As a Doula and Community Breastfeeding Educator, one of the big things I help new parents with is troubleshooting a painful latch. Most of the time, it can be corrected with one or two of these easy fixes! Give them a try and see if these help you out!
Get Baby Closer To You!
The first thing I look at when assessing a latch is how close the baby is to mom! Ideally, we want mom and baby to be tummy to tummy, with baby's ear, shoulder, and hip all in line. We want their chin touching the breast, and their little hands to be free (try not to swaddle at the breast!). When a baby isn't close enough, it's difficult for them to get enough breast tissue in their mouth. This leads to a shallow latch, which doesn't feel great! The second thing that can happen, is that baby doesn't feel secure. If baby feels like they're about to loose the breast, because it's falling out of their mouth, or if they're going to fall, they tend to chomp, or try to suck harder so they don't loose their boob! This can be painful! So when you're feeding, pull that baby in nice and snug! Your baby, and boobs, will thank you.
When getting a baby to latch, we want them to tip their head back and open their mouths super wide! If they aren't opening wide enough, this leads to a shallow latch, which as we know, doesn't feel great. Here's a few tips to try and get baby to open wide!
When pulling baby in, put your pressure between their shoulder blades, not on the back of their head! This frees up their range of motion.
Strip them down! If baby is too warm and snuggly, they can get a little lazy and not open wide. An awake baby tends to do a little better!
Skin to skin, once they're stripped, do some skin to skin time before trying to latch. This makes them want to latch, so they're more apt to be ready to.
Tickle their nose and top lip with your nipple. This triggers the gaping reflex!
Wipe them down with a baby wipe. It seems a little rude, but the cool rag can help them wake up and open up!
If all else fails, take them to the chiropractor! After birth, their little bodies can be so sore, and it may be painful for them to open wide! An adjustment, and massage, can do wonders for a stiff face and neck!
Get Baby Checked For Oral Restrictions
This one is last because alot of the time, I've found positioning and small changes can help a lot with latch pain, even if baby has a restriction. A restriction, or "tie", is when there is restricted movement in the mouth due to skin "ties". These can be under the tongue, on either lip, or in the cheeks. It's important to remember that a Tie Correction is a surgical procedure, and may not be right for everyone! I'd encourage you to explore your options, as well as alternatives, when it comes to any sort of intervention! Some professionals you may find helpful are a Chiropractor, Craniosacral Therapist, IBCLC, and a Pediatric Dentist.
If you're experiencing a painful latch, don't wait to get help! There are so many great tips, tricks, and tools we can provide! Waiting to get help can lead to further damage to the nipples, and more pain for you! Reach out! I'd love to help you have a great breastfeeding relationship!