The Art of Breastfeeding: Mastering The Latch

If you’ve never experienced breastfeeding firsthand you may wonder, “Just how hard can it really be? After all, don’t you just put your nipple in the baby’s mouth and they do the rest?” However, the truth is that it can be much more difficult than it seems. One of the most crucial components of successful breastfeeding that many women struggle with at first is getting baby perfectly latched onto their breast. Here are some tips and tricks to help you master the latch.

Before Getting Baby Latched On

First and foremost, before offering your breast to baby you want to make sure that you are comfortable and relaxed. Sit in your favorite chair or lie down in bed. Take some deep breaths and make sure that you aren’t feeling any tension or stress as your newborn can feed off that. Consider investing in a breastfeeding support pillow to help you comfortably hold baby and get them in a proper position.

Product Recommendation

Two of the most popular nursing pillows on the market today are the Boppy Nursing Pillow (left) and My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow (right). They both help to support your arms while holding baby and put baby up at the perfect level for breastfeeding when you are sitting in an upright position.

Once you are comfortable, you’ll want to make sure you get baby in an optimal position for breastfeeding. Make sure that your baby’s tummy is up against your body so that his or her neck isn’t twisted at all. You want baby’s face, shoulders and hips all facing towards you. There are a few different ways you can hold baby – cradle position, football hold, or side-lying – so choose a position that feels the most comfortable and natural to you.

Mastering The Latch

Once you are comfortable and baby is positioned for feeding, you are ready to offer them your breast and get them latched on. Here’s the best way to achieve a pain-free latch that maximizes milk intake for your little one.

1. Tickle baby’s bottom lip with your nipple.

This may sound funny, but what it does is encourages baby to open their mouth up wide. Gently hold your breast and rub your nipple along baby’s bottom lip to let them know it’s time to eat.

2. Aim nipple slightly up towards the roof of baby’s mouth and bring him towards you.

Once baby’s mouth is wide open like he’s yawning (wait for it to be very wide), bring him towards you while aiming your nipple slightly up towards the roof of his mouth. One big mistake many women make when getting started in breastfeeding is assuming the nipple should point straight towards the back of baby’s throat. You want to make sure baby takes in as much of the areola (the darker skin surrounding your nipple) as possible, most importantly the bottom portion of the areola.

3. Check baby’s chin and lips.

Once baby is latched on and sucking, make sure that his chin is pushed firmly into the bottom portion of your breast with his head tilted back slightly. Also check that his lips are flanged (like fish lips) over your breast. If they seem tucked in while he’s sucking, you can use your fingers to pull them out.

4. Don’t be afraid to start over!

If you experience any pain or discomfort after baby is latched, try again! Don’t settle. Stick your finger carefully into your little one’s mouth to “break the seal” and repeat the steps above until it feels more comfortable. You should not feel any sharp pain or a pinching sensation, just mild pressure and pulling.


Signs That Baby Isn’t Latched on Correctly:
  • You experience sharp pain that doesn’t ease as baby sucks.
  • Baby is making a clicking sound near the back of his throat. All you should hear, if anything, is baby swallowing.
  • Baby never falls into a rhythmic suck-swallow-breath pattern or it doesn’t seem like baby is gulping down milk.
Things That Could Be Preventing Baby from Latching On:
  • Your breasts are engorged. This can prevent baby from taking in enough of the area surrounding the nipple. Try pumping or hand-expressing a little bit of milk before offering the breast.
  • Baby is tongue-tied. This is when the connecting skin under the tongue extends too far forward and it can prevent baby from sucking well. It can be corrected with a simple surgical procedure.
  • Particularly large or inverted nipples can sometimes make latching on more difficult for baby.
One of the best things you can do to ensure breastfeeding success is to meet with a lactation specialist shortly after giving birth. They can help you work through any personal breastfeeding problems or concerns and find a solution that works best for you and your baby. Visit the La Leche League website to find local support services near you and for more information on all things breastfeeding related.

If you’re a visual learner, check out this great video on breastfeeding by the makers of Ameda Breast Pumps:

Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?

If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.

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Stay tuned for more breastfeeding posts all August as we celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. To learn more about what you will encounter in those early weeks of breastfeeding, check out Breastfeeding: The First Weeks.


Photo Credit: Dreams To Do

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Ariel is a recently turned stay-at-home momma of three little ones to her high school sweetheart. When she isn’t busy playing with her young kiddos (or running around frantically), you can find her writing on her personal blog, Dreams To Do. Ariel is a lover of inspirational words, photography, coffee, reality TV, and of course, her family. You can connect with Ariel on Twitter and Facebook.

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