Getting a good attachment (also referred to as a latch) onto the breast is important.
It helps to ensure your baby is getting the milk he needs – and it prevents sore nipples.
There are many things you can do to get breastfeeding off to the best start possible and promote optimal attachment. Read more about what you need to know before the first breastfeed.
There are also several things that will increase the likelihood of attachment problems.
You might not necessarily experience them, or perhaps you are already avoiding them.
However, knowing about them will help you to be as well informed as possible. So, if you’re faced with any problems, you’ll be ready to tackle them.
Here are 6 things which can contribute to attachment problems after giving birth.
#1: IV Fluids Duing Labour
IV (intravenous) fluids might be administered to a woman during the birthing process for a variety of reasons. They are given with:
- Labour inductions
- Group B strep antibiotics
The use of IV fluids can result in generalised swelling, including the mother’s breasts. Breast swelling, particularly when it affects the areola and nipple, makes it more difficult for baby to attach. It might even contribute to a delay in a mother’s milk ‘coming in‘.
#2: Technique While Learning To Breastfeed
Like all new skills, breastfeeding can take some time to get the hang of.
Attachment is one aspect of breastfeeding which often requires quite a bit of practice to get it working well for you and your baby. Since it’s common for breastfed babies to feed 8-12 times every 24 hours, you probably won’t be short of practice!
The most common cause of early nipple pain and damage is suboptimal positioning and attachment to the breast. You can read about how to obtain good positioning and attachment here.
Some common positioning and attachment technique errors include:
- Bringing your breast to your baby rather than your baby to your breast
- Not holding your baby closely enough. Ideally, your baby’s chest should be touching yours
- Attaching your baby with his neck too flexed – with his nose too close to your breast and his chin not close enough. Ideally, your baby’s neck should be tipped back, with his chin touching your breast and his nose free. This position makes sure your nipple is positioned far back in your baby’s mouth where it’s less likely to be compressed between his tongue and the roof of his mouth
- Attaching your baby too far away from your nipple, which means your nipple is strained excessively while your baby sucks. When your baby’s head is tipped back and his mouth is open wide, your nipple should be pointing towards the roof of his mouth and then he can be swiftly hugged onto your breast
#3: Pain Relief During Labour
After a baby is born, and placed on his mother’s chest, he typically displays a series of feeding behaviours that enable him to seek his mother’s breasts and begin feeding. When a baby’s feeding behaviours are functioning optimally, he can do this more easily and so get breastfeeding off to the best possible start.
Pain medication exposure during labour can dull a baby’s feeding behaviours. This might have an impact on a baby’s early attachment to his mother’s breasts – he might not attach optimally, or perhaps not at all.
#4: Instrumental Birth
Instrumental birth (e.g. forceps, vacuum) can lead to pain and stitches for the mother, and pain, bruising and swelling for the baby. This discomfort can make early positioning and attachment to the breast more difficult.
Instrumental birth also increases the risk of jaundice, due to the bruising that can accompany it. The bruising increases the number of red blood cells that need to be broken down and therefore more bilirubin is produced. Jaundice can make a baby more sleepy, which could make early attachment to the breast more difficult.
#5: C-section Birth
Having a c-section means a baby is exposed to anaesthetic and pain relief medication which can affect attachment, as explained above.
A baby born via c-section might come into the world before he is physiologically ready – (here’s what actually causes labour to start). He isn’t exposed to the normal physiological processes of a vaginal birth (e.g. the release of oxytocin, beta-endorphin and adrenalin). The lack of such processes can affect how well a baby uses his instincts early on to seek and attach to his mother’s breasts.
#6: Tongue Tie
Optimal tongue movement is important if a baby is to attach deeply and remove milk well when breastfeeding.
If a baby’s tongue movement is restricted (e.g. due to a tongue tie), it will be harder for a baby to attach and breastfeed optimally.
Remember, whatever the reason for the attachment problem, there are many things that can be done to solve it. At the first sign of trouble, it is important to seek help quickly, from a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support organisation.