Latching on tips for breastfeeding

BreastfeedingGetting your baby to latch onto your breast can be a bit tricky to begin with and if you don't get your baby 'plugged in' right, she could end up not getting the nourishment she needs and you could end up with nipples that hurt or crack.

There's a bit of a knack to it - and, like all knacks, it's easy when you know how and hugely frustrating when you don't. A good latch is key to successful breastfeeding, so while it may take a while to get it right, it's worth persevering.

Tips for successful latching on

1. Get comfy. Make sure you and your baby are in a good position where you can both relax. Get a pillow to support your baby, and one for behind your back if you are sitting. Make sure you are not hunching over your baby.

A V-shaped pillow can be useful here as you can put it on your lap and it will support your baby as it curls around your middle. Experiment and you will soon find the most comfortable positions that work for you and your baby.

2. Get your baby into the right position. A good way to get your baby in a good position to feed is to remember the mantra 'tummy to mummy' and 'nose to nipple' (although it is more like mouth and nose to nipple). Instead of lying on her back on your lap in classic bottle-feeding position, your baby will have their tummy against yours and their nose and mouth to your nipple, so if you are sitting up and holding her back, your palm should be facing your tummy rather than being flat and facing upwards. Hold her head gently with your other hand.

3. Bring your baby to your breast. If you bring her chin towards your breast, her mouth should open. Her head should tilt back slightly, so that the bottom lip meets your breast first. Your nipple should touch the roof of your baby's mouth and be far back in her mouth. Her bottom lip should be way below the nipple, not just underneath. Your baby needs to have more than just your nipple in her mouth and will have most of the areola in there too, particularly the lower half.

Sometimes it can help to gently cup your breast to shape the mouthful for your baby, ready for them to latch onto it. This is particularly helpful if you have quite large or quite small breasts (and it can't hurt if you are fortunate to have breasts that are 'just right' whatever that means). To do this make a C-shape with your hand and gather a good handful to offer to your baby, but don't press too hard as you don't want to cause any blockages.

4. Open wide. If your baby does not automatically open their mouth to feed, you can put your finger gently on her chin, just below the bottom lip, or rub your nipple on their nose, which sounds a bit odd but will help her to smell your milk and supposedly stimulates the desire to feed. Skin-to-skin contact can also help, so, if it's warm enough, hold her with just her nappy on with her tummy pressed to yours.

5. What next? Once your baby has latched on, her bottom lip will curl back pressing against her chin and you will be able to see her jaw moving as she sucks. In the right position she will be able to suck in a strong rhythmic way that will stimulate your milk to flow freely and you will feel a deep pulling in your breast. Your baby's bottom jaw will move rhythmically as her tongue stimulates the breast ducts to release milk. The top jaw will remain still.

What are the signs that your baby hasn't latched on effectively?

  • Your baby might be wriggly and distracted
  • If it feels painful and your nipples hurt
  • If your baby does not have a good mouthful of breast with more areola from below rather than on top of the nipple or just has your nipple in her mouth
  • Your breasts still feel full at the end of a feed

If it doesn't feel right, or if it feels painful, you can ease your baby off the breast by putting your finger in her mouth to gently break the suction. Try to reposition your baby, stay calm and try again.

So much for the theory. In practice, it may take you - and your baby - several tries to get this right. It may help you to look at pictures and/or to ask a breastfeeding counsellor to check your latch for you.

What Mumsnetters say about getting the latch sorted

  • This is what worked for me. Say you are going to offer the left side. Hold your baby along your right arm, with his head in the palm of your hand. Hold your left breast with your left hand as if you were holding a burger (if you know what I mean!) and move baby to burger. popsycal
  • Hold your baby in close, so you couldn't even get a piece of paper between you. Then wait for a very open mouth and just pull her in closer. Suebfc
  • I shaped my breast with finger and thumb before putting it in his mouth (not forcefully) to be sure he had enough of the nipple in. oregorenianabroad
  • You can also try doing the 'breast crawl'. Lie in bed with no top on and put your baby, in just a nappy, face down on your tummy and let him find his own way onto the breast. Sometimes, they get a better latch by themselves than they do with us helping. MrsBadger
  • If your baby's not on right, unlatch him them using your finger in her mouth to break the seal. I worried if I did this too often, she would lose interest and give up but she never did. So, my advice is do it as many times as you need till it feels right. Don't rush; save your nipples. Rumple


Image: Shutterstock

Last updated: over 1 year ago