What is a proper latch on position for breastfeeding?
Mothers generally breastfeed their babies 8-12 times a day, for 10-30 minutes each time. This means that it is important for the mother to be able to feel relaxed in a stress-free environment so that she can continue to breastfeed.
Holding your baby appropriately (positioning) and helping your baby suck on the nipple (latch on) are very important for smooth breastfeeding. Appropriate positioning and latching on will help prevent various problems and reduce risks, will help the baby drink breastmilk effectively and will reduce stress on the mother's breasts. Here we will introduce specific tips for breastfeeding.
How to help your baby latch on to your nipple
“Latch-on” means the way the baby attaches to the nipple and breast for the purpose of breastfeeding. Proper positioning is key for effective latch on so that the baby can get enough breastmilk.
First take a look at how the baby latches on to mother's breast and how the baby is breastfed.
When being breastfed, a baby moves mouth and tongue in a different way from that of an adult when drinking something through a straw. It is called “peristaltic movement”, and derives from innate sucking reflex movements.
A newborn baby also has a round dent in the center of the upper jaw, called the “sucking fossa.” This dent appears during the specific period of time when the baby is breastfeeding; the nipple is held between the dent and the thick fat layer inside the cheek. The sucking fossa disappears by itself when the baby is done with breastfeeding. In other words, the mouth and tongue of a human baby is innately and elaborately developed for the purpose of breastfeeding.
The peristaltic movement causes negative pressure, which pulls the breastmilk out through the nipple. The tongue moves in a wave-like motion (peristaltic movement) that passes from the tip of the tongue to the root of the tongue in about 0.7 seconds.
*Pigeon was the first in the world to explain the mechanics of this special muscle contraction in infants, using an intra-oral camera.
Help your baby latch on properly to take full advantage of this peristaltic movement that the baby is born with.
Follow these steps for guidance:
1) Position the baby so that the baby's nose faces the nipple. The baby’s lower jaw should be touching the bottom of the areola.
2) Touch the baby's lips with a nipple or areola to stimulate the searching reflex. Wait until the baby opens the mouth, and move the baby closer to the nipple.
3) The part of the areola next to the baby's lower jaw enters the baby's mouth first. Check to see if the baby has firmly latched on to the nipple.
4) Your baby will usually leave the nipple when he or she has had enough milk, but sometimes not. If that happens, slide your finger into the side of the baby's mouth to break the seal and stop the baby from sucking.
See image for reference of a proper latch on:
Signs that a baby is attached for effective suckling or a good latch:
- The baby's mouth is open wide
- The baby's chin is touching the breast
- The baby's lower lip is curled outward
- The baby suckles, pauses and then suckles again in slow deep sucks
- The mother may hear the baby swallowing
(Source: World Health Organization (WHO)
Signs of a poor latch:
- Baby’s mouth is barely open.
- Baby’s tongue is behind the lower gum.
- Baby’s lips are curled in.
- Baby’s chin barely touches your breast.
Latch on timing
The waking states that are best for latching on are said to be phases 3-5 of Brazelton’s newborn awareness levels.
- Phase 1: Deep sleep
- Phase 2: Shallow sleep
- Phase 3: Slumber
- Phase 4: Calmly awake
- Phase 5: Actively awake
- Phase 6: Crying
It is also said that babies give the following signals when they are ready to breastfeed:
- Wiggling the body
- Bringing the hands to mouth and face
- Moving the mouth in a sucking motion, etc.
（Source：Brazelton, T. B. (Tomitaro Akiyama, supv., Chisato Kawasaki, trans.), "Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, Ver. 3," Ishiyaku Pub, Inc., 1998 ）
Some mothers also take the following action when breastfeeding.
Because the mother’s clothes can cover the baby’s face and prevent the baby from latching on, the mothers use rubber bands or hair clips to fasten their clothing back.
We hope that both mother and baby will find positions for breastfeeding that are comfortable for them.