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Learning to Latch

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mom with baby feeding at her breast

Latching your baby onto the breast correctly is important for successful breastfeeding. Having your baby skin-to-skin with you is the ideal way to start.

It helps your baby find the breast and nipple.

Some babies can latch themselves without any help. They move their faces back and forth as they approach the breast, then open wide enough to grasp a large mouthful. Other babies may need gentle guidance to find the breast, without being forced to feed. This helps them latch and suckle.

Watch videos to learn more about latching on.Moms with larger breasts may need to support the breast with a hand to make it easier for the baby to latch - keeping fingers well back from the areola (the coloured part of the breast surrounding the nipple) so the baby is tucked in very close. Moms with smaller breasts may not need to do this.

A poor latch can cause sore nipples, a hungry baby and a smaller milk supply. If you feel pain when your baby's on the breast - pain that's not a passing discomfort following the first few sucks - you may have a poor latch. Gently remove your baby from the breast and start again. To take your baby off your breast and break the suction, gently place a finger in the corner of your baby's mouth.

Learning to Latch - illustration

Here's how to tell if your baby is well latched:

  • The initial latch may hurt but you shouldn't feel pain in the nipple area. You should feel a tug.
  • Your baby's chin is touching your breast and with his nose slightly away from it.
  • Your baby's lips are flanged (flared outward)
  • Your baby begins to suck with full and rounded cheeks. If there are dimples in the cheeks, your baby may not be latched well.
  • Your baby may suck quickly, then more slowly with short rest pauses. You may hear the baby swallowing. You will hear this more easily when your milk supply increases.
  • Sometimes you may hear your baby gulping, especially if you have lots of milk.
  • Clicking or smacking sounds may mean that your baby is not latched correctly.
  • With a good latch, you can't easily slide your baby off your breast.
  • Your nipple looks rounded, not flattened, when your baby comes off your breast.
  • The nipple does not have any cracks, blisters, or bleeding.

How to Get a Good Latch

  • Remove any blankets. Blankets make it difficult for baby to be close enough to latch well. 
  • Turn your baby's whole body to face you (tummy to tummy).
  • Support your breast but keep your fingers well back from the areola (coloured part of the breast surrounding the nipple).
  • Aim your nipple high in your baby’s mouth.
  • Touch your baby's lips with your breast to help open your baby's mouth wide, like a yawn.
  • Bring your baby in close to you.
  • Put your hand on your baby's shoulders, not your baby's head. 

Resources & Links:
Breast-Feeding Positions

VIDEO: Admission to Postpartum - Keeping Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
VIDEO: Baby's Feeding Cues and Behaviours
VIDEO: Breastfeeding Positions
VIDEO: Cup Feeding and Other Feeding Methods
VIDEO: Hand Expressing Milk
VIDEO: Latching Your Baby

Last Updated: August 14, 2013