How to correctly latch your breastfeeding newborn

Understanding how a good breastfeeding latch (also known as breastfeeding attachment) should look and feel is incredibly important in getting feeding established. A baby who attaches well to the breast can help prevent many breastfeeding problems, from sore and cracked nipples, mastitis, and blocked ducts, to supply issues, and a baby who isn’t taking enough milk.

Particularly as a first-time mother, it’s vital to get as much breastfeeding support in the early days and weeks as possible to avoid any problems later. Have your latch checked by your maternal and child health nurse or by a qualified lactation consultant. An expert will also check for any conditions that might make attachment more difficult for your baby, such as a tongue tie. Whilst breastfeeding is natural, it is a learned skill that can take time to master (read more about that here).

If you’re not able to speak to a breastfeeding specialist right away, or your baby suddenly won’t latch, here are 5 steps to correctly and comfortably latch your newborn, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association and Medela.

How to correctly latch your breastfeeding newborn

1. Comfortably position your baby for breastfeeding

There is no right or wrong breastfeeding position, so try different ones until you find one that is most comfortable for you and your baby. See some examples (with images) here. Your baby’s head, neck, and spine should not be twisted. Use cushions to support your back and feet.

2. Your baby should be able to move their head

Do not hold your baby’s head or restrict its movement (it can rest in the crook of your arm if you’re using the classic cradle hold), but instead their head should be tilted slightly back, and their nose level with your nipple. If you feel unsure about whether your baby’s neck is supported enough, you could experiment with one of these other positions.

Try this exercise yourself now: put your chin to your chest, and try to swallow. It’s so challenging, isn’t it? Now, gently tilt your head back, and swallow again. It seems insignificant, and it’s tempting to hold a baby’s head and press it toward the nipple, but let your baby lead the way. Breastfeeding is instinctive for them. For us mothers…we need some practice.

3. Encourage your baby to open their mouth

Gently brush your baby’s mouth with the underside of your areola. Your baby should then open their mouth wide, the wider the better to get a good latch. When you see your baby’s tongue come forward, bring them to your breast with your nipple aimed towards the roof of their mouth. His chin or lower jaw should be the first point of contact with your areola well down from the nipple, rather than the nipple first.

4. Bring your baby to your breast

As their mouth closes, they should take a large mouthful of breast with their bottom jaw and lip covering most of the underneath of the areola. Don’t worry if you still see some of your areola—we all have different sized breasts and babies!

5. Keep your baby close during attachment

When possible, keep your baby close throughout the feed, almost like you’re ‘wearing’ your baby, with their chin in contact with your breast. Your baby’s nose is turned up to help them breathe easily while attached to the breast. How amazing is that?! It’s how they’re able to coordinate breathing and sucking simultaneously.

Signs that your baby is attached well

  • Chin is pressed into the breast
  • Nose is clear or just touching the breast
  • Lower lip turned out over the breast (upper lip can be in a neutral position)
  • Much of the areola is in your baby’s mouth (more so on the underneath)
  • There is no pain (see below if there is)
  • Jaw moving as your baby sucks
  • You will feel a tugging sensation
  • Short rapid sucks to stimulate the let-down reflex, and then slow and deep sucks with some pauses
  • You will hear swallowing
  • Plenty of wet and dirty nappies
  • Gaining weight as expected

If breastfeeding hurts

It’s common to experience sore, cracked, tender, blistered, and even bleeding nipples as you get the hang of breastfeeding in the early weeks, but it is often a sign that your baby isn’t properly latched. If breastfeeding is painful, take your baby off the breast, and then wait for your baby to open their mouth wide and then reattach. You might like to give baby-led attachment a try. See best breastfeeding positions.

If you have any concerns about attachment, you can phone the Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 to speak to an ABA counsellor, or speak to your maternal and child health nurse to recommend a lactation consultant.

 

Australian Breastfeeding Association, https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/attachment-breast (last reviewed 2017)Cadwell K. Latching‐on and suckling of the healthy term neonate: breastfeeding assessment. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2007;52(6):638-642.Hoover K. Perinatal and intrapartum care. In: Wambach K, Riordan J, editors. Breastfeeding and human lactation. Burlington MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2016. p.227-270.UNICEF UK BFHI. Off to the best start [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2018 Feb]. 
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