Common issues caused by an incorrect latch and overcoming them

Here’s Marama’s advice on latching issues and where to get help:

“Many of us have been there – cracked nipples, infection or mastitis, engorged full breasts that are uncomfortable. These are some of the common issues that can arise when the baby isn’t correctly latched.

Basically – a correct latch will protect the nipples and when baby is correctly latched on, then they will suckle efficiently, meaning your breasts are emptied well. You will very quickly know that you have an incorrect latch once your nipples start resembling something out of a gory horror movie – cracked, bleeding, shredded skin anyone? My favourite mantra was always that the baby should be ‘breastfeeding’ and not ‘nipple feeding’.

Not enough can be said about skin-to-skin bonding encouraging your baby to instinctively find the way to nourishment, and therefore aiding a good latch. I remember my youngest baby given sufficient time to just lie on my tummy and eventually she just started finding her own way to the pot of gold.

There is also something to be said about trusting a baby to latch when they are ready especially if there were minimal birth complications and they are born a healthy weight.

We must acknowledge that often mums have had to use their own instinct alongside the useful tips that may have been offered from health carers – baby needs a wide open moth, shove as much breast in there as you can, bring baby to the breast and not the other way around, don’t tense your shoulders and so on and so on. It is normal that mothers will eventually work out their own understandings of the array of tips.

For those very practical tips on positioning for latching, you may find these links useful.

LLL latching info from FAQ’s ‘How do I position my baby to breastfeed?’

Ministry of Health’s Q&A section on latching

Also, the wonderful Breastfeeding Naturally DVD features a whole chapter on a getting a good latch. Click here to view it via YouTube.

We finish this post by sharing more of the ‘Real Mums’ stories that you have so generously put through to us. Again, fear not if you haven’t seen your story yet. They will all eventually make it here as they are fabulous.

Karen, Rachel and Aroha are some of the mums who mentioned latching issues so please enjoy their contributions!

Kia kaha.”

Karen’s story

“When I was pregnant with my first child I decided I had to breast feed because of allergy and asthma issues on both sides of the family. I was amazed at how difficult it was! After a long labour and difficult delivery, I could not get the hang of latching my baby. Being a proud (and not young) mum I didn’t ask for help until I got myself into a hormonal mess! A staff midwife took the time to show me how to latch properly and life got easier from there. I am now feeding my fourth daughter and loving every minute of it. There is nothing to compare with feeding your own baby, the bond is strong, it’s a job only you can do and no one can take away that special feeling of being one with your little one! Ask for help – it’s worth it!”

Rachel’s story

“Breastfeeding was NOT easy and natural for me and my baby! He had a lot of mucous in his system, so was not interested in a feed from the breast for about 24 hours… having to express and feed him through a syringe for those 24hours. When he finally showed some interest in my breasts, he refused to open his mouth wide, so had difficulty getting him to latch at all. This meant terribly chapped/bleeding nipples from day 2, and got mastitis when baby was only 9 days old. The first lot of antibiotics didn’t clear it up, so I was in pain with a fever for a week. Every feed was excruciating, a lot of tears were shed and a bit of swearing too! My milk supply then dropped to 20mls a feed, so went on domperidone to increase milk supply. I had to use nipple shields for the first 9 weeks as was the only way I could handle feeding! It was absolutely miserable for 2 months, but I persevered, and my baby, 4 months, is exclusively breastfed and intend to continue for a good few more months. It is worth the pain I went through, as it is an amazing feeling to be able to provide all the food/drink your child needs and the bonding is incredible!”

Aroha’s story

“The hardest part of breastfeeding all my babies was that I was nipple-feeding!! Not breastfeeding. Each baby I got sore, cracked nipples. With my 1st son, my midwife thought she had shown me how to latch him…but no. The advice I got that helped was from my sister, she told me to try lying down and him latching on himself. It worked. My youngest son, now 14mth, still brestfed although I had the same problem..but I sucked it up. It was feed him or starve him and I didn’t want to give up!! I completed PCP training to help others like myself who have difficulty but do not want to give up.”

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3 thoughts on “Common issues caused by an incorrect latch and overcoming them

  1. Rachel – great to hear you came off the nipple shield! We’ve been using one for 4 weeks now, and we both get so frustrated trying get bubs latched without it!

  2. So what’s the key to getting a wide mouth? My bub is 4days and I’ve seen her yawn fit to swallow a plane but open her little mouth to latch well? Not a chance 😦

  3. Jade – I used a nipple shield for 3 months as that’s the only way I could feed my baby girl due to a difficult birth and latching problems. She has now weaned off the shield (when she decided she was good and ready) and we are both enjoying feeding even more now.

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