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After positioning your baby, you can focus on getting your baby to take hold of the breast correctly. This is called having a good latch. A poor latch is the main reason for sore nipples.
Support the base of your breast well behind the areola with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the opposite side. Rotate your hand until your thumb is across from your baby's nose. (See the illustration above which shows the proper way to hold the breast for latching on.)
- Get your baby's head to face your breast. Babies have a rooting reflex that makes them turn their heads toward what is touching their cheek. You can use a finger or your nipple to stroke your baby's cheek so her face turns toward you.
- Encourage your baby to open her mouth wide. When your baby's mouth is near the nipple, tickle her lips with your nipple. That will make her open her mouth. When her mouth is open wide, guide her onto the breast. Both the nipple and much of the areola should be in your baby's mouth. If your baby is only sucking on the nipple, it will quickly become sore. Although it is important to support your baby's head, don't push or flex it forward. That can create a poor latch.
- Get your baby's tongue and lips in the correct position. A good latch means the baby's tongue is between your breast and her lower gum. It also means her lips are pushed outward, like fish lips. This is more likely to happen when she opens her mouth wide before she takes hold of the breast.
- Get your baby's cheeks and chin to touch your breast. Your baby needs to be close to your breast. If you are worried about your baby being able to breathe easily, depress your breast a little near your baby's nose.
In the beginning, the first few sucks may make your nipple feel tender. However, that should quickly go away. If you are still uncomfortable after 20 seconds, remove your baby after breaking the suction and reposition her.
The first few days it may take a couple of tries before you and your baby get a good latch.
If your breast is very firm, it may be difficult for your baby to come deeply onto the breast. In that case, you can express a little milk ("soften" the areola). Putting some colostrum on your nipple may encourage your baby to take the nipple and begin to suck.
It is important to break the suction before you try to remove your baby from your breast. You can press on the skin at the areola, causing a small dimple. Or, gently put the tip of your finger into your baby's mouth next to her cheek.
If your baby's cheeks become hollow while sucking, the latch is not correct. Relatch and try breastfeeding again.