how to fix a shallow latch

How to Fix a Shallow Latch in 8 Simple Steps

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Want to know how to fix a shallow latch? Having a proper latch when breastfeeding isn’t just about comfort; it’s integral to the success of your breastfeeding journey. A shallow latch can lead to sore nipples and an underfed baby, making those calm, bonding moments a bit stressful. But don’t worry, adjusting your little one to latch on correctly can often be a quick fix away.

If you’ve been experiencing pain during breastfeeding or your baby seems unsatisfied, it might be time to take a closer look at how they’re latching on.

What does ‘The Perfect Latch’ mean and why is it important?

The perfect latch is less about some unrealistic ideal and more about comfort and efficiency for you and your baby. When your little one has a deep latch, they’re not just nibbling on the nipple but drawing in lots of breast tissue so their little chin presses against your skin and their nose is clear, allowing comfortable breathing. This means your baby’s mouth covers more of the areola, not just the nipple – after all, it’s called ‘breastfeeding’ not ‘nipple feeding’.

Here’s what a good latch looks like:

  • Your baby’s lips should be flared out like a flower petal, not tucked in.

  • Their chin firmly touches your breast, but the nose is clear—no squishing involved!

  • You’ll notice rhythmic sucking and hear soft swallowing without any clicking or smacking noises.

Why a good latch matters:

  • Better breast milk flow: Your baby can drink more easily, and you’re able to maintain a healthy milk supply.

  • Comfort for you both: It can prevent sore nipples (ouch!) and ensure your baby is feeding effectively not gobbling up air (which can make them gassy).

  • More skin to skin contact: This closeness can boost bonding and provide your baby with a sense of security.

By getting it right, you’re setting the stage for a smoother breastfeeding journey. Less discomfort for you, more yummy milk for your baby, and those quiet, close moments that make it all worth it.

How to fix a shallow latch

baby with a deep latch on the breast

Fixing a shallow latch can make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and help ensure your baby is getting enough milk. The right approach can transform your nursing experience into a smoother one.

Step #1: Unlatch your baby

A shallow latch is best fixed by just starting again. If your baby is latched on shallowly, gently insert your finger into the corner of their mouth to break the suction. Then, try latching again. This may take several attempts, but patience is key to helping your baby latch on properly. Your baby will probably protest but this is a necessary step to achieve a deeper latch. Don’t try to fix a poor latch with your baby still attached at the nipple. Your baby may pull off the breast and attempt to relatch themselves.

Step #2: Position your baby correctly

Your baby’s position is key for a successful latch. Ensure their head, neck, and spine are in a straight line, and bring their body close to you, tummy to tummy is best. For the cross cradle position, support your baby’s head with the hand opposite to the breast you’re nursing from. In a football hold, tuck your baby under your arm like you would carry a football, supporting their head and neck with your hand.

Step #3: Make a C or U shape with your hand

Support your breast by forming a U or C shape with your hand ensuring your hand is well clear of the areola and nipple. This can help in guiding more of your breast tissue into your baby’s mouth to achieve a deeper latch.

Step #4: Encourage a big mouthful of breast

Wait until your baby opens their mouth wide before attempting to latch. You want them to take as much of the breast into their mouth as possible, not just the nipple, leading to a deeper and more comfortable latch. Hold your baby close to your breast, nose-to-nipple, allowing them to tilt their head back slightly. This helps the baby open their mouth wide. Stimulate your baby’s rooting reflex by brushing your nipple against their upper lip. Wait until your baby opens their mouth wide, like a yawn.

Step #5: Guide your baby’s mouth to your nipple

Quickly but gently bring your baby to your breast (not breast to baby) aiming for the nipple to go towards the roof of their mouth.

Step #6: Ensure a large portion of areola is in the mouth

Aim for your baby to take in a large portion of the areola, especially the part underneath the nipple. The baby’s lips should be flanged outward, like a fish.

Step #7: Check your baby’s position:

Your baby’s chin should be pressed into your breast, with their nose free to breathe. If needed, adjust your baby’s position gently to achieve this.

Step #8: Look for signs of a good and effective latch:

Check for rhythmic sucking and swallowing. You should feel a tugging sensation but not pain. Your baby’s cheeks should be full, not sucked in.

