4 Keys to a Proper Breastfeeding Latch


How do you know if your baby has a good latch at the breast?

1. Baby’s Positioning

Baby should be positioned close to mom and snuggled in tight. In a cradle or cross cradle position, baby should be “belly to belly” with mom. Baby wants to feel secure.

Baby’s head, neck and torso should be in a straight line. You don’t want baby turning her head to drink. Try and turn your head all the way to one side and swallow. It’s difficult, right? Same for babe.

2. Baby’s Mouth

Baby’s mouth should be covering more than just your nipple (remember: this is “breast” feeding NOT “nipple” feeding). In fact, a good portion of your areola is likely covered (I can’t tell you exactly how much because every mom’s anatomy is different!).

3. Baby’s Lips

Baby’s lips should be “flanged” like a fish, not curled inside.  

Baby’s lips are at an angle of 120 degrees or more.  If lips are less than 90 degree angle, baby is likely just sucking on nipple.  That hurts and isn’t very effective for babe.

4. Mom’s Comfort

It shouldn’t be painful.  Soreness can be normal in the first few days, but pain is not.

What to do if you think baby doesn’t have a good latch:

Change something!

Sometimes just adjusting baby’s positioning helps enhance mom’s comfort. In a cradle or cross cradle position, try lifting baby’s tush. This helps open baby’s jaw. You can also try to open baby’s mouth wider by gently placing your index finger on baby’s chin and pulling baby’s mouth/jaw wider (you do this from the outside, you’re not breaking latch).

Try again

If it is really hurting, break the latch and try again. Don’t just pull baby off. Baby is still attached to your nipple and that will hurt. Put your pinky in corner of baby’s mouth and go in between your nipple and baby’s tongue and break the suction…push your nipple back toward your chest.

Baby should open mouth wide, like a yawn.

Don’t try to stick your nipple directly in baby’s mouth. Instead, think about lining up your nipple with baby’s upper lip or nose. Gently rub your nipple on baby’s upper lip or from baby’s nose down to upper lip. Baby should open wide and tip head, this is when you guide baby to breast. Think about bringing baby to you not giving breast to baby.

Ask for help!

If breastfeeding is hurting while you are in the hospital or birth center, ask for help right away. The staff is well trained to support you and your baby. Don’t assume pain is normal. The earlier you address a poor latch, the better for you and baby!


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Learn from an IBCLC: how to acheive a good breastfeeding latch and what to do when you have a bad latch. Learn from an IBCLC: how to acheive a good breastfeeding latch and what to do when you have a bad latch.