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Breastfeeding: What a Good Latch Feels Like

If you're getting ready to have your first baby, it's natural to wonder not only about how breastfeeding and latching should work but also how they should feel. It's important to have an understanding of what a good latch should feel like so when the time comes for you to begin breastfeeding, you'll have a better sense of whether your baby is latching properly.

So what should a good latch feel like? First and foremost, there should be no pain or pinching. You should feel a gentle tugging at your breast as the baby sucks, but that's all.

If you're experiencing some pain in your nipples, especially during the first few days after giving birth, don't worry—it's quite common. Sore nipples are often caused by a poor latch. If you adjust and practice latch techniques, the pain often disappears in a few days.

While that's true, some women who are correctly latching their babies also experience nipple pain. Why is that? It's because some women's breasts don't adapt as well when they're suddenly nursed on 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Just as each woman has a different pregnancy experience, and then a different experience with each child, each one's body responds differently to breastfeeding.

Your goal is to get to the point where all you feel is the pleasant sensation of your baby gently sucking at your breast and lovingly gazing into your eyes. Try the following suggestions if you're feeling more than a little discomfort, or if that discomfort lasts beyond the first few days:

  • DO Re-Latch. If you have pain from the outset of your baby latching on, try again. Gently put your finger in the corner of your baby's mouth to break the seal between her mouth and your breast, pull her off your breast and try re-latching, ensuring that her lower lip is well below your nipple and close to the border of your areola, and that she isn't sucking in her lips, so her lips are visibly curled outward on your breast and not inward.
  • DO Give yourself a Few Days. While nipple pain is a nuisance, it can part of the learning curve, and as you and your baby learn to latch properly the pain should go away.
  • DON'T be a Martyr. If your breast/nipple pain lasts longer than a few days or if you have raw and bleeding nipples, it's OK to take a break and follow the care plan for sore nipples
  • DON'T "Prepare" your Breasts for Nursing. Some old wives' tales say to rub each nipple with a towel to toughen your breasts. All that does is cause unnecessary pain and decrease your nipple sensitivity, which is something that plays a major role in let-down.

Tips for success

  • Don't be afraid to re-latch, several times if you need to, if you're having pain from the outset of nursing.
  • You and your baby will know a good latch when you have one. You'll feel a gentle, pain-free tugging and your baby will get more milk.
  • Some nipple pain in the first few days of breastfeeding can be normal. Prolonged or excruciating pain and bleeding nipples isn't normal but can be solved by following a care plan for a few days. You'll be back on track in no time.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)