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how to get your baby to open wide and latch

Immediately after birth begins the initiation process of breastfeeding from your baby. A baby should begin to feed within the first hour of birth which is often referred to as the “Golden Hour”. During this process, your baby will begin to use their natural instincts to learn to breastfeed.

pic courtesy of the bump

Getting a good deep latch takes practice and is key for pain-free breastfeeding as well as your baby extracting an optimal amount of milk during their feeds.

How do I get my baby to latch?

First, we want to let baby decide when baby is ready to latch. Your baby will go through 9 Newborn phases to begin breastfeeding initiation within the first hour. If we allow baby to go through each of these steps which can take about 90 minutes, most babies will latch on their own.

Always look for feeding cues; head turning from side to side, smacking of the lips, rooting, sticking their tongue out, sucking on hands and fingers and lastly, crying. Try not to feed baby at the last stage of crying because it can become more difficult to latch, but no worries, just calm baby down and try again.

Finding the best position to achieve the deepest latch possible is important for a mom to learn how to feed her baby. For a wide open mouth we suggest the “laid back position”.

pic courtesy of La Leche League

This position allows baby to be in the most relaxed stage. Mom should find a comfortable chair or bed with sufficient pillows to recline back. Mom should undress as well as baby placing baby skin to skin (belly to belly) allowing baby to use their instinctive stages to latch on to the breast.

Wide open mouth, whole areola...What do we mean by that?

Well, honey it‘s breastfeeding, not nipple feeding. Sometimes we may have to help baby learn how to achieve a deep latch. To get baby to open wide you could try a few tricks:

  • point your nipple up towards the roof of his mouth and back of their throat.

  • Tickle baby’s lip with your nipple.

  • Express some milk and offer to baby while tickling baby’s lip.

Baby needs as much of the areola (darker pigmented skin surrounding the nipple) inside of baby’s mouth. Now, when baby opens wide you must move quickly to place your nipple and areola in their mouth.

You do not always have to use the “laid back position” when nursing but we suggest to begin and use this position when latching is difficult. Once you’re able to get baby to latch on comfortably try switching to another position such as the cradle position.

pic courtesy of Healthy Families BC

Take a look at this video as it shows a great example of where your nipple should be in your baby’s mouth.

If your baby is having difficulty opening their mouth to feed it is imperative that your baby receives and oral assessment from an IBCLC. If you are experiencing pain, do not suffer in silence, honey! Seek help from a lactation consultant quickly.


pic courtesy of Pinterest

Now that baby is latched on for dear life, how do I get baby off?

Make sure to wash your hands first. Simply take your pinky finger and place it on the inside of baby’s cheek and run your finger across baby’s gums until baby opens wide enough to release your nipple.

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