Baby won’t open wide enough for a deep latch? Learn how to get baby to open wide for a latch — no more shallow latches!
“A good latch is important,” they all say. But what do you do when your baby won’t open her mouth wide enough for a deeper latch?
Just a few days old and she’s latching well enough to feed. But you? You’re in one of the worst pain you’ve ever felt. She’s also nursing a lot, which is great for your milk supply. But since she doesn’t open her mouth wide enough, she ends up tugging on your nipples.
She tends to keep her tongue against the roof of her mouth, resulting in poor latches and sore breasts. You spend five minutes struggling to get her to latch well, but she gets frustrated, convincing you to give in and let her eat with a bad latch.
You dread every feeding because you know it’ll hurt. You’re afraid that if this keeps up, her latch will keep getting worse. And as much as you want it to work so badly, you keep thinking how much easier formula—or even exclusively pumping—would be.
How to get baby to open wide for a latch
Getting your baby to open wide is crucial for a good latch, but how exactly do you coax her to do so?
Thankfully, just as she has learned her current ways of nursing, so too can she learn new ones. That’s why correcting her latch is important. The more you reinforce the right way to latch, the better she’ll get at opening wide. After all, she’s learning just as much as you are.
That said, the first place to start is always with your pediatrician or lactation consultant. There’s nothing like having someone observe and evaluate you in action, and you’re also drawing on their years of experience to help. They can also spot problems like tongue-tie that you can’t remedy at home.
For more additional tips, definitely read on to see what has worked for me and other moms I’ve spoken with. You’ll find that you can help your baby open wide for a deep latch. Here’s how:
1. Start with the right position
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Before you even hold your baby close to you to nurse, make sure you’re in an optimal position.
For instance, ask yourself whether your current nursing pillow is supportive for this stage in your baby’s life. Softer pillows work well for older babies, firmer and “boxier” ones (like the My Brest Friend) provide more support for newborns.
Then, experiment with different nursing positions. Many moms have said they’ve had better success switching to the “football hold” instead of the typical cradle hold.
You can also try the “laid back” nursing method. Lie down on an incline (like against the arm of a couch), then place your baby on top your breast to nurse.
Extra tip: Feed her after she wakes up, not to fall asleep. That way, she’ll be more alert to get the right latch (instead of half-asleep and dozing off with a bad one).
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2. Hold your breast strategically
Help your baby find your breast by holding it correctly. To start, make sure you’re holding it far enough back from the areola so that she can get as much of it in her mouth.
You can also experiment with different holds. Some moms hold the breast in a u-shape, cupping it from underneath. Others prefer the “sandwich,” squeezing the breast from the side.
As you bring baby and the breast closer together, aim the nipple up and toward her nose (instead of straight toward the back of the mouth).
3. Tease your baby to opening her mouth
You can try a few tricks to get your baby to open wide. For starters, position her nose so that it lines up with the nipple. Then, make sure that her head is slightly tilted back, just as you would drink a glass of water. Try drawing your chin to your chest and swallowing and you’ll see how uncomfortable it can be!
Then, using the length of your finger (not the tip), gently draw her chin down to encourage a wider mouth. (Imagine holding your finger up to your nose, as if pretending to have a mustache, then move that finger below your bottom lip.) You can also try this trick after she has latched to widen her mouth even more.
Next, touch her top lip to the nipple, but pull her back slightly. This can encourage her to open wider as she’s searching for the nipple with her mouth. Touch her lip to the nipple again, and pull her back once more. Then with the third try, she’ll hopefully have opened wide enough.
And finally, make sure she also has “fish lips” that are puckered out, not tucked back into her mouth.
4. Correct bad latches
Not all breastfeeding pain is due to a bad latch. An infection, tender breasts, or milk letdown are all possible causes for discomfort.
But if you know that your discomfort is from a bad latch, don’t let it fester and continue. Enabling a bad latch to keep going only teaches your baby that this is how she’s supposed to nurse. You may be willing to bear the pain, but this only does a disservice to her.
Instead, break bad latches and keep trying to replace it with a good one.
If you see that she isn’t latched correctly, insert a clean finger into her mouth to break the suction (don’t just pull her off, as this will be painful for you). Once she’s off, encourage her to open her mouth wider again.
You can even talk her through the process and be her cheerleader. A simple “We’ll figure this out!” will encourage her to keep trying and you to stay calm.
A good latch can do wonders with breastfeeding, and hopefully you learned a few tips on how to get your baby to open wide for a latch.
Starting with the right position is key, from the breastfeeding hold to the nursing pillow you use. Hold the breast strategically, aiming it toward the top of her mouth. Tease her to open her mouth wider, and only bring her to the breast when it’s wide enough.
And finally, always correct bad latches instead of letting them continue. This will teach her how to nurse correctly instead of enabling a bad latch to persist.
With these tips, you’re well on your way to helping her open her mouth wider for a comfortable breastfeeding session. “A good latch is important,” indeed.
Get more tips:
- When Does Breastfeeding Finally Stop Hurting?
- Newborn Life: Expectation vs Reality
- Breastfeeding Secrets Every Mom Should Know
- When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier? Top Tips to Ease the Pain
- 7 Postpartum Changes You Probably Didn’t Know
Free resource: Do you struggle with getting your newborn to sleep? His awake time just might be affecting how well he sleeps or not. Join my newsletter and get One Mistake You’re Making with Your Baby’s Awake Time—at no cost to you.
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