In many situations a baby is fully able to latch onto the breast himself, without the help of meddling and confusing hands! It has been documented in empirical videos and evidence that after a vaginal delivery (barring complications) many babies can be placed on the mother’ s belly and they can wriggle their way to the breast using their heightened sense of smell and instinct to root. You can see a video of that here. Some mothers allow their baby to self latch regularly, we call this baby-led latching. This video goes over some of the basics of latching and then shows how to do baby led latching.
If you are experiencing:
- your baby wanting to latch on without interference from you
- a baby that resists any gentle hand guiding to the breast by arching or struggling
- your baby balking at being in a lying down position with signs of pain or discomfort
- a baby with very strong muscle tone, that interferes with getting into a typical breastfeeding positition
You might want to consider if baby-led latching would work for you! To begin this process pick a time after your baby has had a very small meal, hungry students don’t usually concentrate well. Some babies work best when they are taking a nice warm bath with mama.
- Undress your baby, leaving on as few clothes as possible, and place him/her on your bare chest.
- Position your baby between the breasts so that their head is a little bit above your heart, this will be comforting to your baby because your baby has been listening to you for many months.
- Prime the nipple with breastmilk, this means squeezing out a few drops with your hands by gently compressing the breast tissue in a pinching motion and rocking the fingers towards the nipple. The expressed milk will lead your baby, because of his heightened sense of smell. The milk provides a target area and once he gets to the nipple there is an immediate reward.
- Wrap a soft blanket around the two of you so you don’t get chilled.
- Remove your expectations and concentrate on relaxing your body, your baby knows you and knows how you are feeling. If you are calm, your baby will feel more relaxed.
You may need to try this method several times before it works, so remember to take one small step at a time. Learning something new is complicated for a baby, and it shouldn’t be rushed. As your baby relaxes on your skin, he will probably mold to your body. If he is hungry, the warmth of your skin will remind him that milk is nearby. He may begin to move his head in an uncoordinated weaving or bobbing motion. His mouth may open and he might begin to peck softly at your chest. These are all signs of reflexive rooting behavior. It is a good indication for you to slowly lower your baby down on your chest, sometimes leaning backwards in a rocker helps your baby travel down your chest until he is near or around your breast. You can let him travel in a path that leads to your nipple, sometimes raising your breast with a hand is helpful. Because your baby is pecking, or rooting on your chest you can tell that your baby wants to nurse. If this is the first time your baby has ever nursed, or you have been struggling to find a comfortable position, it can be an exciting experience for both of you! Baby led positioning is helpful for babies that are nursing with a mother that has an over active let down reflex. The upright nursing position keeps the milk to a manageable flow for these babies, and can reduce spit up and discomfort in some babies.
You can do it!
( c ) 2010 Serena Meyer, IBCLC – All Rights Reserved