How to get a deep latch

If you’ve read my previous blog you’ll know the importance of a deep latch… but how do you actually get it?

To start with…

Look for early feeding cues. 

Crying, right? Nope, a baby stirring in their sleep is the first sign you should be grabbing your water bottle, snack, phone and finding a seat. By the time they are crying, we’re at a late feeding cue and you’ll probably need to calm them first. Generally speaking, chomping hands, bobbing their head are the middle of the road signs you need to react to. 

There are two vague paths to getting a deep latch. I know, I know, it’s never simple with newborns. Sometimes we just want to be told to do this and, bosh, we’re there! Well, I guess we all eat in different ways, so you and your baby need to find the way that suits both of your needs. But which way do you find easiest with the best results?

Laid back breastfeeding for a deep latch

Laid back breastfeeding is kind of what mother nature intended for our babies. It’s the technique which uses the least effort. For real life demonstrations, I love Nancy Mohrbacher on YouTube. 

But allow me to give you the theory:

You need to recline back around 45 degrees – think chilling on the sofa, legs up sort of pose. Make sure you have loads of pillows to support under your arms. 

Your baby is then placed tummy side down on to you. They can be draped over the side of you which is good if you’ve had a caesarean, or running up your tummy. 

Place them just below your nipple, or in your cleavage and give them time to bob and push up towards your areola and nipple. The key to this is patience. 

Your baby needs to have the option to push their feet down into something. This could be your tummy or the tops of your thighs, or if they are draped over the side of you, a cushion or someone’s hand. The pushing down through their feet elicits them to tilt their head back and open their mouth – the key way to get a deep latch. 

If they are bobbing like mad and getting frustrated, you could help them by shaping your breast. a c-shaped hand on your breast if they are coming up your body, and a u-shaped hand if they are coming at your boob sideways.

What if I had larger boobs?

If you have bigger boobs you may need to scoot your hips forward a bit more to help your baby latch – the angle at which you are leaning back may need to be larger. Remember, they are meant to be doing the work in this position and your body is supposed to help them.

Have your nipples and areolas darkened and become bigger during pregnancy? Well, this acts as a bullseye for your little ones to know where to bob over to. Also, you know those pinhead lumps on your areola (the flat dark bit)? Well they secrete an oil that we’re unaware of, but that oil is an anti-bacterial, so there’s no need to wipe or clean your boobs prior to a feed. It also smells like your amniotic fluid, so they smell their way over to a safe, familiar, warm area. I know, it’s so clever!

Getting a deep latch is both a science and an art.

Parent-led technique to get a deep latch

What if you want to do a more parent led technique? 

To start with, get comfy and into a more upright position with pillows supporting your back and even some bed pillows to put under your baby’s weight once they are attached. Your baby needs to be squashed into your body as close as possible. For example, if you are in a cross-cradle position, their bottom should be right under your elbow, every inch of them touching you. 

Great,we’ve got that. Now, where do you place your hands? Well, no hands on their head – any pressure on their head will make them think they are going to have their nose covered and it can get in the way of them tilting their head back. Your hand is going to go around the tops of their shoulders and your fingers under their ear will hold the weight of their head. For those in the cross-cradle position, you’re going to use the opposite arm to the breast you’re feeding from to hold your baby, If you’re in the rugby position, you will use the same arm to the breast you’re feeding from, but they’re sort of under your armpit.

Next, bring them nipple to nose. This means they can’t reach your nipple with their mouth, so they tilt their head back and gape their mouth open, as if to say ‘yup I want that’. I know how tempting it is to see an open mouth and quickly shove your nipple in their mouth but resist! Your nipple will just sit in the centre of their mouth, being squashed between their strong tongue and the hard roof of their mouth. Remember, we want loads of breast tissue in their mouth so it can get to that lovely soft spot at the back of their palette. 

At this point, we’re going to move quickly. Bring them to your breast, with their chin leading the way. Their chin hits the breast first then their top lip comes second. I always say, bosh – move in quickly – meaning their chin and finally, top lip rolls on second. This technique can be used for all positions, cross cradle, rugby (football), koala, side lying etc. Once they are on and you feel, yup that was a bit sore the first 30 seconds but now it’s good, no pain, no pinching, then put some pillows under your baby’s body to support their weight. Then, consider reclining further back so your body takes some of their weight.

Final thoughts…

Remember, you are bringing your baby to you, not the other way round. If your shoulders and or neck start to ache, just think about your positioning. Make sure you are comfortable before feeding, keep your shoulders down and relaxed. We get tense and wear our shoulders around our ears. Remember to breathe and relax them down. You can do this!