You may need to provide your baby with some cheek support if your child is still having difficulty maintaining a latch. This can be a temporary measure to assist your baby in maintaining the lateral, or side, the stability needed in the mouth and bringing the lips forward to suckle properly. Cheek support can help your baby create an appropriate amount of interior mouth pressure to draw in liquid from the bottle or breast easily and efficiently.
To provide cheek support, place your thumb on one of your baby's cheeks and your index or middle finger on the other. Press gently but firmly inward toward your baby's gums while pulling your fingers slightly forward toward your baby's lips. Do not slide your fingers over your baby's skin in any direction. You will see your baby's lips flare. because the muscles of the cheeks help to move the lips. You may also see your baby's tongue cup because you are now providing the lateral stability your child needs to suckle properly.
For many years, lactation consultants have taught moms the "Dancer" hand position (ic, Mom supports the baby's cheeks and chin with her free hand while baby is nursing) to support babies' cheeks and jaws while they nursed. Some moms have found this hold difficult to maintain, particularly when using a cradle (ie, cross-over) position.
However, modified cheek support can be used with the cradle hold. Gravity is often the culprit in this situation, as gravity pulls the lower cheek toward the ground. Therefore, the lower cheek does not remain against your baby's gum surface during nursing. Appropriate pressure in the mouth is lost. Nursing moms using a cradle hold can apply gentle but firm pressure on the baby's lower cheek surface to help the baby compensate for this difficulty.
You can also give your baby a little jaw support along with cheek support if needed. This can be done by placing the area between your thumb and index finger under your baby's chin while you provide cheek support. However, it is essential that you do not stop your baby's jaw from moving or force the jaw to move in an unnatural direction. Providing jaw support is like dancing smoothly with a partner and will be discussed in detail in chapter 6.
Cheek and jaw support can help your baby to latch. However, these are usually temporary measures. Your baby may have a subtle difficulty in the mouth that is causing the latching concern. Subtle concerns are often problematic because they can be difficult to identify. These are discussed later in other blogs.