Back to basics: getting the latch right

Image: That latch though
 Noah, 8 months old. 

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? 
For some mothers it is instinctual, for others a little instruction can help. So here is 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
Head free
In line
Nose to nipple

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, you can break their latch by inserting your finger into the side of their mouth, take them off and try again. 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.

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

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