When your baby connects to your breast and creates a seal with his mouth it’s called “latching on”. A good latch will help ensure your baby is feeding properly and is often the key to comfortable, satisfying breastfeeding. But getting a good latch can take a little practice for some moms and babies. In one survey of women who stopped breastfeeding within the first month, more than 50% said that having trouble getting a good latch was the main reason they quit.
The good news is that getting a good latch is a skill you can both learn! Even if you find it challenging at first, you’ll soon get the hang of it with a little patience and practice. If you don’t get a perfect latch the first few times, don’t worry. You soon will. Remember that breastfeeding has lifelong health benefits for your baby so taking a short time now to learn to latch is well worth it.
Follow these top tips to get ready to breastfeed your baby, then check your positioning against the illustrations below:
When your baby is at your breast and ready to eat, tickle their lips with your nipple until their mouth is wide open.
Bring your baby close to your breast (rather than moving your breast towards them) and make sure their chin and lower jaw touch your breast first.
Your baby’s lower lip should be far away from the bottom of your nipple. This is because you want them to take a large mouthful of your breast, not just your nipple.
6 signs of a good latch
Q: It hurts a bit! Is that normal?
A: Some tenderness in the beginning isn’t unusual but you shouldn’t be feeling pain. Check your baby is taking a large mouthful of breast – sucking on just your nipple can cause discomfort. If this happens, break your baby’s suction by gently putting a clean finger into the corner of their mouth. Then start at step 1 (Tickle, above) and encourage them to latch on properly, again.
Q: I’m not sure my baby’s sucking when he feeds. Could he have a weak suck?
A: If your baby is not latched on properly, they might not be able to remove milk from your breast when they feed. If you feel he’s latched on correctly but still feel that his sucking is weak or wonder if they’re getting enough breast milk, talk to a lactation specialist or another healthcare provider.
Q: My baby is getting frustrated… and so am I! What can we do?
A: Relax. Take a deep breath, have a little break then try again. You might want to try another position or try some skin-to-skin contact by placing him on your chest. Soothe them by talking to him calmly or singing. When a baby is hungry, they will open their mouth and search for the nipple and be calm and alert. If they begin to cry and get agitated, it may be because they are frustrated and hungry. Once you’re both comfortable, calm, and relaxed, try latching on again. Remember that practice does make perfect. Be patient with yourself. You’re doing a great job!
Q: My breasts feel very full and my baby’s having trouble latching on. What can I do?
A: You could try expressing a little milk by hand or pump before you breastfeed. This will relieve the pressure and soften your breasts so your baby can latch on. Overfull breasts are sometimes called ‘engorged’. If you feel your breasts are engorged between feeds, breastfeed or pump every two hours for relief. Remember, your newborn baby should be breastfed at least 8 to 12 times every 24 hours!
Breastfeeding handbook for physicians. 2nd ed. Elk Grove IL. 2014.
Li R, Fein SB, Chen J et al. Why mothers stop breastfeeding: mothers’ self-reported reasons for stopping during the first year. Pediatrics 2008; 122 Suppl 2: S69–76.
Odom EC, Li R, Scanlon KS et al. Reasons for earlier than desired cessation of breastfeeding. Pediatrics 2013; 131(3): e726–32.
World Health Organization Infant and young child feeding for health professionals. 2009.
http://womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/learning-to-breastfeed.html (Accessed December 29 2016)
https://healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding//Pages/Ensuring-Proper-Latch-On.aspx (Accessed December 29 2016)
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