Breastfeeding may be the most natural way to feed your baby, but it can take time and practice for you both to get the hang of it. Understanding how a good breastfeeding latch (also known as breastfeeding attachment) should look and feel can be a huge help in getting feeding established.
There’s no right or wrong way to hold and feed your baby, and each mum and baby will find their own preferred position to feed in. What’s important is that you both feel comfortable. Knowing a few different breastfeeding positions and techniques can be helpful as your baby gets bigger and you start to go out more. Read on to find out how to get a good breastfeeding latch!
A Proper Latch
Before breastfeeding, a mother needs to get into a comfortable position as feeding may take 5 minutes to an hour. Use cushions to support the back to prevent it from getting strained. Not only will it help with the back, but it will also help the baby to latch properly. To start feeding, bring the baby towards the nipple; do not bend towards the baby, as it will result in a poor latch and will hurt in the process.
Holding your breast in a “U” shape will help the baby with good latching. It also makes it easy for the baby to latch on. Keep hands 2 inches away from the nipple. Support the neck of the baby with your hand and gently bring the baby towards the breast.
Aim your nipple towards the upper lip of the baby and not towards the centre. If the baby does not latch on the breast, try rubbing the nipple on its upper lip. This way the baby’s head will tilt back. If the baby does not open its mouth, do not force it in but instead gently rub your breast against its mouth. Squeezing a little milk out and then rubbing will also help the baby open its mouth.
Make sure that the mother and the baby are chest to chest with its nose slightly above the breast. As the baby latches on to the breast, ensure that the nipple and areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple) is in the baby’s mouth. This is considered to be a good latch!
Basic Steps for Latching Positioning
- Position yourself comfortably with back support, pillows supporting your arms and in your lap with your feet supported. Whatever feels most comfortable to you!
- Position baby close to you with his hips flexed so that he does not have to turn his head to reach your breast. His mouth and nose should be facing your nipple (rather than having to turn his head to face your nipple).
- Support your breast if needed so it is not pressing on your baby’s chin. Your baby’s chin should drive into your breast.
- Attach or latch your baby onto your breast. Encourage him to open his mouth wide, and pull him close by supporting his back (rather than the back of his head) so that his chin drives into your breast. It helps to tickle his upper lip/nose with your nipple. This will encourage him to open his mouth wide and latch onto your breast. His nose will be touching your breast. Your hand forms a “second neck” for your baby by lightly supporting his neck (not his head).
- Enjoy! If you are feeling pain, detach the baby gently and try again.
As you and your baby become more experienced and comfortable with breastfeeding, you’ll find that you can alter your positions in many ways, even from feeding to feeding. As long as you’re comfortable and the baby is nursing successfully, do what works best for you.
How to help your baby latch on the breast
1: Check your latching position.
Before you start, and whichever breastfeeding position you choose, make sure your baby’s head, neck and spine are aligned, not twisted. His chin should be up, not dropped towards his chest. Make sure you feel comfortable too – you could use pillows or cushions to support your back, arms or baby.1
2: Encourage your baby to open his mouth
Hold your baby close, your nipple level with his nose. Touch your nipple gently against his upper lip to encourage him to open his mouth wide. The wider his mouth is, the easier it will be to get a good latch on.
3: Bring your baby to your breast
Once your baby has opened his mouth wide and has brought his tongue over his bottom gum, bring him onto your breast, aiming your nipple towards the top of his mouth. Your baby’s chin should be the first thing that touches your breast. He should take a large portion of your areola into his mouth, with his bottom lip and jaw covering more of the underneath of the areola. It’s OK if you see part of your areola isn’t inside his mouth – we all have different-sized areolae and different-sized babies! Some mums find that gently shaping their breast at the same time as bringing their baby on to feed helps. Experiment and see what works.
4: Keep your baby close during latch on
Remember mums all have different breast shapes and nipple positions, so you may not always have that ‘textbook’ latch. Whenever possible, keep your baby close to you, with his chin in contact with your breast. Newborn baby’s noses are turned up so they can breathe easily while attached to the breast. This lets them coordinate sucking and breathing with ease.
