In working with new breastfeeding families over the past twenty years as an RN, IBCLC, too many mothers have shared how they experienced early initiation of breastfeeding; "the nurse did it for me", "she (the nurse) just grabbed my breast without even asking", or "they just pushed the baby onto my breast and left the room". These are stories which mothers report as traumatic and completely unhelpful in their breastfeeding journey.
Ideally, all staff working with the new infant and birthing parent should be able to assist the initiation of the latch and milk transfer WITHOUT EVER TOUCHING either one of the breastfeeding couplets. Is that something that you are able to do?”
This post will provide some suggestions on developing the Hands-off skill for assisting the infant and breastfeeding parent to accomplish a successful, pain-free latch with good milk transfer as many times as possible.
Practice assisting a latch with a partner from your workplace. Stand back-to-back and go through a full description of the latch from beginning to end, with your partner acting out the description as they hear it. This is a fun exercise but is extremely enlightening... it isn't as easy as it sounds.
Use a doll and demo breast to show your partner how to elicit a wide oral gape, achieve a deep asymmetric latch, and assess for signs of adequate milk transfer. Don't put your hands on your partner and see if you're successful at a hands-off latch.
If your hands are ABSOLUTELY necessary to assist the breastfeeding couplet, your hands should be on top of those of the parent. Your verbal description will guide their hands through the latch and your hands are gently guiding theirs.
As we do normally as healthcare providers, ALWAYS ask permission prior to touching either the parent or the infant. This is not only common courtesy but also evidence-based care.
Do you have a method you've developed to assist with latching without the use of your hands? I would enjoy hearing it so please email me at the address below.
Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA CHC
Professional Development Educator
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Last Updated: September 2018