Breastfeeding: find a latching technique that works for you

Nurse and midwife Clare Byam-Cook gives her advice on how new mothers can find the best latching technique

In the last edition, I asked why our breastfeeding rates in Britain were so low and questioned whether mothers were being given the right help and advice to get breastfeeding successfully established. I mentioned two of the most common breastfeeding problems – difficulty in latching baby onto the breast and sore nipples – and now I would like to explain how you can avoid these problems and latch baby on quickly and easily, without pain.

The main reason why many mothers find it difficult to latch is because breasts come in all shapes and sizes. Large breasts with flat nipples make latching harder than small breasts with prominent nipples. In the past, midwives used to show mothers how to shape their breast to make it easier for their baby to latch on, but nowadays mothers are told that they must leave their baby to do it alone.

The current thinking is that the mother should line her baby up with his nose in front of her nipple and then wait for him to open his mouth wide and latch on of his own accord.

The problem with this is that many babies don’t open their mouths wide enough, so they either struggle to latch on at all or end up sucking on the nipple rather than on the breast – and this hurts!

When your baby is latched on correctly, his sucking should not hurt at all. Another bonus of a good latch is that it makes it easier for your baby to ‘milk’ your breast, which means he can feed more quickly and efficiently, so feeds will often become shorter.

Hopefully the technique I have offered opposite is enough to help you resolve any latching problems you might be having, but if it doesn’t work, both my books and DVD go into more detail about how to latch your baby on and how breastfeeding works. I also discuss all the questions new mothers tend to ask me, such as how you can tell whether your baby is sucking properly, when to swap breasts and how you know when your baby has had enough milk.

And if you buy only one thing…

Clare’s DVD offers invaluable, practical advice on everything from reducing the pain of sore nipples to how to swaddle and settle a baby after feeding, and everything in between.

Breastfeeding Without Tears £15.99,

Try this at home

• If the ‘nose-to-nipple’ isn’t working for you, you might like to try this simple technique which I teach my clients. This involves making your breasts smaller, rather than expecting your baby to open his mouth wider, using the same principle as trying to post a large parcel into a small letterbox – if the opening is too narrow, you have to squash the parcel to make it fit in! This is how you do it:

• Place your baby on a pillow so he is level with your breast and has his mouth (rather than his nose) in front of your nipple.

• Slide your hand underneath your breast and place the balls of your thumb and middle finger level with your nipple and on the outside of the areola at the 3 o’clock and
9 o’clock position.

• Gently squeeze your breast until your nipple protrudes.

• Brush your nipple against your baby’s lips until he opens his mouth, then bring him swiftly to the breast so you get as much areola as possible into his mouth. I call this the ‘shape-and-shove’ technique!