Before I start receiving angry emails about the title of this article, I'll start by saying that breastfeeding is by no means a "one size fits all" activity. It's hard for some moms, and second nature for others. It's impossible, and frankly, pointless, to lump all mom's experiences with breastfeeding into one common experience, because they're all so unique. But, all differences aside, if you're struggling with nursing your baby, there's a secret that may change your breastfeeding game for good. Believe it or not, there is one breastfeeding tip that all moms should know— regardless of breast size, frequency of feedings, whether you're a seasoned pro or just barely treading water.
Now, I'm not a certified lactation consultant or a medical professional. I have breastfed two babies though, and sometimes experience is a pretty darn good teacher. Between my two daughters, I've been nursing for over two years straight, and in that time, I've learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn't.
But because you shouldn't have to take the word of a complete stranger as the gospel truth, I spoke to Cathy Nutting, an registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant who is passionate about helping women succeed at and love breastfeeding. In her over five years of experience helping other women she says there's one problem she encounters more than any other: poor latching.
A latch that's too shallow can lead to some pretty severe latch-related pain for the breastfeeding moms and can deprive the baby from getting the good stuff that she needs to grow.
According to Nutting, the first thing she looks at in a baby who has a poor latch is how wide open their mouth is. "The baby's mouth should be at about 140 degrees wide", she explained. That's really wide, so it's no wonder so many babies struggle with this. "Sometimes babies will only latch on to the nipple, however, the latch should cover the entire nipple and part of the areola, making sure both the upper and bottom lip are fanned out."
She explained that, like any new skill, opening their mouth that wide can take some practice for baby. "If your baby won't open wide, gently pull down his chin as they latch on to open their mouth a little wider. Then push from the back of their neck (NEVER their head)," she said. As you work with your baby, the muscles will eventually retrain themselves and it should become second nature— saving you a lot of unnecessary pain in the long run.