Breastfeeding is no walk in the park. During the first weeks (and even months) of their breastfeeding journey, many moms struggle to get their baby to latch on correctly. And as the "cornerstone" of proper breastfeeding, an incorrect latch can wreak havoc on both you and your baby's experience with nursing. Although many things can play a part in a successful latch, there is one tiny thing ruining your baby's latch — or at least it's the most common problem out there.
If you're suffering from nipple pain or engorgement and you're worried that your baby may not be getting enough milk, reevaluating their latch may be just the thing to fix your nursing woes. Specifically, how wide open their mouth is.
According to Dr. Sears, having a wide-open mouth is the most important step in getting a good latch. Your baby's mouth should be wide enough to get most of the areola (and even some of the breast) into their mouth. It's a common misconception, according to Today's Parent, that babies only need to nurse with the nipple, when in fact, a much larger portion of the breast is necessary for a good latch.
To make sure your baby's mouth is open wide enough, there are a few steps you need to take. First, La Leche League International (LLLI) suggested mothers hold their babies stomach to stomach, so that their ear, shoulder, and hip are in a straight line. This helps your baby not have to turn their head or arch their back to latch on. Then, Dr. Sears suggested tickling the baby's nose with the nipple, causing them to open their mouth wide and tilt their head up towards your breast. While your baby's mouth is open (it's really only a split second, so you'll need to be quick), position your nipple in the center of their mouth and pull them close to you, pushing your nipple back into their mouth.
It may take several tries to get it right, but when you don't feel any pain (only a slight pressure or pulling,) you'll know you've both got it right — and after struggling to get a good latch, it's a beautiful feeling.