How do I latch my newborn?

This is a post for mothers starting out on their breastfeeding journey. "How do I latch my newborn properly?" This is one of the most common question that I get from new moms. In my own experience, I "read" about it online, saw some pictures and saw some more pictures during my antenatal class but nothing prepared me for the real thing. I ended up experiencing one of life's most excruciating physical pains due to cracked nipples.

It was really painful and I would dread every time I latched my boy and my toes would be all curled up to withstand the initial sting. Miraculously, most of the times, after the first 20 seconds or so (It felt like 20 minutes), the pain subsides considerably and becomes bearable. It doesn't help a bit for my already shattered confidence to breastfeed, that my firstborn was really a cry-baby (I am not joking, he was was either latching or sleeping or crying). All the thoughts of self-doubts of "If I really had enough of milk?" was pouring over my mind.

I was giving myself so much pressure that I was at the verge of a nervous breakdown at Day 3. I succumbed to giving my son his first bottle of infant formula. I cried as he gulped that bottle down. There I was, all so gungho and determined to breastfeed my son, but almost went cuckoo after merely 3 days! But, I wasn't about to give up, I CAN DO this!

I sent SOS messages to friends and my sister-in-law (Whom I thought would not have any kids but eventually breastfed my niece for almost 2 years) for help and to cry my eyes out. I looked for resources over the internet and found some good pictures and videos of a good latch and I realized that I was doing it all wrong by positioning the nipples in the center of my baby's mouth. The moment I corrected the position to allow more of the lower areola into the mouth, the pain went away! (Magic!).

It was also then that my good friend added me into the Facebook group for breastfeeding, "The Breastfeeding Advocates Network" and a very popular mother's group, "Mummies Connect" that I learnt so much and received much needed support for my breastfeeding journey.

So, mommies, you must get the latch correct and get help the soonest possible. The earlier you and your baby learn this latch-tango, the easier and more painless and it actually becomes enjoyable to nurse your newborn.

Here are some great links to getting an idea of how to latch your newborn correctly.

These are a few good pictures that I have found to be extremely helpful and clear in explaining how a good latch should look like:

However, a good latch may not look textbook perfect, as quoted by KellyMom:
"No matter what latch and positioning look like, the true measure is in the answers to these two questions:

Is it effective?
Is it comfortable?

Even if latch and positioning look perfect (and, yes, even if a lactation consultant told you they were fine), pain and/or ineffective milk transfer indicate that there is a problem somewhere, and the first suspect is ineffective latch/positioning. If baby is transferring milk and gaining weight well, and mom is not hurting, then latch and positioning are – by definition – good, even if it’s nothing like the “textbook” latch and positioning that you’ve seen in books."

Hence, if you are not sure, do get an experienced breastfeeding mommy to take a look and get help early. Trust me, nursing feels completely different even with a minute change in angle. Happy Latching!


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