Back to basics: getting the latch right

How to get your baby latched on

Breastfeeding is a learned skill and it often takes our babies and ourselves a little time and practice to get it right. Some babies latch on perfectly without us having to think about it, but others can make those first couple of weeks a blur of exhaustion and sore nipples. If you’re struggling with your baby’s latch in the early days, you’re not alone! I had my fair share of issues in the beginning with my second baby. More about that here

So how do you breastfeed? 
Here’s a step by step guide for you to follow if you’re finding it difficult:

  1. Hold your baby close against your body, ensuring their head and body are in a straight line and facing the same direction. Position your baby so that their nose is at your nipple. Support your baby’s neck, shoulders and back, leaving their head free to move.
  2. When your baby’s nose touches your nipple, they will tilt their head back and open their mouth wide. You can encourage them to open their mouth my rubbing your nipple on their top lip, or by expressing a little milk so they can smell it.
  3. When your baby’s mouth is wide open and their head is tilted back, bring them quickly in to the breast. Lead with their chin, so that your nipple is pointing to the roof of their mouth rather than straight into the middle. Your baby’s tongue and lower lip should make contact with your breast first. Their chin should be pressed into your breast and their nose should be free.

Remember the acronym ‘CHIN’:

Close – Baby should be tucked in really close against your body

Head free–Baby needs their head free to tilt back in order to get a big mouthful of breast. Support baby’s neck, but leave their head free to move.

In line- it’s easier for baby if their ear, shoulder and hip are all lined up, so that their entire body is facing the same way- towards your nipple. (Imagine trying to drink a glass of water with your head turned towards your shoulder to see why this is important!)

Nose to nipple–start feeds with your nipple pointing up baby’s nose, rather than directly into their mouth.

Baby Alice
My neice, 12 hours old

Signs it’s going well
• Baby’s chin is touching your breast and their nose is free
• Baby’s mouth is wide open
• Baby’s cheeks are round and full, not sucked in or dimpled
• You might not be able to see any of your areola at all, but if you can, you should see more areola above your baby’s mouth than below it
• Once your let down is triggered baby should be taking long slow sucks and swallow. By day 3-4, you should be able to see them swallowing
• You can not hear any clicking noises
• Any pain eases after the first few sucks

If you don’t think your baby is latched on right, take them off and try again. You can break their latch by inserting your finger into the side of their mouth. Some techniques for helping babies to achieve a better latch can be found here. If you’re still struggling, ask for help!  Face to face support can work wonders, so speak to your midwife or a local breastfeeding supporter. You can speak directly to a breastfeeding counsellor on the national breastfeeding helpline on 0300 100 0212, and you can find further support resources here.

If you’re experiencing pain when breastfeeding, read ‘Ouch! When breastfeeding hurts

Milk drunk
Noah, 2 days old

Some helpful links:

Boobie Babies on Facebook

Latch resources from IBCLC Kelly Bonyata

NHS information on positioning and attachment

UNICEF video on positioning and attachment

7 thoughts on “Back to basics: getting the latch right

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s