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Breastfeeding your Child Effectively

Improving Your Baby's Latch and Suckle

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Updated December 30, 2009

Latching

  • Now, get the baby to open up his mouth wide. The way to do this is to run your nipple, still pointing to the roof of the baby's mouth, along the baby's upper lip, lightly, from one corner of the mouth to the other. Or you can run the baby along your nipple, something some mothers find easier. Wait for the baby to open up as if yawning. WAIT FOR HIM. As you bring the baby toward the breast, his chin should touch your breast first. Do not bring him around so that the nipple points to the middle of his mouth, but rather to the roof of his mouth.
  • When the baby opens up his mouth, use the arm that is holding him to bring him onto the breast. Don't worry about the baby's breathing. If he is properly positioned and latched on, he will breathe without any problem. If he cannot breathe, he will pull away from the breast. Don't be afraid to be vigorous.
  • If the nipple still hurts, use your index finger to pull down on the baby's chin in order to bring the lower lip out. You may have to do this for the duration of the feed, but this is usually not necessary.
  • The same principles apply whether you are sitting or lying down with the baby or using the football hold. Get the baby to open wide, don't let the baby latch onto the nipple, but get as much of the areola (brown part of breast) into the mouth as possible (not necessarily the whole areola).
  • There is no "normal" length of feeding time.
  • A baby properly latched on will be covering more of the areola with his lower lip than with the upper lip.

Improving the baby's suckle

The baby learns to suckle properly by nursing and by getting milk into his mouth. The baby's suckle may be made ineffective or not appropriate for breastfeeding by the early use of artificial nipples or from poor latching on from the beginning. Some babies just seem to take their time developing an effective suckle. Suck training and/or finger feeding (topic #9 Finger Feeding) may help.

"My nipple turns white after the baby comes off the breast"

The pain associated with this blanching of the nipple is frequently described by mothers as "burning", but generally begins only after the feeding is over. It may last several minutes or more, after which the nipple returns to its normal colour, but then a new pain develops which is usually described by mothers as "throbbing". The throbbing part of the pain may last for seconds or minutes and may even blanch again. The cause would seem to be a spasm of the blood vessels in the nipple (when the nipple is white), followed by relaxation of these blood vessels (when the nipple returns to its normal colour). Sometimes this pain continues even after the nipple pain during the feeding no longer is a problem, so that the mother has pain only after the feeding, but not during it. What can be done?

  • Pay careful attention to getting the baby to latch onto the breast properly. This type of pain is almost always associated with, and probably caused by whatever is causing your pain during the feeding. The best treatment is the treatment of the other causes of nipple pain.
  • Heat (hot washcloth, hot water bottle, hair dryer) applied to the nipple immediately after nursing may prevent or decrease the reaction. Dry heat is usually better than wet heat, because wet heat may cause further damage to the nipples.
  • On occasion, we have had to use a medicated paste (nitroglycerine) or an oral medication (nifedipine) to prevent this type of reaction. Vitamin B6 can also be used [see topic Treatments for Problems II].
Related Video
Latch Positioning and Breastfeeding
Getting Children on the Road to a Good Night's Sleep

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