a proper latch.
3. Set The Right Environment
Setting the right tone is beneficial for encouraging a good latch. When it’s time to breastfeed, WIC suggests considering a shift to a quiet area without noises or distractions. This helps both of you to feel entirely at ease. Next, consider undressing for skin-to-skin contact during feedings. Research shows early skin-to-skin contact supports both the establishment and maintenance of breastfeeding.
The Best Breastfeeding Position for Shallow Latch
When learning how to correct a shallow latch, positioning can be crucial. Yes, some babies seem to be able to latch easily with any position. However, many mothers struggling with a shallow breastfeeding latch find that being conscious about getting into the correct alignment before offering the breast, works wonders.
So what is the best breastfeeding position for shallow latch?
The Cradle Hold
Mothers have a few options to choose from. The most common one is something called the cradle hold. With this position, you’re supporting the baby with the arm that’s on the same side as the breast you’re using for the feeding. Your baby’s stomach will be touching yours instead of facing upward. Here’s how to get into the cradle position for the right side using guidelines from WIC Breastfeeding Support:
- Let the baby rest on their left side across your lap. They should be facing you at the nipple level.
- Baby’s arm will be resting on your forearm. Meanwhile, the baby’s back should be lined up along your inner arm and palm.
- Gently turn baby’s tummy toward yours.
- This leaves your left hand free to support your breast if you need to cup the nipple to provide better access for your baby to latch.
- If necessary, use pillows to support your arm and elbow. Remember to bring the baby closer to you instead of leaning down toward the baby when adjusting.
- You will simply reverse sides when it’s time to breastfeed using the left breast.
Many people consider this to be the best breastfeeding position for shallow latch.
The Laid-Back Position
Another option to try is something called the laid-back position. With this position, you’re reclining fully on a bed with your head propped up. Simply provide support to the baby’s neck while the baby roots. Then, you can gently guide the baby toward your nipple when you notice the mouth opening for the latch! Don’t be surprised if finding the right position turns out to be the secret for how to correct a shallow latch!
How To Correct A Shallow Latch: To Sum It Up
Learning how to correct a shallow latch is a journey.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not getting a perfect latch from the first feeding. A shallow breastfeeding latch is not a sign that you’re doing something wrong. While it’s important to reach out for help if you’re struggling with a shallow breastfeeding latch to avoid low milk supply and nipple pain, you can also try the techniques shared above to make some progress on your own. The last thing to remember is that you can still enjoy bonding and beauty in every moment, even if you’re unable to figure out how to correct a shallow latch immediately!