I got this message in my inbox this week about 3 times! I thought I was nuts at first, then thought maybe there was a glitch in the email matrix. What are the odds that three different moms are experiencing the same unique issue at the same time? Could be a coincidence or could be the stars aligning for a helpful blog post.
There are a few reasons why mom's are experiencing a poor latch on one breast or shallow latch only on one side. Let's talk about 3:
1) birth trauma/birth injury: Sometimes emergencies happen during the birthing process and OB's or midwives have to make quick decisions in order to get the baby out quickly to make sure the birthing parents and the infant make it through the birth alive. This sometimes means the use of a vacuum or the forceps. These tools can sometimes cause damage to the head and neck of the infant which makes some of the more traditional nursing positions uncomfortable and making it hard to eat when laying on one side or the other. This will cause the infant to have poor latching, shallow latching, or breast refusal of one side.
2) awkward positioning: when we look at pictures of babies in the womb they are beautifully placed head down with their legs in "criss cross applesauce" head perfectly aligned. That picture is not always real life. Sometimes they are breech presentation (butt down), sometimes their heads are positioned where their chin is more into their chest, sometimes their head is positioned more backwards, and sometimes it is more to the side. These positions can cause some tightness in the neck muscles which can make latching in certain positions more difficult and uncomfortable. Imagine sleeping weird and wake up with a stiff neck. Definitely not comfortable.
3) head shape: With vaginal deliveries infant's heads can come out a bit "cone" shaped. Sometimes the facial bones can shift as well to make that amazing journey out of the uterus. While the baby's head is made for this, having soft flexible bones and connective tissues, that move in the best ways to make the journey out, this "shaping" can make latching in the first couple of days/weeks difficult. In most cases baby's head will work itself out but it can make some difficulties early on.
So what can we do to fix the poor latch on one breast or the shallow latch on one side?
1) Make an appointment with a lactation consultant. Sometimes meeting with a consultant in person or virtually can help the LC see the infant's behavior and can make suggestion from that. Lactation Consultants can do oral exams on the infant, check suction strength of the infant, and will watch how the infant moves and how the baby is being positioned to determine what movements are natural and what movements are cause for concern. I always suggest an appointment with a lactation consultant first and then going from there.
2) Try different nursing positions. If the baby is comfortable with the cradle hold on one side try doing the football hold on the other side. This keeps the infant in the same position that they are comfortable in and helps them to be able to latch on the other side. Laid back nursing position is also a great position to help keep the baby in a more "neutral" position encouraging infant to latch more deeply and to take both breasts.
3) Try Chiropractic work: Chiropractic care is an alternative treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Some medical professional are not sure if chiropractic care is safe for infants and children. There are chiropractors that specialize in the care of children and the procedure is very gentle. I personally have seen improvements in the infants that I have suggested to see a chiropractor, however, it's up to you parents! Talk to your child's health professional and make sure that the chiropractor specializes in children care.
4) Cranial sacral therapy (CST): This is a form of body work that uses gentle touch in order to palpate the synarthrodial joints. Some medical professionals do not believe that CST works and should not be used on children. The ball is in your court parents! If you would like to try this method of osteopathy make sure it is a certified professional that will perform the therapy and speak with your child's peditrician or health care provider first!
Remember these are suggestions and should not take the place of you working with a lactation consultant in person and talking with your child's doctor.
If you have had this issue, what worked for you? Let's talk about it! Leave what worked for you in the comments I'd love to see it!
Do you have questions? Leave them below or email me Dominique@DominiqueDoula.com
Dominique Gallo, IBCLC, RLC
Gallo Birth Services serves anyone in the U.S. virtually. Gallo Birth Services serves in-person all of the families of the Roanoke Valley including Roanoke City and County, Vinton, Salem, Blacksburg, Christianburg, and all surrounding areas.