Latching your baby on breastfeeds can be a bit challenging. It’s important that your baby latches on correctly in order to get the most from feeding, but if they latch too shallowly or not at all, it can cause problems. This article will walk you through the different latching issues you might experience as well as some easy tips and tricks to help you fix them.
What is Shallow Latching?
When a baby latches on, they usually force the breastmilk into the back of their mouth so they can feel the latch. When they latch on, they usually latch with their lower lip, the back of their top lip, and their bottom teeth just barely touching the breast. This is called the “soft latch” and it allows the baby to get a good feel for the breast without breaking the skin. As soon as the baby begins to suck, they usually close the gap between their teeth and the breast and latch on deeper, with the top lip, top teeth, and back of their bottom teeth coming into contact with the breast. This deeper latch allows for the baby to get more milk from the breast through the lactiferous ducts and straight into the bloodstream where it can be used immediately. Any time babies can get an increase in feeding volume, they’ll be able to get more nutrients and have a healthier-looking tummy.
What are the Signs of Shallow Latching?
- Blocked gag reflex – This can often be the cause of shallow latching. When you first start to latch onto your breast, you’re stimulating your baby’s gag reflex. As soon as your baby closes the gap between their teeth and your breast, they stop stimulating this reflex and it allows them to latch. If your baby doesn’t have a strong gag reflex, they may latch on so shallowly that they can’t take enough milk to get a full feed.
- Not opening the mouth wide enough – When your baby latches on, they usually open their mouth wide to get the breast fully in. If they latch on too shallowly, they won’t be able to open their mouth wide enough, so they won’t be able to get the full amount of milk. If your baby is not opening their mouth wide enough to get all of the breast into their mouth, it can cause them to latch on too shallowly and not take enough milk from the breast.
How to Correct Shallow Latching in Breastfeeding
- Breastshields – If your baby latches on to the breast with their mouth but doesn’t take any milk from the breast, this may be because the baby is not getting any milk through the ducts. This could be because the baby is not opening their mouth wide enough to get the breast in, or because the ducts are blocked by a breastshield. A breastshield can help to correct shallow latching by giving your baby a chance to latch on properly.
- Reverse latch – If your baby is not opening their mouth wide enough or seems to be having a general problem with their latch, they may be a reverse latch. A reverse latch is when the nipple comes to a point rather than rolling or inverted-U, and the baby has a tendency to latch on too shallowly. Correcting shallow latch breastfeeding can often be achieved by using a breastshield, or by having the latch latched on with the baby’s head slightly lower than the breast. These techniques can be used to help your baby latch on deeper and take more milk from the breast.
3 Ways to Increase Deepness of Latch
- Practice makes perfect – If your baby is not latching on very deep, you can help them practice different latching techniques. Try latching your baby on with the tip of the tongue touching the roof of their mouth, and then gently applying pressure against the roof of the mouth. This is called “palate-to-tongue” latching and it allows your baby to get a good feel for the breast without breaking the skin.
- Shallow latch – Once your baby is latching on deep, try latching on with a shallow latch. This will expose your baby to the breast with a bit of skin-on-skin contact and help them get used to this.
- Shallow latch first, then deep – Another tip is to latch your baby on shallow (using the tip of the tongue method), and then, once they’re comfortable with the shallow latch, keep their head lower and try to latch them on deeper. This will help your baby get used to keeping their head lower and lowering their chin while they latch. Once they’re used to this, your breast will be exposed to the best possible level.
3 Ways to Help With Hooking Through Latch
- Keep his head lower – If your baby is latching on and then forcefully pulling their head up and off the breast, this is known as “hooking through latch”. One way to help your baby with this is to lower your breast and try to keep your baby’s head lower. This will expose the breast to a better level and allow your baby to latch on without pulling their head up.
- Reverse latch – Another way to help your baby with hooking through the latch is to check that they are a reverse latch. A forward latch means the nipple enters the mouth with the tip of the nipple facing down, and the baby tends to latch on with the nipple facing down. A reverse latch means the nipple enters the mouth with the nipple facing up, and the baby tends to latch on with the nipple facing down. If your baby is a reverse latch, this will help them latch on more deeply as it will put the nipple in a better position for better latching.
- Keep his chin lower – If your baby is latching on with their chin too high, their nipple will not be exposed well enough. Try to keep your baby’s chin lower and make sure they are keeping their chin lower while they are latching on. This will help to expose your breast better and make sure your baby’s nipple is fully exposed. If your baby is too high when they latch on, they will not get any milk and they will soon learn that this is not a good feeling.
If you are experiencing shallow latching, try using a breastshield once you start feeding and see if this helps. It may also help to practice different latch techniques on a dummy, bottle, or breast before feeding your baby. If shallow latching persists, you may want to consult with your lactation consultant to make sure that your latch is deep enough and that there are no other issues with breastfeeding. Shallow latching can be frustrating, but with a little patience, you’ll be able to correct it and get the most from feeding your baby.