From the moment my daughter was born and understood breastfeeding, she was on board. In fact, when a lactation consultant stepped in to show me proper latch techniques, she was so eager to get down to business that he exclaimed, "Whoa there, tiger!" Indeed, she was a latching pro, but when it came time to unlatch? Not so much. The lock between her mouth and my skin was airtight, and and readjusting was impossible without causing myself some pain. But how do you get your baby to unlatch? Experts say it's a simple solution.
"The easiest way to help your baby unlatch from your nipple is with your finger," Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and Fellow of American College of Childbirth Educators (FACCE) Deena Blumenfeld of Shining Light Prenatal Education tells Romper in an email interview. "Babies have a lovely vacuum seal around the areola. If you just pull your breast back, you'll stretch rather uncomfortably and baby may clamp down harder. The best thing to do is to insert a finger into baby's mouth, just enough to get air in there and break the vacuum. Then you can easily pull baby off of your breast."
Latching issues are pretty common and occur for a number of reasons, including a lack of lactation support during the early days after childbirth. Problems on the baby's end of the bargain include a cleft palate or tongue tie, according to Breastfeeding USA. Premature babies may also experience difficulty latching.
As for unlatching a nursing baby, why might a mama want to do so? In some cases, a baby may be done breastfeeding, but continue to suck and use the breast as a pacifier, according to Livestrong. This might be an instance where you quite literally have to force the hand. You may also just have an improper latch. In this instance, you will have to urge your baby to unlatch and readjust.
If the finger trick doesn't work, then try lightly pressing down on your baby's chin to get their mouth to open, noted Parenting. In both cases, first breaking the connection between your child's mouth and your breast will help make unlatching less painful.
Of course, there are also a few things you will want to avoid when you are having issues with latching. Do not force your baby to latch — a crying, frustrated baby does not make for a solid nursing session — and don't be afraid to ask for a little help. If you are still pregnant and want to have your breastfeeding guidance prepared, then that means working to secure a lactation consultant before you give birth. Important questions include asking how long they have been an IBCLC, areas of expertise, what their experience is with high-need babies, and how they might help with issues like low milk supply.
If your bundle of joy has arrived and you need extra assistance, then, in addition to a lactation consultant, consider finding a La Leche League leader near you or popping in on one of their online meetings and chats. You will discover quick answers to common breastfeeding issues, like pumping, increasing milk supply, and how often to feed your little one.
Be sure to also stay on the lookout for sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples that stick around beyond the initial weeks following childbirth. It could be the sign of a bad latch, according to Parents. Fixes for sore nipples include coconut oil and — go figure — breast milk rubbed on the nipple to help it heal.
And you thought it was just for keeping your baby's belly happy, right?
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