breastfeeding, lactation consultant, IBCLC, state college
Pain early on in the breastfeeding relationship is usually the result of a shallow latch. Although there can be other causes (milk bleb, thrush, dermatitis), a shallow latch is the most common cause. When the baby is latched on shallowly, the nipple is being compressed between the tongue and the upper hard palate. With a deep latch, the nipple lands behind the hard palate and results in a comfortable feeding. Cracks, bleeding, and excruciating toe-curling pain are not normal. If you are experiencing any of these signs, try going back to basics with latch.
Hold your baby nice and close. Gaps can encourage your baby to latch on to whatever they can reach, which might end up being just the nipple tip.
Line baby up nose to nipple
Make sure the hand supporting your baby’s head is on the base of the head rather than the back of your baby’s head. This allows your baby to drop her head back to latch on deeper.
When your baby opens wide, bring her in chin first. Think about when you are eating a big sandwich. You open wide, tilt your head backwards, and bring the sandwich in, with your chin extending out first, not with your chin down to your chest. Same principle.
Your baby isn’t going to take the nipple directly in the middle of their mouth like a bulls-eye. Instead, right before latching, the nipple will be pointing towards the top back of your baby’s mouth. This results in a slightly asymmetrical latch with more breast tissue in the lower jaw than the upper jaw. It makes sense when you think about it; it is the lower jaw doing most of the work, therefore, you want more tissue in the lower jaw than upper.
You can try shaping the breast to get more in your baby’s mouth. Ideally, you want your thumb and finger on opposite sides of the nipple/areola, with the thumb and opposite finger aligning with your baby’s nose and chin. This allows the breast to be parallel with your baby’s mouth. You might have to play around with where your fingers are in relation to nipple/areola to find the best spot for shaping the breast.
If it doesn’t feel right, break the suction by inserting a pinky into the corner of yours baby’s mouth and try latching on again. Trying to tough out a painful latch isn’t beneficial to you or your baby.
If you have made adjustments to the latch and it still hurts, reach out to your local lactation consultant to further investigate the latch and the situation. There could be something else going on and your lactation consultant can help to figure out what it is.