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Latch

Good latch

Correct latch-on is a learned skill. Your baby is not born hungry. It’s OK if he doesn’t latch on right away.

To get a good latch:

  • Support your breast.
    • Support the base of your breast well behind the areola with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the opposite side.
    • Rotate your hand until your thumb is across from your baby’s nose.
  • Place your baby’s head and body facing your body (nose to nipple).
    • You can use a finger or your nipple to stroke your baby’s cheek so his face turns toward you. (This is the rooting reflex.)
  • Encourage your baby to open his mouth wide (like a yawn).
    • When your baby’s mouth is near the nipple, tickle his lips with your nipple. That will make him open his mouth.
    • If your breast is very firm, it may be difficult for your baby to come deeply onto the breast. In that case, you can express a little milk (“soften” the areola). Expressing some colostrum on your nipple may encourage your baby to take the breast and begin to suck.
    • Make sure your nipple is pointing to the roof your baby’s mouth.
    All photos © Allina Health System
    Latch 1

    Position 1:
    Support your breast and place your baby's head and body facing your body, or nose to nipple.

    Latch 2

    Position 2:
    After your baby opens her mouth wide, quickly and gently bring her onto your breast.

    Latch 3

    Position 3:
    Your baby needs to be close to your breast. If you are worried about your baby being able to breathe easily, depress your breast a little near your baby's nose.

  • Bring your baby quickly and gently onto your breast.
    • Your baby’s tongue should be between your breast and his lower gum.
    • His bottom lip should be farther away from the nipple than the top lip.
    • His lips are pushed outward, like fish lips. This is more likely to happen when he opens his mouth wide before he takes hold of the breast.

With a good latch, your baby will make bursts of rhythmic sucking. You should hear swallowing. Your baby will suck rapidly until the milk lets down.

Tip

Call your breastfeeding resource(s) if you have questions or concerns.

When your baby comes off your breast, the nipple should look longer and be evenly rounded.

Try to burp your baby.

If your baby begins to nurse and then falls asleep in fewer than 10 minutes, continue nursing with the same breast. Take your baby off the breast, burp him, and then try to waken him by talking to him, rubbing his back or feet, or taking off some of his clothes. Then offer him your breast again.

When you start to breastfeed, you may feel some discomfort during the initial latching on. Tenderness the first week is normal. If you feel discomfort after seven days, call your lactation resource.

Poor latch

Your baby has a poor latch if you notice any of the following:

  • your baby’s mouth is not open wide enough
  • your baby’s lower lip is turned in
  • your nipple is flattened or creased
  • Tip

    Crying is a late sign of hunger. It is best to start a feeding before your baby gets worked up and is crying hard. It can be more difficult to get an upset baby to latch well.

  • you feel discomfort or pain that does not get better during feeding
  • your baby’s cheeks are dimpled (drawn in)
  • you hear clicking sounds.

Break the suction and try latching on again. It is important to break the suction before you try to remove your baby from your breast. Slide your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic