Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Dealing With a Lazy Latched Toddler

There are loads of breastfeeding resources out there, most notably online sources as book form publication seems about as popular as breastfeeding is. What you find as you continue on your journey of breastfeeding is that most sources are focused on 0-6 months or even just the first year of breastfeeding. This is because, unfortunately, the number of women who are choose to or are able to continue breastfeeding past 6-12 months are around 5% in the US and Canada. Needless to say, we are few and far between. Yet I keep finding other women who are breastfeeding well past 12 months and they, of course, have issues and concerns and hysterical moments that they want to share in hopes of knowing just what the spectrum of toddler nursing entails.

An issue that you don't often hear about is a lazy latch in toddlers. Babies really don't know what they are doing, and while a lazy latch is possible, it is most likely that there are other issues at hand that need to be addressed in order to ensure a proper latch. But what happens when you have been doing something over and over for a year or two or three? You begin to ease up on your form, worry less about how you are doing and inevitably, develop some lazy habits towards this activity (driving is a great example). Toddlers are exactly the same. By the time they reach 2 years of age, they are professional breastfeeders. And they know it. So maybe on this feed, I won't open my mouth as wide and see if I can get as much milk. Oh, hey, look at that, I can stand here, barely open my mouth, and tuck my bottom lip in WHILE still getting milk! Why bother opening wide, or latching deeply, or flanging my lips, or approaching the boobie from a usual position?

Asleep with a not so fabulous latch
Why, my sweet toddler? Because it hurts otherwise! Since I became pregnant, nursing has become quite the hot topic around my house. Lennon wants it constantly, I barely want to do it at all, and James thinks its about time we weaned our rowdy 2 year old. Since neither me or Lennon are ready to fully wean yet, we have to work with our changing reality. Pregnancy brings about a change in your milk. So why nurse as efficiently and correctly if you aren't really doing much milking in the first place? Again, because it hurts. Don't simply assume that because you are pregnant, or because you have less milk, that this is reason for discomfort while nursing. Of course, the less oxytocin you experience from the lessened letdowns will affect how you feel emotionally about nursing, and this can contribute to a change in comfort while breastfeeding. But in regards to your toddler's little mouth, they shouldn't be inflicting pain on your nipples while they are at you constantly. And from what I'm gathering from other mamas, this constant toddler nurse obsession is a common occurrence.

Some quick tips to help alleviate that lazy latch:

1) Say AHHH! Toddlers understand much more than little babies, so when you ask this of them, they can oblige you. The wider and more open their mouth, the more nipple and aerola that enters their mouth, the less pain for you.

2) Check for flanged lips. Lennon has always struggled with flanging her lips, which means turning them out so the soft inner lip tissue is what is rubbing against your breast. This can be a cause of great discomfort, so check your little one's lips: are they turned out? If not, retry your latch and see if it helps. Or try a new position. All people's mouths are unique in shape and one angle may be more conducive to your child's nursing needs than another. You can also lightly pull up from the corners of their lips, forcing the lip to flange out.

Lips tucked in like this are not ideal for comfort. Sometimes, it doesn't hurt, but if it is causing pain, work on flanging those lips!

3) Re Latch. Often, we get lazy ourselves about nursing our toddlers. They should know by now to open their mouths wide. I shouldn't have to re latch her four times before it is comfortable. Which of course is just silly because as they grow and learn so do we. It is all a process and as many say: two steps forward and one step backwards. So start at the base, ensure you are getting a good latch every single nursing session and eventually, they start remembering what proper nursing feels like.

A happy mama and a well latched, fully flanged toddler means future breastfeeding success
I hope this helps any mamas who are struggling through a lazy latched toddler. You are not alone! Keep nursing your toddler and smile, it won't last forever. 

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