The basic steps of baby led latching:
- Start with a calm (even sleeping) baby
Start with baby either sleeping or in a quiet, alert state. If baby is really hungry, feed him a little milk first to take the edge off (1/2 to 1 oz). If sleeping, let the baby wake up on his own.
- Get relaxed and comfortable together
Hold and cuddle baby, skin to skin – baby in a diaper only, mother with no shirt or bra. Hold baby upright (vertically versus horizontally) between breasts – support baby’s neck with one hand, and support his bottom with the other. This position promotes both relaxation and alertness in baby, and is something we naturally do to comfort a distressed baby. Just cuddle together for a while.
- Let baby take the lead
There’s no rush, no pressure. You’re on baby time here. If the baby wants to sleep on mom’s chest, let the baby sleep. It is important for both baby and mother to be calm, alert, and comfortable. If either one isn’t calm, then the anxiety will be communicated to the other and sabotage the feeding attempt.
- Recognize baby’s ‘hungry cues’
When baby is hungry he’ll squirm and twist, bob his head against you, or may look up at your face and make eye contact.
- Support baby as he moves around
Support his neck and shoulders with one hand and his hips with the other, and just follow him as he moves. Avoid the temptation to try to make him latch on or even to try to line up his mouth with the nipple.
- Support baby as he latches
As the baby moves down, his lower cheek might brush the nipple or the breast and that makes him turn towards it – the rooting reflex. When baby’s chin hits the breast, the firm pressure of the breast against his chin makes him open his mouth wide and reach up and over the nipple. As the baby approaches the nipple, it is his nose, not his mouth, that will first be positioned over the nipple. As he presses his chin into the breast and opens his mouth, he’ll get a large mouthful of breast and a deep latch.
- Reposition baby as needed
Nipple pain is a guide indicating you need to adjust baby’s position. If the pain is mild you can adjust the baby’s position without unlatching – usually by pulling the baby’s bottom in more snugly, which moves the baby’s whole body and the baby’s head will tip back a little bit more, allowing his jaw to open wider. This way the baby gets a bigger mouthful of breast.
- Be patient, especially when the baby gets frustrated and upset
Calm the baby by talking in soothing tones. Bring baby back to the vertical, midline position.When baby calms, then start again. If baby is too hungry to try again, then feed a small amount of milk to the baby via cup, spoon, syringe, or finger-feeding tube (which ever baby prefers).
The Breast Crawl
Here’s a great clip of a latching technique called the “Breast Crawl”. It’s a chance to see the amazing reflexes a newborn is born with, mentioned earlier. Many of the same principals apply to the breast crawl as in baby led latching, but it’s practiced lying down, and usually takes place immediately after birth. Though the instinctive crawling reflex is still present in babies up to several weeks after birth.
Baby-led Latching: A “intuitive” approach to learning how to breastfeed
By Mari E Douma, DO
Article republished with permission from Natural Mama NZ.