Useful Tips

The Art of the Latch

My partner found this article particularly helpful in his quest for a better latch.

The Art of the Latch
MAY 4, 2014 / METROPOLITANMILKMAIDWhen reading posts in the ABF/ANR community or researching lactation, you’ll likely come across the word “latch” fairly often. Latch is the term used to describe the technique of sealing the lips and tongue over the nipple and areola in order to suckle milk. Latching is relatively simple in practice (almost everyone is born knowing how to do it); however, incorrect latch among adults is quite common and can reduce the effectiveness of the breast’s natural ability produce and express milk, and in some cases, prevent lactation altogether.

Perhaps the most common misconception is that milk comes from the nipple. In fact, milk must first be moved from the mammary glands, through the milk ducts, to small milk sinuses beneath the nipple and areola. This process is stimulated by the hormone oxytocin. Proper suckling technique easily expresses milk from a filled sinus–the problem is creating the proper stimulation to release oxytocin and begin the process. Many adults are accustomed to nipple-sucking as a form of foreplay, but this stimulation is different from the more engaged suckling needed to prompt the release of oxytocin and production of milk.

To latch correctly, the lips must be sealed against the areola, rather than just around the nipple. The recipient should try to fit as much of the breast into the mouth as is comfortable. Rolling the tongue back will pull the nipple and a portion of the areola back onto the tongue and press it against the roof of the mouth–this motion squeezes the milk sinuses behind the nipple, coaxing milk into the mouth. Minimum suction is needed because the recipient does not really “suck” milk from the breast so much as swallow any milk that has been pressed out of the sinuses. Suckling is accomplished by a pulsation of rhythmic sucking, moderate squeezing of the nipple and a portion of the areola by the tongue, and occasional swallowing. Sucking harder and squeezing roughly will not only get you nowhere, but can actually damage the milk ducts. If you’re trying to increase production, remember to continue suckling for a few minutes after the breast has emptied, which indicates to the milk ducts that they need to meet higher demand.

As a couple becomes experienced with adult nursing, suckling becomes rhythmic and relaxed. When suckled properly, women often experience bouts of uterine contractions (much like the ones that occur during orgasm) as a result of the intense hormone release – reward your partner accordingly! Each partner should be sure that the other is comfortable, and speak up if any discomfort or pain occurs. It can sometimes take time for the recipient to latch on without too much interference from the teeth. It is also totally normal for a “hickey” to form above/around the nipple after suckling, especially if the suckling partner has facial hair. I personally enjoyed the extra stimulation my partner provided by lightly, rhythmically squeezing my breast while suckling–not sure if it will actually accelerate the induction process, but it feels great!

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