Great question! There are actually several reasons why it’s important for your baby to have a good latch…
1.) Your comfort. We have all heard it. The famous line, “just push through it,” or “it’s worth it for the baby to get what they need.” Which is true and false all at the same time. It is important that your baby is getting all of those nutrients, but it’s equally important that you are comfortable while doing it. Breastfeeding should not be painful, nor should you have cracked, bruised, ultra sore, or bleeding nipples. These are usually indicators of a poor latch. You can identify a poor latch by the symptoms just mentioned, or by paying attention to how wide or narrow the baby’s mouth is on your breast. It is a myth that breastfeeding only involves the nipple in the baby’s mouth. The more tissue in the baby’s mouth, the deeper the latch. The deeper the latch, the less painful it is for you. You can encourage a deeper latch by waiting until your baby opens his mouth wide to let him come onto your breast. You can also use a technique called “nipple to nose”, where you offer your breast by beginning with the baby’s nose aligned with your nipple, this helps achieve a wider latch so that when baby opens the bottom of the lip is well below your areola. Sounds complicated, but your local lactation consultant would be more than happy to help you get started. There are several techniques to correct a shallow latch that will have you feeling better in no time.
2.) Milk Transfer. If your baby is a “nipple feeder”, they probably are not getting as much milk as you think. Are they fussy after feeding? Not gaining weight? It might be a simple fix. Try getting more breast tissue in your baby’s mouth. The milk is actually drawn out by the baby’s tongue action on the breast tissue, not the nipple itself. If your baby only has nipple in his/her mouth, she may not be drawing out as much milk as she could be.
3.) Maximizes your time. Breastfeeding takes time and commitment. So I want you to get the very most out of it. If your baby has a poor latch, she is probably asking to feed all the time. Why not get the most of each of your feedings by being sure that you have a good, deep latch. This means more milk transferred for baby (full/content baby), more comfort for you, and less time spent undressing, burping, and changing. More effective doesn’t have to mean harder, it may just mean a few adjustments for you!
Latch is hard to address on a blog. I can give you a few tips, but until I can see it and guide you in person, it isn’t the easiest correction. Don’t let this discourage you. There are so many resources for you. If you are local, feel free to contact me. Or, there is always the option of contacting a peer counselor through WIC or the LaLeche League. Please do me a favor though. Don’t be in pain while breastfeeding. You have enough on your plate as it is, bleeding nipples or dreading every feed doesn’t have to be one of them!