Find out how to make sure your baby has a good latch and when it's time to wean!
Having a baby who can latch well can put a breastfeeding mom at ease. But how can you tell if your baby has latched on properly every single time you nurse? First, it's important to know what it means when your baby "latches on." Once your nipple and areola are covered by your baby's mouth and then they start to suck and draw out milk, then this is a good latch.
Next, it's vital to remember that babies are built for breastfeeding, so says Certified Lactation counselor Abbie Yabot in a previous interview. Their instincts guide them to find their mom's nipple and get milk. But difficulties can still arise later on.
To avoid this, here are some ways to establish a good latch right at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey.
1. Prepare yourself by reaching out
Do your research, attend a class, or talk with fellow moms who have experienced breastfeeding. Make an effort to gain knowledge and establish a network that can support you, should you need assistance in the future.
2. Establish where you are both most comfortable
Decide on a breastfeeding position that offers the most relaxation for you and of course, your baby. First-time breastfeeding moms usually prefer a sitting, reclined position. It makes it easier for your baby, too, as this position allows for more movement. Make sure to use pillows to prop your baby up if needed. Remember to ask your partner or any relative to help you get in position before you start.
3. Breastfeed immediately after birth
It's no secret that breastfeeding as soon as possible after bringing your baby out in the world is recommended by moms and doctors alike. It establishes a bond and offers a host of benefits for your baby. Plus, it inspires your baby to use their instincts to get a good latch early on, guided by the skin-to-skin contact and comfort of your touch.
4. Encourage your baby to find your nipple
As previously mentioned, babies have an amazing, innate skill of finding their mother's nipple, or what is know as the Rooting Reflex. Try stroking their cheek lightly and you'll see that they'll respond by turning towards the side where they're touched. You can encourage them even further by expressing milk (or colostrum) during the first few days of nursing. The smell alone will stimulate your baby's desire to feed. Remember to do what works for you both. You can try placing your baby horizontally, supporting their neck and upper back as needed.
5. Know what a good latch feels like
Do you feel a pulling sensation on your breast while feeding? Then it means your baby's getting milk successfully. If you see their temple (of their forehead) and lower jaw moving and you hear them exhaling, that means they are swallowing. If your baby's lips are protruding outward around your nipple and areola, it means you'll feel less soreness after a while.
6. Know when you're baby is having a hard time latching
It's important to remember that breast tenderness or soreness are to be expected, especially for new moms. But if your nipples start to looked cracked or if bleed after you feed, then something's not right. Pain is also one warning sign to watch out for. Reach out to a pediatrician, lactation consultant, or experienced breastfeeding mom to make sure your baby learns to latch well!
When to wean
At 6 months old, the World Health Organization recommends that solid foods be introduced to your baby's diet. You may notice that your baby will want to breastfeed less, once they experience solid foods. Breastfeeding is advised until up to two years old, but extended breastfeeding can also offer a load of benefits! The point is, it's entirely up to you!