How to Get the Perfect First Latch: Breastfeeding 101

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I became a labor and delivery nurse a few years ago, and when I first started, it was actually breastfeeding that I was most excited to learn the most about!

In my interview, I actually talked about how becoming a lactation consultant was one of my long term goals.

Well, life and another pregnancy happened, and though I’m not a certified lactation consultant yet, initiating breastfeeding is one of my favorite things to do as a labor nurse.

I love how empowered and amazed mothers feel when they get their baby to latch!

It’s the first of many “parenting wins” that a new mom will experience.

It wasn’t until I had been a nurse for several years that I decided to go into labor and delivery. A traumatic delivery (and rough start to breastfeeding) completely changed the course of my career.

New mom being helped with breastfeeding and the first latch of her baby after birth.

I am so thankful for the experience, because it makes me so passionate about my work, and I believe it makes me a better nurse. 

Breastfeeding is truly amazing and has always been fascinating to me! In fact, I did a research project on breastfeeding when I went to nursing school.

The benefits are incredible, and I think it is one of the most intimate ways to feed and bond with your baby. 

Reading and learning as much as you can about breastfeeding before delivery is a great way to manage your expectations and prepare yourself!

You are in the right place to learn about what breastfeeding entails, what problems you may face, and how to get that first latch easily.

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class by Milkology is an online breastfeeding class that completely prepares you for a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby.

Getting the First Latch

The first latch can be difficult to obtain and there’s a few reasons why:

Lack of Confidence

Guess what, mom? The baby has never done this before either!

The two of you will figure it out together, and soon breastfeeding will become a seamless dance that only the two of you know. Trust your body, and trust your baby!

Be confident in your ability to feed your baby, and the rest will follow. 

Fluid Overload

If you just had a long labor, c-section, epidural, or low blood pressure during labor, you may have received a lot of IV fluids.

This can make your nipples more flat and harder for the baby to grab onto.

Don’t fear!

This is a temporary issue, and won’t affect nursing in the long-run. A nipple shield or nipple everter may help fix the problem (learn more about breastfeeding products here)

Wires, Cords, and Equipment, oh my!

You may have a blood pressure cuff on, IVs going, and other equipment during your first latch.

It will really just depend on your delivery and what is needed to keep you and your baby safe.

Sometimes, these things get in the way and can make positioning a little…awkward! Ask your team what is really necessary to keep on, and ask them to help you find a good position.

Sometimes Baby is Disinterested

If the baby needed a lot of resuscitation after birth (suctioning, oxygen, etc), they may be too overstimulated to focus on nursing right after birth.

That is OK.

This isn’t a common scenario, but it’s nothing to worry about if it happens.

The first latch is often scary for new moms, but there is nothing to be afraid of!

Your baby will instinctively figure out how to get milk. In fact, babies will sort of “crawl” themselves up and onto your breast!

With your help, they will figure out how to latch and get colostrum.

Invest in your best breastfeeding experience before baby arrives with a risk-free seat in this very popular online class by Milkology.

P.S. To further encourage your successful breastfeeding journey, I would like to gift you a FREE pumping and milk supply course (valued at $19) with your enrollment in Milkology’s course. Simply contact me once complete to claim this gift.

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour is the first hour after birth, where you and your baby are getting to meet each other!

During this time, you should stay skin-to-skin with your baby and let him or her adjust to the outside. They will listen to your heartbeat, learn your smell, and become accustomed to the other side of the uterus.

This first hour after birth is an excellent time to try breastfeeding if you and your baby are up for it!

I try to give all of my patient’s their Golden Hour if possible. It establishes a strong connection between mom and baby that makes for a great foundation for breastfeeding.

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class covers the golden hour in detail with visuals and voice-over teaching from a real lactation consultant.

Skin to Skin

It may seem sort of basic, but being skin to skin after birth is hugely beneficial to mom and baby.

It helps the baby with temperature control, breathing, breastfeeding, blood sugar, heart rate, and overall adjustment to life outside of the womb.

It also helps mom by releasing oxytocin that can decrease bleeding, help breast milk supply, and bond with the baby.

Positioning

As I mentioned above, sometimes finding the perfect position to feed your baby can be difficult after birth.

A boppy or support pillows may help, but overall I recommend trying cross-cradle or football hold for the first feeding.

