When people think of breastfeeding, they often think of pain because, well, it can hurt like a mother. I mean, there wouldn't be nipple soothing creams and boob ice packs on the market if it didn't. But, as many moms will tell you, breastfeeding can be especially uncomfortable in the beginning. Particularly when it comes to latching. Through practice, the pain will eventually subside. But what if it doesn't? It's nothing to be alarmed about, because the secret to a pain-free latch could be as simple as correcting a few bad habits.
You should take some comfort in knowing that those first few latches are intense for nearly everyone. "Imagine, a tiny human latches to your nipple creating a vacuum and sucks like its life depends on it," Crystal Harris, creator of the Brauxiliary Hands Free Pumping band, describes to Romper. But as anyone who's had a tummy ache knows, there are different types of pain that mean different things in your body. It's the same with breastfeeding. "Pain that is piercing, sharp, or causing damage to the nipple is not OK and a sign to break the seal and re-latch," Harris says.
There is no one secret to a pain-free latch, but there is a general theme to keeping your baby nourished and you comfortable: positioning. Getting everything in the right place at the time time, however, takes a little practice and patience. Here are some expert-backed tricks to get your baby in the perfect nursing position to minimize the pain for everyone involved.
1. Position Your Baby Properly
A poor position leads to a poor latch, according to La Leche League International (LLLI). Thankfully, there are some easy tricks to help you find a proper and comfortable position.
"A simple way to remember good latch mechanics is tummy to mommy, nipple to nose, wait for the gape and pull the baby close," Cat Halek, an international board certified lactation consultant tells Romper. She adds that, "the baby's ear, shoulder, and hips should be aligned."
Leigh Anne O'Connor, an international board certified lactation consultant agrees and has an additional tip for new moms. "I encourage parents to line up the baby’s eyes with the nipple just before latching," she says. "This helps to get the nipple deeply into the baby’s mouth."
Additionally, if you're not comfortable your baby won't be comfortable. Finding a position that works for everyone is important.
2. Make Sure Your Pillow Is In The Right Place
Many moms use designated breastfeeding pillows or ones right off their bed to make feedings more comfortable. There is nothing wrong with using one, but it's best to be mindful of how your baby is positioned on it.
"If using a pillow make sure baby is not completely on the pillow with the breast dangling into the baby's mouth as this can create pulling on the nipple - not to mention back and shoulder pain for mom," O'Connor says.
This video tutorial by APL Lactation Services is super helpful and demonstrates exactly how to use the pillow to help you position your baby properly.
3. Avoid Pressing Your Baby's Head
"It is important to not press on the back of the baby’s head as this can create a pinched nipple," O'Connor says. It's best to press gently between your baby's shoulders, along their spine, or their bum to get them into position for a good latch.