Breastfeeding can be a painful experience when your little one refuses to latch deeply. Learn what to do when baby pulls back to a shallow latch.
You know how important a correct latch is to successful breastfeeding… except your baby didn’t exactly get the memo.
She starts off with a deep latch, but after a minute or two, pushes back and slides into a shallow one. You find it difficult to keep latching and unlatching, especially when you’re half asleep. She’ll even close her mouth tight during a shallow latch, making it hard to slip your finger in to break the suction.
Because she has a difficult time sucking the milk in a shallow latch, she’ll suck harder than ever, making the pain unbearable.
And the few times you do manage to keep her in a deep latch makes you feel stuck in the same position. Any slight motion—reaching for the remote, shifting your seat—messes it all up.
What happens if your baby refuses to latch deeply? What are a few tricks or positions to correct a shallow latch?
When your baby pulls back to a shallow latch
Ensuring a deep latch is essential for continued breastfeeding success and enjoyment. No one wants their nipples tugged at several times a day, especially with blisters and cuts, clogged ducts and aches.
The first place is to start is with a lactation consultant or your baby’s pediatrician. They’ll be able to pinpoint particular problems like tongue- or lip-tie you might never have known.
That said, many moms have experienced a shallow latch and, thanks to a few tweaks and changes, have been able to turn things around. Take a look at these tips to see if they can work for you:
1. Nurse your baby reclined
One of the biggest reasons your baby prefers a shallow latch may be because of an oversupply of milk. With a quick letdown of milk, she’d rather purse her lips and take a few sips than feel like she’s guzzling so much.
A simple trick is to nurse her reclined. Sit on a recliner or a chair that allows you to lie down at a slight angle. Then, place her on top to nurse, using gravity to help her develop a deep latch. And since milk won’t be gushing out at this angle, she’ll feel less inclined to slip back to a shallow one.
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2. Hand express or pump beforehand
Another way to handle an oversupply of milk is to hand express or pump before you plan to nurse your baby.
The shower is a perfect place to hand express milk, what with no cleanup to deal with and the warmth of the shower to help. Or, you can also pump for a few minutes on each breast to help ease the engorgement that could be contributing to your baby’s shallow latch.
3. Use the exaggerated c-hold position
Certain breastfeeding holds can help support your baby to a deeper latch. The exaggerated c-hold is one example.
Cup your breast with your hand, with your thumb at the top and the rest of your fingers beneath. Make sure that your fingers are outside the areola—the dark part of your breast—as this is where you want her mouth to go.
Then, “push” your breast down with your thumb, and with the other fingers, pull and lift the nipple up, as if it’s pointing upward. This makes the entire areola more accessible for a deeper latch. It’ll also help to hold her head and neck with your other hand in place and prevent her from pulling back to a shallow latch.
4. Pull your baby’s chin down
With a shallow latch, your baby’s chin and mouth are closed tighter than if her mouth and jaw were wide open. To help her develop a deep latch, pull her chin down to encourage her to open her mouth.
Slip your finger between her chin and your breast and gently pull her chin down. This will hopefully give you more room to insert more of your breast into her mouth.
5. Dry your breast and your baby’s mouth
For some moms, slipping back to a shallow latch happens because the surface is too wet. To make a shallow latch less likely, pat your breast dry before you nurse so that her mouth is more likely to stay in a deep latch.
Then, give her lips a quick pat with a burp cloth as well. With a drier breast and mouth, she’ll hopefully stay latched onto more of your breast than slipping back to your nipple.
By far, unlatching a shallow latch for a deep one is the way to go, as you don’t want your baby to get used to a bad latch. But understandably, correcting her latch over and over can be frustrating.
To prevent a shallow latch in the first place, try nursing her on a recline, using gravity to help her take more of your breast. This, along with hand expressing or pumping beforehand, will also ease a quick letdown that an oversupply could be contributing to.
Then, use the exaggerated c-hold to allow more of your breast into her mouth. If you see her starting to slip back into a shallow latch, pull her chin down to encourage a wider position. And finally, try keeping your breast and her lips and mouth dry to make her less likely to slip back to a shallow latch.
And with enough effort, hopefully this time she’ll get the memo that a shallow latch isn’t the way to go.
Get more tips:
- When Breastfeeding Hurts (Even with a Good Latch)
- 4 Reasons Your Baby Never Seems Satisfied After Breastfeeding
- When Does Breastfeeding Finally Stop Hurting?
- When Your Baby Nurses for an Hour and Is Still Hungry
- Baby Feeding Every Hour (And Not Sleeping, Either)?
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