Cross-Cradle

With cross cradle, the baby is laying belly-to-belly across mom’s chest. The mom’s arm opposite of the breast is behind the baby’s back and head, while the mom’s other hand is guiding the breast and nipple into the baby’s mouth.

So, if the baby is nursing on the left breast, the mom’s right arm is along the baby’s back and the hand is guiding the nipple.

This seems to give mom a lot of control over how the baby will latch and making sure there is enough nipple in the baby’s mouth.

Football Hold

For football hold, the baby’s body is going along mom’s side on the same side she is breastfeeding from.

If she is nursing on the breast, the baby’s body is going upwards unto her armpit, and the hand is controlling the baby’s head. The right hand will be used to guide the nipple.

Breastfeeding Positions you will learn in an online breastfeeding course infographic image.

How to get a Deep Latch

A good latch is deep, with all of the nipple and most (or all) of the areola in the baby’s mouth.

You should feel a tug and pull, not a pinch or bite.

As your nipples get sore and adjust to breastfeeding (typically 2-3 days in), the initial latch may be painful or burning, but that should subside within a few seconds of nursing.

When latching the baby, you should make sure that their lips are flared outwards (think fish lips) and the nipple is pointing towards the roof of their mouth.

You may hear swallows as they drink, but you should not hear a “clicking” sound. That means the latch is too shallow, and you should break the latch and start over.

Breastfeeding latch infographic

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help!

If your nurse isn’t able to help you breastfeed, she can find someone who can!

Many hospitals have lactation consultants that can give you a ton of information on breastfeeding. They can also point you in the direction of resources for after you are discharged home.

Also, many insurance companies will cover visits with lactation consultants after birth.

Sometimes these consultants even make house calls! Additionally, your pediatrician’s office may have a lactation consultant on staff, or can point you in the direction of one

Avoid struggling with breastfeeding issues by investing in the right education from the beginning. Enroll in The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class for only $19!

The Biggest Concerns New Moms Have about Breastfeeding 

New mothers have an endless amount of firsts to figure out and breastfeeding is a big one.

This next section will identify some of those breastfeeding concerns and remove some of the unknowns that can cause cause new moms anxiety.

What is Colostrum and do I Have it?!

Colostrum is a magical thing!

Not knowing if you’re producing colostrum has to be one of the most stressful parts of breastfeeding for new moms. I always hear, “I don’t think I have any milk for the baby! What do I do?!”

First, breathe.

Your milk is still a few days away!

There won’t be a true “full” and “empty” feeling until your milk supply has been established.

This usually happens around 3 days after birth, but it can be up to 7.

Until you start making milk, you make colostrum. Colostrum is what I call the “milkshake” after birth.

It’s sticky, sweet, dense in calories, loaded with antibodies, and is all the nutrition a newborn needs!

According to the American Pregnancy Association, colostrum is a “superfood” for your baby.

Your baby’s stomach is about the size of a cherry pit after birth. It only takes a few milliliters of milk to fill them up!

Your body will give the baby exactly what he or she needs.

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How do I Know if My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?

This is such a good question.

The first few days, you will know by following the baby’s cues. The pediatrician will also be tracking the baby’s weight to make sure the baby doesn’t lose too much after birth.

Cues the baby has had enough breast milk:

  • They go from awake and alert (maybe even angry) to relaxed, sleepy
  • Their hands go from fists to open palms
  • They are content and not fussy or irritable
  • The are producing wet and poopy diapers

If your baby is doing all of those things, congrats! You are giving them enough to eat.

You’ve got this, mama!

Infographic on how much breastmilk does baby need.

Conclusion

No one can deny how incredibly involved breastfeeding is. It is time consuming, exhausting, and sometimes painful. But it is also a very healthy and wonderful experience!

Ask for support and find a tribe of like minded women to be with you on your journey. Finding help for yourself is crucial in your breastfeeding journey!

Mastering the first latch after delivery is the first step to breastfeeding success. Good luck, mama. You’ve got this!

Read Next: Weird Breastfeeding Facts and Pumping Phenomenons

Heather Lindsey - labor and delivery nurse

Along with being a wife and mother, Lindsey is a passionate labor and delivery nurse. She strives to make moms feel empowered throughout their pregnancy, labor, delivery, breastfeeding journey, and all walks of motherhood. You can read her blog here, and follow her on Facebook and Pinterest, where she shares information to help parents everywhere from conception through motherhood. 
 

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