What is latching on?
Latching on is the process of getting your baby attached to your breast so that they can suck and remove milk. In order to remove milk effectively from the breast, the baby needs to take your nipple and a large amount of the areola (the dark area around the nipple) into their mouth.
Latching on the breast correctly
Babies need to latch on to the breast properly to make sure they get enough milk and to avoid damage to your nipples.
Before you start, take your baby in your arms with their face to your breast. The baby’s body should always be in the ground position with the ears, shoulders and hips in a straight line. The tip of the baby’s nose should be opposite the tip of your nipple. Then proceed as follows:
- To latch on, your baby needs to bend back their head a little. This allows the baby to breathe and swallow properly during the breastfeeding session.
- Shape your breast according to the direction of your baby's mouth: if, for example, your baby’s mouth is vertically in front of you, your breast should be shaped vertically, too.
- Stroke your baby's lips with your nipple, encouraging the baby to tip their head slightly to reach it. This helps your baby to open their mouth wider.
- Use your thumb to tip your nipple towards the roof of the baby's mouth. Your baby’s lips should be flanged out like a fish when latching. Your partner or another helper can look to see whether the baby’s bottom lip is flanged out. If it is not, gently reach your finger there to pull out the baby’s lip.
From here, you should see your baby’s jaw moving and hear sucking and swallowing noises. A newborn’s swallow does not sound like an adult’s; it sounds like a soft ‘kkkk’ sound. If so, congratulations, your baby is latched on! If not, do not worry – try again. Remember that you are both learning how to breastfeed. Give yourselves a little time to learn.
Signs of correct latch on
You will know that your baby is attached to your breast properly when you observe the following signs:
- The baby's chin is touching your breast.
- The baby’s mouth is wide open and the baby has a ‘mouthful of breast’.
- The baby’s lips are turned outwards.
- It does not hurt.
- The baby starts with short sucks and goes on to suck slowly and deeply with pauses.
You can see and hear your baby swallowing.