Proper Deep Latch = Comfortable and Effective
We know that a latch is effective if the baby is making his adequate number of diapers for his day of life, he is gaining five to seven ounces a week, he nurses eight to 12 times per 24 hours, and he seems satisfied after breastfeeding.
We know a latch is comfortable if it feels like a strong tug, not a pinch and not toe-curling pain.
How your latch feels and how well it works is much more important than how your latch looks.
If your latch is not comfortable and/or not effective, let’s first try to practice some strategies to get a deep latch. If none of this information works, there are strategies to manage “when you can’t get a deep latch” at the end. Also be sure to check out the videos below for visual aids in getting a deep latch.
Start with positioning.
When you are first starting out on your breastfeeding journey, working on doing one position on each breast really well rather than knowing all the positions poorly.
Dominant hand latching:
Stick to dominant-hand latching. That means if you are right handed, you will latch cross cradle on your left breast and football on your right breast. If you are left handed, you will latch cross cradle on your right breast and football on your left breast. When latching, it is very important to move the baby, not the boob. Whatever your dominant hand is holding is what you will move, so if your boob is in your dominant hand, you will end up moving your boob, but your boob is attached to your body. It can only go so far. Your baby, though, is much easier to maneuver. Also, whatever is in your dominant hand is what you will have a more confident grip on, and you want to have a better grip on the baby. Try it. Hold your baby in your dominant hand (just use your dominant hand—don’t use two hands). Now hold the baby in just your non-dominant hand. Which feels better?
A proper pillow is key:
In the beginning, use the (Brest Friend) pillow always. You need the added structure and support. Don’t worry about how you will ever nurse without the pillow. You will get there. I promise. For now, just be kind to your neck and back and use the (Brest Friend) pillow. If you only have a Boppy pillow, try rolling a blanket or towel into a long cylindrical tube and sticking it in the “Boppy ditch” so there is no gap between your belly and the pillow.
Two position options:
- Turn your Brest Friend pillow to the side. Be sure there is space for baby’s feet behind you. Newborn babies have a fun little stepping reflex that will cause them to push off of anything that touches their feet.
- Grip your baby in your dominant hand. Put the heel of your hand on baby’s should blades, your fingertips on baby’s temple. Make sure baby’s body is turned into yours and her butt tucked tight.
- Letting your breast hang, move the baby back until the nipple naturally aligns with her nose.
In football, baby should not be lying on her back with a big heavy boob on her chest. She should not be curled into a crunch position or half sitting up.
- Keep your Brest Friend in front of you like a TV tray.
- Grip your baby in your dominant hand. Put the heel of your hand on baby’s should blades, your fingertips on baby’s temple. Make sure baby’s body is turned into yours and his butt tucked tight.
- Letting your breast hang, move the baby back until the nipple naturally aligns with his nose.
In cross cradle, baby should not be laying on his back and turning his head toward you to latch on. Yes, cross cradle and football are almost exactly the same positioning technique. Nice, huh?
Now work on latching.
The best way to explain a deep latch is with a really good video instruction. You can find that for free in the Academy,
When you can’t seem to get a deep latch, no matter how hard you try:
If you cannot get a deep latch (by which we mean a comfortable latch), then things are about to get a little trickier—i.e., “we might not be able to fix this with the Internet” kind of tricky.
First things first: Have you contacted a few lactation consultants in your area? Did you make sure the one you picked is a good one?
Okay, in the meantime, we need to be smart here. If every time you are latching, you cannot get a deep latch and you know your nipples are being damaged, it would be wise to not continue to allow that damage to progress.
If you cannot get a comfortable latch:
- Try a nipple shield.
- Pump in place of breastfeeding to give your nipples a rest.
- Up your nipple care game and ask for better nipple cream.
- Consider the possibility that baby has a dysfunctional suck.
- Consider the possibility that your boobs and/or nipples are getting new architecture.
If you cannot get an effective latch: