Extension for Easier Latch
One of the biggest improvements in lactation consulting recently has been to recognize that the baby can latch so much better when her head is extended. The baby is better able to move the nipple to the area of the soft palate, better able to pull a large amount of breast tissue into his mouth and better able to coordinate sucking swallowing and breathing in a position of extension. The baby should approach the latch with her face on the breast so that she can smell and see the nipple. As the baby rocks her face toward the nipple and locates the nipple, she will drop open its jaw, stick out her tongue and lift/extend her head so that her top lip comes just over the nipple and she can begin to suckle.
Avoid Cradle Hold in the First Week
Once the baby is sucking, many women move their arm around the baby into what is called the cradle hold. This hold causes the very flexible baby to tuck down his chin (flex his head). Flexion will pull the nipple more to the front of the baby’s mouth where it can be compressed by the tongue or gums. Flexion makes breathing, as the baby’s nose bends down into the breast, sucking and swallowing more difficult-try it yourself! The cradle hold does not support the breast so heavy milk-filled breasts pull out of the baby’s mouth with gravity. A newborn’s latch is not strong and must be supported by maternal efforts at the start of a breastfeeding relationship. When a lackadaisical approach is taken, even with experienced mothers, there is a chance that milk supply would be negatively affected by ineffective emptying of the breast, that nipple trauma would lead to early supplementation or bottlefeedings or that the baby would develop a habit of chewing or clamping on the nipple rather than wide mouth nursing. It is a common thought that breastfeeding inevitably hurts in the beginning; more likely the cause is a flexed baby at the breast. My best advice to moms with new babies is “No cradle hold for the first week of breastfeeding”. If nursing continues to be painful or ineffective in a posture of extension, seek professional help or stop by our free weekly lactation circle led by several of our certified lactation consultants.