Additional tips to achieve a deep latch:

  • Practice skin-to-skin: Holding your baby skin-to-skin can help improve the latching process. Skin-to-skin contact before feeding encourages your baby’s natural instinct to latch and can lead to a more intuitive feeding session.

  • Try the ‘Flipple Technique’: The ‘Flipple’ or ‘exaggerated latch’ technique involves flipping your nipple upwards as your baby opens their mouth, encouraging them to take a bigger mouthful of breast. This can often lead to a more secure and deep latch.

  • Stay calm and patient: It might take several tries to get a deep latch. Patience and persistence are key.

  • Use breastfeeding support: Consider seeking help from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding coach if you encounter difficulties.

  • Keep hydrated and comfortable: Ensure you are comfortable and have plenty of water and snacks nearby, as breastfeeding can be demanding.

Signs of a shallow latch

a baby with a shallow latch

When you’re getting the hang of breastfeeding, spotting a shallow latch early can help you and your little one enjoy more comfortable nursing sessions.

  • Nipple pain: If you’re feeling more than just initial nipple discomfort and the pain lingers or gets worse after a feed, your newborn might be latched shallowly. The nipples could even look pinched, compressed, or misshapen.

  • Slow milk flow: Slow or interrupted milk flow could be a sign that your baby isn’t latched deeply enough to stimulate let-down effectively.

  • Latching technique: If your baby’s latch looks more like they’re sucking on the tip of the nipple rather than taking in a good portion of the breast, that’s a shallow latch.

  • Clicking sounds: Instead of hearing the rhythmic sound of swallowing, there might be a clicking or smacking sound which suggests the latch isn’t deep enough.

  • Poor weight gain: Poor latch can mean poor milk transfer so your baby may not gain weight as expected or even lose weight.

  • Fussy at the breast: Babies with a shallow latch might be fussier at the breast because they’re not getting enough milk and are not satisfied after feeds.

Why does my baby have a shallow latch?

Let’s look at why your little one might not be latching on deeply enough and how this can affect breastfeeding.

a baby upset at the breast dues to shallow latch
  1. Incorrect positioning:

    • Your baby might not be positioned properly against the breast. Their body should be facing the mother’s body completely, and your baby’s nose should align with the nipple for an optimal latch.

  2. Tight frenulum (tongue-tie or lip-tie):

    • Some babies have a tongue-tie or lip-tie, where the frenulum (the membrane under the tongue or upper lip) restricts movement. This can prevent a deep latch.

  3. Baby’s hunger cues misunderstood:

    • Misinterpreting feeding cues can lead to offering the breast too late, making the baby frantic and less able to latch deeply.

  4. Nipple confusion:

    • Babies who have been bottle-fed may develop a preference for the bottle’s nipple, which requires a different sucking mechanism than breastfeeding.

  5. Overactive letdown or engorgement:

    • An overactive letdown (strong milk flow) can overwhelm the baby, leading to shallow latching.

    • Engorgement (overfull breasts) makes it difficult for the baby to latch deeply.

  6. Flat or inverted nipples:

    • Flat or inverted nipples can make it difficult for a baby to draw the nipple and areola into their mouth deeply.

  7. Baby’s oral motor dysfunction:

    • Some babies may have difficulties due to oral motor issues, making it hard to sustain a deep latch.

  8. Prematurity or low muscle tone:

    • Babies born prematurely or with low muscle tone may have weak sucking reflexes and struggle with a proper latch.

  9. Breastfeeding pain or injury:

    • If the mother experiences pain due to cracked or sore nipples, she may limit the time spent breastfeeding, leading to shallow latching.

If you’re encountering ongoing issues or feeling unsure about the latch, reaching out to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding coach can be a great move. They can offer guidance tailored to your unique situation, ensuring both you and your baby find your way to comfortable, effective nursing.

Fixing a shallow latch FAQ’s

Bring baby’s chin to your breast, align baby’s neck, and help your baby to open wide, ensuring the baby takes enough breast tissue.

A shallow latch may prevent successful breastfeeding, as the baby may not get enough milk, leading to difficulties in latching properly.

A shallow latch can be uncomfortable for mom and may affect milk transfer. Many babies need assistance from lactation consultants to get a good latch.

Older babies often improve their latching as their mouths grow, allowing a wide gape. In person support from lactation consultants can help.

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