The most important skill to learn when breastfeeding a baby is to ensure the baby gets a deep latch. But it’s often easier said than done.
My favourite way of teaching this is the hamburger analogy.
Well, imagine you want to eat a very big and tall hamburger. And want to be able to take a bite of every single layer in the proportions the burger is made. How would you do it?
Perhaps you are scratching your head now, or perhaps you are simulating how it would be done. I believe the best way you would do it is to position your lower jaw below the bottom of the burger, and then tilt your head over the top of the burger as you close your upper jaw over the top of the burger in order to take that big bite. Did I guess right?
If I was wrong, I hope you’d agree with me that the method I just described should work well too.
The concept of getting a deep latch is pretty much the same thing. A mother’s breast is like this huge burger a newborn with a tiny mouth needs to eat from, and the most effective way for him/her to suck the milk out of it is if he/she is able to get the hard palate (the part of roof of the mouth closest to the lips) over the breast as far as possible from the nipple. This is because the hard palate would then be exerting the required pressure on the milk glands (aka aveoli) to push the milk through the ducts and out through the nipple into the baby’s mouth. Please see the images below to understand more about the anatomy of the breast and also the baby’s mouth.
Anatomy of lactating breast
Anatomy of a baby’s mouth (image courtesy of Medela)
If the baby does this right, not only will the baby be able to extract milk easily from the mother’s breast, the mother will also find nursing quite comfortable, because her nipple will be rubbing against the baby’s hard-soft palete and not the hard palate (aka shallow latch) and her breasts will also be effectively emptied of milk.
A breastfeeding mother would hence have to help guide the baby’s latch to ensure the deep latch using 3 simple steps:
1) Tilt baby’s head back and let lower jaw touch BEHIND the bottom of nipple (remember how you get ready to take that big bite our of your big burger)
2) WAIT for baby to open his/her mouth very widely (do NOT change the baby’s position while baby is only rooting, aka beginning to open the mouth)
3) Once the mouth is open very widely, support the baby’s head from the base to get upper jaw over whole nipple area
Please watch the video below to understand better how to do this.
I hope you find this post useful and if you have other/better analogies please feel free to share in the comments! 🙂