A good breastfeeding latch is essential for feeding your baby. The latch is the word used to describe how baby attaches to the breast and nipple. You may also hear this referred to as ‘attachment’.
If your baby does not latch on the breast well it creates a whole host of problems. This includes poor milk supply, sore nipples, baby weight loss and unhappy mama and baby. It’s not hard to see why a poor latch can often result in quitting breastfeeding.
It’s not hard to see why a poor latch can often result in quitting breastfeeding.
I created this guide to help you learn all about a good breastfeeding latch. You’ll have a better idea if you’re doing it right or not. Remember that getting baby to latch is a technique you both need to learn. It takes time and practice to get right in the beginning.
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How to Latch Baby onto Your Breast
1. Get Comfortable
Start by getting yourself into a comfortable position. Fix your clothing to expose your breast. You are best to do this before you put baby the breast. Hungry babies can get irate quickly and you want to start a feed with as little fuss as possible.
Fix your clothing to expose your breast. You are best to do this before you put baby the breast. Hungry babies can get irate quickly and you want to start a feed with as little fuss as possible.
Remember to keep your back supported and your shoulders relaxed. If you start a feed with a poor position for yourself, you’ll quickly get sore after holding it for half an hour. Make sure you have everything to hand so you don’t need to move during the feed. This includes nursing pillows, burp cloths or a drinks bottle.
If you start a feed with a poor position for yourself, you’ll quickly get sore after holding it for half an hour. Make sure you have everything to hand so you don’t need to move during the feed. This includes nursing pillows, burp cloths or a drinks bottle.
Make sure you have everything to hand so you don’t need to move during the feed. This includes nursing pillows, burp cloths or a drinks bottle.
2. Get Baby In Position
There are lots of different positions you can hold your baby in to breastfeed. The aim is to get babies face in front of your breast as comfortably as possible for you and baby.
The aim is to get babies face in front of your breast as comfortably as possible for you and baby.
Aim to have baby’s nose or top lip in line with your nipple. To do this hold the back of your baby’s neck in the webbed part of your hand, between your thumb and forefinger. This position lets baby tilt their head back, just like you would when taking a drink. The tilt also helps you to guide your nipple to the roof of baby’s mouth.
This position lets baby tilt their head back, just like you would when taking a drink. The tilt also helps you to guide your nipple to the roof of baby’s mouth.
Do not hold the back of babies head with your palm, as it tilts the head into a forward position and will result in a poor latch. See how easy it is for you to take a drink with your chin on your chest.
See how easy it is for you to take a drink with your chin on your chest.
3. Wait For a wide Mouth
Now you and baby are in position, you need to wait for baby to have a big wide mouth. This should look similar to a big yawn. A wide mouth is important to get the nipple to the back of the mouth.
A wide mouth is important to get the nipple to the back of the mouth.
Babies are born with a few reflexes to encourage them to open their mouth wide. You can stimulate these reflexes by:
- Gently brush the upper or lower lip with your nipple
- Pull down on baby’s chin
- Stroke baby’s cheek
- Press firmly in the center of baby’s palm (or both palms)
4. Pull Baby in Close
As soon as you see the wide open mouth pull baby into the breast, chin first. This movement needs to be done fairly quickly and baby may only give you a small amount of time to do it.
Do not push your breast or shoulders toward your baby. This will result in you adopting poor position when feeding. You are much more likely to get sore during a feed. This result in you moving around, which can change the latch and can cause pain or friction.
You are much more likely to get sore neck,back or shoulders during a feed. This result in you moving around, which can change the latch and can cause pain or friction.
Pulling baby close helps them get a good, deep latch to position the nipple and help your breast milk flow.
Your baby’s chin should be pressing into the underside of your breast.
5. Look For Signs of Feeding
When your baby is on you want to check for signs of sucking. At first, your baby should start with short quick sucks, then change to long slow sucks.
You may also hear the sound of your baby swallowing.
When your mature milk ‘comes in’ around day 3-4 you will feel your let-down reflex. This is often a tingling or ‘relief’ sensation.
It’s unusual to feel this when you have colostrum (first milk). You might even start to leak milk from your free breast as baby begins to suck.
Breast Support Positions
You may find it easier to latch baby on if you support your breast during a feed. These are particularly useful if you have large breasts.
You can also use nursing pillows or rolled up towels to support your arms during a feed.
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The C hold
Curve your hand into a C shape and hold it from the side of your breast. Your thumb should be at the top of your breast and your fingers underneath.
Your hand should be positioned well away from the nipple.
It can be difficult to see what area your fingers are touching, so aim to have your small finger touching your ribs.
The U hold
This is similar to the C hold, but supporting a different area. Your hand is cupped underneath the breast in a U shape.
