I worried about a lot of things when my daughter was born, but watching her breastfeed gave way to a new list of fears and anxieties — especially when it came to her latch. All of the advice I had heard about breastfeeding basically said that it was important for your little one to have a good latch, but I had no idea what that meant. Learning the answer to why babies do have bad latch was more of a relief than trying to make sure my daughter perfected hers.
According to KellyMom, there are two important things to keep in mind about your baby's latch — it should be effective and it should be comfortable. Although there are some initial pains with breastfeeding, What to Expect noted that a good latch shouldn't hurt or leave you with painful, cracked nipples.
The best way to learn about what causes babies to have a bad latch is to understand what makes a good latch. La Leche League International (LLLI) noted that a good latch is comprised of three things — your baby's nose is almost touching your breast, your baby's lips are flanged, and at least 1/2 an inch of the base of your breast around the nipple is in your baby's mouth. This requires your baby to open their mouth wide to get a good latch, which sounds fairly simple, but there are five reasons why a baby might have a bad latch, whether it's keeping their nose from touching your breast or inhibiting them from opening their mouth wide enough to take in your breast.
1. Poor Positioning
Although there is no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to finding a position that works for you and your baby, a poor position can affect your little one's latch. The American Pregnancy Association noted that a good breastfeeding position is crucial to having a good latch. By having your baby's nose and upper lip pointed towards the nipple when you're getting them to latch, you can be sure that their head is tilted back a bit so their mouth can open wide and they can take in more of your breast. The American Pregnancy Association also recommended making sure your baby is close to you for a good latch and that they are always tummy to tummy with you.
2. Nipple Confusion
Accredited Breastfeeding Counselor Megan Hartless wrote on her website that nipple confusion can be the cause of a your baby's poor latch. Latching on to a bottle or pacifier is very different than latching onto your breast and your little one may have a hard time adjusting their latch to breastfeed efficiently.
3. Tongue Or Lip Ties
Some babies have a physical issue that stops them from latching on correctly according to The Milk Meg. Tongue ties or lip ties can prevent a baby from opening their mouth wide enough, resulting in a shallow latch, and some may even require surgery to correct them. (Others may just need a position change to help your little one get a deep enough latch.)
4. Inverted Or Flat Nipples
If you struggle with flat or inverted nipples, you might notice that your little one has a hard time latching on. According to LLLI, it usually just takes a little bit of patience to get your baby's latch corrected, but you may find pumping before a feeding to help draw out your nipple or a breast shield beneficial.
5. Baby's Maturity
Oasis Lactation Services noted that sometimes a poor latch is simply the product of a baby's maturity. According to LLLI, premature babies often have a weak suck or difficulty latching until they get a little bit bigger.