Anyone that's experienced a latch issue while breastfeeding knows how frustrating and painful it can be. It may be tempting to try all sorts of things in the throws of desperation (and extreme fatigue), but you'll want to choose your course of action carefully. Breastfeeding takes practice, patience, teamwork, and support. Additionally, it takes knowing what not to do to ensure the health and happiness of mom and baby. There are definitely things you should never do to get a baby to latch because they're either unsafe or ineffective techniques.
Latching issues are pretty common and can occur for a number of reasons. A mother may not have received proper or sufficient lactation support in those initial days after childbirth, as explained on the La Leche League International (LLLI) website. Or maybe she has flat or inverted nipples. The other possibility is that the challenge is on the baby's side. Some common problems that can make latching difficult for a baby, as highlighted by Parenting, include: cleft palate, tongue-tie, if baby is premature, if baby is small for gestational age, neurological issues, sensory issues, and injuries sustained during childbirth.
Regardless of what causes the problem itself, a latch issue is usually no big deal and can be corrected. That doesn't mean it isn't worrisome, though. The latch determines how well your baby ingests their food and so it's best to face any problems head on and immediately. In going down the checklist, there are seven things you definitely want to avoid doing when attempting to correct a bad latch.
1. Never Force It
"Do not shove a baby's head into the breast to get her to latch," lactation consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor tells Romper via email. Additionally, if the baby is crying you definitely want to take a little break. In fact, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and Fellow of American College of Childbirth Educators (FACCE) Deena Blumenfeld of Shining Light Prenatal Education explains to Romper via email that, "crying babies won't latch. They need to be comforted and calmed first."
2. Don't Ignore Sore Nipples
It's a widely known fact, especially among parenting circles, that women's nipples are often sore in the beginning stages of breastfeeding. But sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples after those initial days and weeks is not normal and could be a sign of a bad latch, according to Parents. Additionally, if it feels like biting or sharp pains during an entire feeding that could be a big indicator that something with the latch isn't quite right. Staying attuned to these sensations will be key for figuring out a possible latch complication.
3. Don't Try Until You're Both Comfortable
No one position is the best for breastfeeding, it's really about whatever is comfortable for you and the baby. As recommended in Parents, you need to find a position that you can be in for a long time. When trying to find a good spot it's best to have a few pillows nearby so you can make minor adjustments as necessary (and probably best to have your cell phone nearby too, because duh). Trying to breastfeed before you're comfortable will likely be really unenjoyable and possibly ineffective.
4. Don't Count Out Breast Pillows
Before you poo poo another piece of baby gear (I know, it's a lot), hear me out. Breast pillows are kind of amazing. I'm not saying a breast pillow will solve all of your breastfeeding issues, but they can help. If you need assistance keeping your baby into position for a good latch, a breast pillow can be really effective for stabilization.
5. Don't Put Things In Your Baby's Mouth To Suck On
If you're noticing a latch issue it may be tempting to put your finger or a pacifier into your baby's mouth to help soothe them, but it's really a big breastfeeding no-no. If you're committed to breastfeeding, you should avoid doing this because it can cause nipple confusion, as explained on the Dr. Sears website. Additionally, giving your baby a bottle can reportedly also cause nipple confusion and result in the baby refusing the breast. In the end it's best to use your discretion, because if your baby is dehydrated or really starving the last thing you'd want to do is deny them nourishment just because it comes from a bottle.
6. Don't Be Shy About Asking For Help
If you need help from your partner or someone close to you get a good latch, use them. They can fetch you pillows, water, or the TV remote. Whatever you need, ask for it. Furthermore, if you feel like your latch isn't solid or you suspect another breastfeeding issue, reaching out to a lactation consultant is highly encouraged. The faster you receive expert help, the faster you'll be able to latch effectively.
7. Don't Be Ashamed To Stop If Needed
You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. It's your body and your baby. Continuing to try something that just isn't working for whatever reason doesn't mean you've failed. It's simply an indication that maybe you should move on for your sanity, your health, and your baby's health. Starvation is a very real possibility when it comes to breastfeeding issues, so there is no shame in making the best decisions for you and your baby.
Many women experience latch issues, whether on the mom's side or the baby's side or both. Take solace in knowing that most of these obstacles can be overcome and breastfeeding can eventually happen. And if not, there's formula, which is a great alternative.