Your thumb should be on the outer side of the breast and your fingers on the inner side.
Remember to keep your fingers far back enough to give baby enough breast tissue to latch on.
The Nipple sandwich
This technique was developed by lactation consultant Barbara Heiser.
With the hand in the C hold, slightly press the nipple together to make it change from round to oval shaped. This means baby doesn’t need to latch onto such a wide area.
Slightly pull the breast tissue back toward your rib cage. This pushing the nipple out slightly, making it easier for baby to grasp onto.
Gently press the thumb deeper into the top of the breast. This gives the breast an upward tilt to position it into the roof of your baby’s mouth.
Hold the breast in this position until baby gives you a nice open mouth and pull them onto the breast. Once you are sure baby is latched well you can remove your hand.
If you continue to support your breast, don’t continue to press down as this can block the milk flow.
The cigarette hold
You may have seen women using the cigarette hold to support their breast. This is when you place the breast between your fore and ring finger like you are holding a cigarette.
I don’t recommend this position for support. It won’t give you the same flexibility as the C or the U hold.
This usually results in your fingers getting in the way of your baby trying to attach. The pressure of your fingers is also more likely to slow or block your milk flow.
This hand position is good if you have a fast let-down reflex. As it slows to milk flow, you can use it at the start of a feed to prevent your milk causing your baby to cough and splutter.
Signs of a good Breastfeeding Latch
When your baby is latched well their chin should be pressed into the underside of your breast. The chin should be as far away from the nipple as possible.
The chin will do most of the work to get the milk to flow. Baby’s nose should be touching or close the top of the breast.
You should be able to see quite a lot of the upper side of your areola when you look down. Your baby’s mouth should cover the whole underside of the areola.
It’s difficult for you to see this so you might want to check in a mirror or have your nurse or partner look.
Your baby lips should be folded outwards onto your breast. This creates a tight seal between the mouth and breast, resulting in good suction.
If your baby’s lips are pointing inwards, you can try gently pull outward with your finger or try to re-attach baby onto the breast.
Breastfeeding can be tender for new moms, as your nipples get used to the friction. However, once your baby is attached well it should not feel painful for you as they feed.
If your baby appears attached well the issue may be poor tongue position. In this case, you should stop and re-attach baby.
Your baby’s cheeks should be big and round as they feed. This shows the nipple is in the right area of the mouth and baby’s tongue is in the right position for feeding.
You should hear baby making swallowing noises, especially when your mature milk ‘comes in’. Remember, this may be more difficult to hear when you still have colostrum.
Instead, you may hear the milk ‘hitting the tummy’ and causing a sight rumbling sound.
Another sign of a good latch is the movements on near baby’s jawline. If you watch closely your baby’s ears will slightly wiggle or you’ll see their temples moving up and down.
Once you’ve finished a feed inspect your nipples. They should look normal or just slightly elongated.
If they appear ‘lipstick shaped’ or misshaped at one side, this usually indicates a poor latch or suction.
Signs of a Bad breastfeeding Latch
If you notice any of these signs, stop breastfeeding and try to reattach baby.
If these signs persist get good professional help as soon as possible to avoid severe damage to your nipples.
If it’s painful to feed, this usually is a sign that your baby has not latched on deep enough. The pain is caused by friction from the tongue pulling on your nipple.
Bleeding, cracks or blisters
Once the damage has been done, you’ll quickly notice your body will try to heal the damage. Crack, blisters and bruising can make feeding extremely painful.
If you want to heal your nipple use a good nipple cream. If you are waiting for help but need to feed baby try spoon or cup feeding some expressed milk or use a nipple shield as a very short-term solution.
If your baby’s lips are tight together over your nipple, thier mouth was not wide enough before attaching.
Try using the sandwich hold described above. It narrows to the area for your baby if they are reluctant to open wide.
If you notice your babys cheeks are sucking inward with each motion, then they are not latched on right.
It’s likely the nipple is not far enough into the mouth, or the tongue is in the wrong position.
Once your baby is attached you may hear a clicking sound instead of a swallow. This is a sign of poor latch.
It usually means baby is sucking on their tongue rather than on the nipple.
Coming Off the Breast
A baby who is latched and has a good feed will usually come off the breast themselves once they are full. This could take around 20-30 minutes or more.
If you need to end the feed early or need to re-attach baby due to a poor latch, then it’s important you don’t just pull baby off.
A suckling baby can create quite a strong suction. If you pull them off too quickly you are likely to cause damage to your nipple tissue.
There are three ways you can gently remove your baby from your breast without causing damage.
You can break to suction from
- The Top. Take your finger and press down on your breast close to the nipple.
- The Bottom. Use your finger to tilt babies chin downward.
- The Side. Place your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth.