There is a common theme when I speak to women who are having some issues initiating a breastfeeding relationship. Many women who have slight difficulty with the latch will report the same experiences. They state that sometimes they allow the baby to nurse with an incorrect or shallow latch because "at least the baby is nursing" or because "the baby was so hungry" or "at least the baby is getting something".
These are counterproductive and concerning assumptions but they are also a natural response to the demanding and tiring experience of nursing a newborn. Why is a deep and correct latch so important? When the baby is latched correctly they are able to compress the milk ducts in the breast and remove the appropriate amount of milk. This will lead to proper weight gain and growth and development. A shallow latch leads to decreased milk intake. This can lead to improper weight gain. Another issue that is important in considering latch is milk production. The milk is produced by the milk being properly removed by the baby. If a mother has a repeatedly shallow or incorrect latch, her milk supply will decrease and could become compromised.
An additional very important issue to consider when speaking about a shallow latch is nipple damage. Incorrect latch can lead to blisters, cracks, fissures, bruises, bleeding and scabbing. This can put the woman at risk for infection of the nipple and of the breast itself. Damage to the nipple also is very painful due to the large amount of nerves in the nipple tissue. This can directly lead to cessation of breastfeeding due to nipple pain.
If you are aware that your baby is not attaining a correct and deep latch it is recommended that you ask for help. Also you can maintain your milk supply by pumping your breasts while looking for assistance. The baby is learning a new skill and so are you!