Shallow Latch – Breastfeeding is supposed to be an experience that feeds baby and promotes the bond between parent and baby. However, if your baby has a shallow latch, it can be incredibly painful. Let’s dive in on what is a shallow latch and how to fix a shallow latch for good. You deserve to be pain free while breastfeeding. Shallow latches can be alarming and also discouraging. Don’t worry, once you discover your baby has a shallow latch, it means something needs to change. This does not necessarily have to disrupt or end your breastfeeding journey.
What Is A Shallow Latch?
While breastfeeding, some people experience that the baby is only opening their mouth wide enough to accept the nipple into their mouth and not the areola. Alternatively, a baby may have a part of the nipple in the mouth or the nipple and a small part of the areola. This causes extreme pain for the mother or parent. When you breastfeed multiple times a day, it goes from a bonding experience to a very painful one. A good latch for a newborn or baby is when both the nipple and the areola are in the babies mouth while breastfeeding.
What Is The Areola?
The areola is the darker skin of the breast that surrounds the nipple. The nipple is the pointed tip of the breast which is surrounded by the areola.
Will A Shallow Latch Correct Itself
Sometimes, a shallow latch can correct itself. It is not guaranteed and depends on the baby.
Some babies after a month to six weeks want more milk and adjust their feeding correctly. Other parents insist that their nipples “got used to it” and did not experience anymore pain.
Many parents of preemie babies attest that their shallow latch “went away” after their baby got older and started to realize that to get a good flow of milk, they must latch differently. A shallow latch can correct itself.
However, if you try our top tips to fix a shallow latch, you can save yourself a lot of time, agony and pain.
Signs Of A Shallow Latch
You may be experiencing pain, noticing your baby is gassy or not experiencing pain but noticing your baby is not latching properly, A parent may be experiencing all or one of these symptoms. Needless to say, there are some signs of a shallow latch. After you are certain, you will be able to fix the challenge. Here are the signs of a shallow latch to look out for:
The Baby Does Not Open Their Mouth Wide
Baby opens their mouth, barely. They struggle to latch and when they do, you notice that they are only suckling on the nipple. Often times, this comes with pain. However, it does not always. After a number of feedings, your nipple can be sore, cracked, tender or even bleeding!
Baby Only Latches To The Nipple And Not The Areola
The baby opens their mouth to grasp the nipple, but does not place the areola in their mouth. The baby might put part of the nipple in their mouth. Alternatively, the baby may put the nipple and a small portion of the areola in their mouth. This means PAIN for Mom or parent. Psychologically, it can discourage both baby and parent from breastfeeding. It may make parents feel like they are not enough and that they are doing something wrong or there is something wrong with their baby.
Do not worry. There are answers that can help you. It is not anyone’s fault, it just means something needs to change.
Your Nipple Feels Like Its Being Pinched… Hard
During feeding, your nipple is feeling like it is being pinched, hard. The pain can actually startle you. However, you can still feel your baby pulling on it as a regular feeding. Afterwards, your nipple is sore, possibly bleeding. Afterwards, you may notice during breaks from feedings your nipples feel cracked and dry.
Your Nipple Is Bleeding
After feedings or just randomly through out the day, you find your nipple is bleeding. This is because of the tugging and pinching of the nipple you may be experiencing with a shallow feed. Nipples that are bleeding can also be sore and painful to the touch. They can also be irritated with sweaters and heavy clothing.
Nipple Is Scabbed
You may notice that your nipple is experiencing scabs. This means that you have a small open cut most likely due to shallow feeding. Your body is attempting to heal the cut by creating a scab. Do not pick the scab! Let your body heal.
Nipple Has A Line Across It
If you notice your nipple has a deep line across it, it may be the result of shallow latching. Your nipple is being pinched so frequently that it is developing a line across the areola. This can be uncomfortable and can cause pain.
Nipple Is Flat After Feeding
The nipple is being pinched so that it folds back into the body. After feedings, you may notice that your nipple is flat after most feedings. Most of the time, it resets back to normal but sometimes it can stay flat for a long time.