5: Look and listen
As your baby feeds, your nipple will be against the roof of his mouth, cupped gently by his tongue underneath. The latch should not feel uncomfortable – it should be more of a tugging sensation. Watch your baby – at first, he’ll do short, rapid sucks to stimulate your milk flow (let-down reflex). Once the milk starts flowing, he’ll suck more slowly and deeply with some pauses, which may indicate he’s taking in milk – a good sign! You should see his jaw moving, and may also hear sucking and swallowing as he feeds. These are all good signs, but it’s also important to check your baby is producing plenty of wet and dirty nappies and gaining weight as expected.
6: How to break your baby’s latch on the breast
If your baby’s latch is shallow or painful, or he starts chomping on your nipple or brushing the end of it with his tongue, remove him from your breast and try again. Ease your clean finger gently inside the corner of his mouth to break his suction if you need to.
How To Confirm If Your Latch Is Good?
Knowing the right breastfeeding latching tips and being aware of common latching signs can make your problems go away in no time. It will make breastfeeding a seamless and hassle-free process. Here are the signs of proper breastfeeding latching amongst babies:
- No pain – If the breastfeeding process feels smooth and less painful, then you’ve latched your baby on properly.
- Comfortable positioning – Put pillows behind your lower back for added support. If you’re breastfeeding your baby in bed, put some pillows below your knees for cushioning and support.
- Nipple inside baby’s mouth – When you’re breastfeeding correctly, the entire nipple should be inside the baby’s mouth
- Tummy-to-tummy position – Position your baby in a way that her tummy faces yours during the breastfeeding process.
- Head and neck alignment – Make sure the baby’s neck and head align in the same direction so that there’s no discomfort faced when bringing the baby close to your nipple.
- Breast support – Support your breast in a way that baby’s chin drives into your breast and not the other way around.
- Close positioning – Position your baby close to your nipples so that she doesn’t have to bend or turn her head to reach your breast.
- Mouth and nose facing nipple – Your baby’s mouth and nose should face the nipple with the nose touching the breast during the breastfeeding process.
- A level head and bottom – Your baby’s head should be at level with the bottom of his body during the breastfeeding process.
- Wide mouth – Encourage your baby to open his mouth wide during the breastfeeding process.
The cheeks of the baby will look full, its chin must rest on the breast, and the nose must be free and above the breast. The baby does not make any noise except for swallowing. After the feeding, there will be no change in the shape of the nipple and the baby will look satisfied, any previous irritation disappears, and the baby might even fall asleep.
There will be no movement in the lower jaw of the baby. Instead of an up and down movement, there will be circular movements in the baby’s mouth. With good latching, the baby will be relaxed. If the baby is still restless then the latch is not done properly and will have to be redone.
Some videos to help
Here’s a video on how to get on a good latch for new mothers.
Here’s another awesome video on how to latch!
Remember, breastfeeding should not be painful. A good breastfeeding latch will help keep discomfort to a minimum. If your baby is not latched on well, problems like cracked and sore nipples can develop. Once a good position and latch are established, breastfeeding can be a wonderful, pain-free bonding experience between you and your baby.
If you are still experiencing any nipple pain, dryness or discomfort, try a nipple cream.
If you need further assistance, many hospitals have lactation consultants. Seek to work with a lactation consultant at the hospital or birthing centre in which you delivered. If you are already home, you can speak with your healthcare provider. You can also call a breastfeeding helpline or contact an independent lactation consultant. Join our breastfeeding community to ask fellow mummies for support too!
Last but not least like what Kellymom mentions
No matter what latch and positioning look like, the true measure is in the answers to these two questions:
- Is it effective?
- Is it comfortable?
Even if the latch and positioning look perfect (yes, even if a lactation consultant told you it was fine), pain (particularly after the first two weeks) and/or ineffective milk transfer indicates that something needs to change, and the first suspect is ineffective latch/positioning.
If the baby is transferring milk and gaining weight well, and mom is not hurting, then latch and positioning are – by definition – good, even if they look nothing like the “textbook” latch.
“Rules and regulations have no place in the mother-baby relationship. Each mother and baby dyad is different and what works well for one mother and baby may not work well for another mother and baby. The important thing to do is to look at the mother and baby as individuals.”– Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC in The Mother-Baby Dance