Knowing when your baby is correctly latched

Your baby needs to feel your nipple deep in his/her mouth to stimulate a correct suckle and milk transfer. Follow these steps to help baby latch on properly:

  1. Practice hand expression before latching, so baby can taste some drops of your milk to encourage a wide open latch.
  2. Holding your breast like a sandwich, drag your nipple from the tip of the baby’s nose down to their lips, and when you see the mouth open and the tongue stick out, place your nipple on the back of the baby’s tongue.
  3. Say the word OPEN. Keep repeating and waiting patiently for your baby to respond with a “root reflex” by turning towards your nipple and opening his/her mouth very wide, like a baby bird waiting for a meal.
  4. When baby's mouth is wide open, quickly bring your baby onto your breast, pressing the baby's chin into your breast. Do not chase baby with your nipple, but press your baby onto your breast.
  5. Free your baby's nose for breathing by pressing your baby's back closer to your body, allowing baby's head to tilt slightly backwards and his/her face to tilt slightly upwards looking at your face. Avoid pulling your breast back away from baby's nose which will dislodge your nipple in your baby's mouth and cause nipple soreness. You may press down gently into your breast with your fingers, if needed, for extra air space.

When your baby is suckling correctly you will feel pulling and suction and pressure. These new sensations may be uncomfortable for you but they should not be painful. If it hurts, first thing to do is check to see if the baby’s bottom lip is flipped out, if not pull it out while the baby is latched. In the hospital, pain means that you will need to ask the nursing staff or a Lactation Consultant to help you and to observe you baby's suckling technique. Once home, if the pain is not relieved, please refer to our outpatient listing, contact a board-certified lactation consultant.

When your baby is suckling correctly with your nipple properly placed, you will notice the joint in your baby's jaws right in front of his/her ears moving rhythmically with every suckle. You will also see your baby's cheeks puffing out, and baby's sideburns moving up and down. Besides hearing swallows, these wide jaw movements indicate that your baby is actively feeding and receiving your milk.

Make breastfeeding a social event

Talk to your baby during nursings. Mealtime is a social event! Conversation—the soothing and intriguing sound of your voice—encourages your baby to continue to feed.

Many babies will detach themselves from the breast when finished with a feeding feeling full and contented. There may be times, however, when you need to remove your baby from your breasts, in which case, you need to be careful to avoid nipple damage. Don’t just pull them off, this can create nipple damage. With your clean finger (making sure your nail is clipped very short), pry your baby's jaws open at the corner of his/her mouth. Leave your fingers in place while you back your nipple out of baby's mouth.