How To Fix A Shallow Latch
When a shallow latch is hurting so much, it is making breast feeding uncomfortable, painful and even unbearable. There are ways to help fix a shallow latch for good. Let’s dive in on the different ways so you can be more comfortable as your breast feed.
Remember before one tries to fix a shallow latch, be sure to fixate on the babies mouth. We want to make sure that they are getting your nipple and areola into their mouth.
Wait Until Babies Mouth Is Wide Open
Sometimes, the baby just takes a few seconds to open their mouths wide enough to accept both the nipple and areola. Baby will try again and possibly open their mouth wider to search for your nipple. This simple solution can save a lot of heart ache for both baby and parent!
Speak To A Lactation Consultant
There are experts for this kind of challenge. A lactation consultant and give you a clear answer on how to help with your babies shallow latch. Lactation consultants study the way people breastfeed and the best methods for giving baby the best milk feeds possible. Similarly, they make sure that Mom is as comfortable as possible when breastfeeding.
Lactation consultants may be covered by your healthcare or insurance. Call your local health official or your insurance company to see if they are covered. Ask your hospital to recommend a lactation consultant.
Change Your Breastfeeding Hold
Sometimes, a shallow latch is just because baby is not in the ideal position. This easy solution is to change the way you hold your baby during breastfeeding! Some ideal positions include:
Cross Cradle Hold
Put your baby stomach to stomach with you. Make sure you are supporting both the neck and the head. Use your forearm to support the babies entire back. This position is ideal for newborns. Lastly, give your baby the breast OPPOSITE of the hand you are supporting the baby.
For example: If baby is in your right hand, offer your left breast and vice versa.
Side Lying Down Latch
As you lie safely on your side, offer your nipple to your baby. We have to admit, this can be a very relaxing position. While it works for some babies, it is great that parents can relax and baby can feed. Baby usually makes a wider mouth to fit the entire areola and is able to latch with ease.
Lean Back Latch
This is also a comfortable position! In a rocking chair or a comfortable couch, lean back from your baby so they can accept your nipple by opening their mouth wide. Try aligning your nipple to babies eyebrow area and they will search for the nipple and open wide.
Place Your Nipple Under Babies Nose
Newborn babies are incredible. They can smell their mother’s nipple. Some lactation consultants recommend placing the nipple under your babies nose (make sure to not cover babies nose partially or completely!) Baby is then encouraged to open their mouths widely to accept the areola.
Firstly, be kind to yourself. Parents get extremely nervous if something is not going right during feeding. They will do anything to get a good latch. Gently (not forcefully, we don’t want you to hurt yourself, especially if you feel engorged) compress your breast and insert the entire areola into your babies mouth. Baby can then receive the areola without struggling.
Causes of A Shallow Latch
There are many reasons why your baby has a shallow latch. Let us examine a few of these reasons to understand why your baby has a shallow latch.
Your Baby Was A Preemie
Preemie babies are amazing. They may have arrived early but they continue to thrive. However, some preemie babies have some growing to do. Since they were born early, some of their development that would have taken place in the womb now take place after their birth. Your baby may have a shallow latch because they were still learning to suckle. They may have a softer, lazier latch that needs to be developed.
Ankyloglossia or being “tongued tied” is a common challenge for some babies. This may hinder a strong latch. Speak to your doctor about ankyloglossia and see if there are recommendations to ease your breast feeding journey and make sure your baby is being fed.
Your baby is still learning and so smart, but they have not mastered the latch… yet. With some of the breastfeeding positions and recommendations above, your baby can be fed with ease.
Must Read: Can You Reheat Breast Milk More Than Once?
Can I Have A Shallow Latch That Is Not Painful?
Shallow latches are generally very painful. If you think your child has a shallow latch but it is not causing you any pain, your child may be transitioning to a more deeper latch. Secondly, your child may be using your nipple for comfort rather for food. Check in with your doctor to make sure that baby is getting enough milk and your breast, especially your nipple, is in good condition.
A shallow latch is painful for parent and baby may not be getting enough milk. It does not allow baby and parent to bond during breastfeeding. You deserve a more calming and pain free breastfeeding experience. By asking for help and following these tips, you can be on a breastfeeding journey that is beneficial for both baby and yourself.