Helping Your Baby Latch & Suck Effectively
Before we get into why baby won’t latch and what to do about it, let’s remember that fed is best and it’s normal if breastfeeding is challenging for you. If you’re having latching issues in the first few weeks, take a deep breath and remember that each feeding is a new opportunity. Try and find the breastfeeding position that works best for you and your newborn and remind yourself that one failed latch does not mean a failed journey. If latching issues are persistent, however, you might need additional support (more on that below).
A good latch is a vital component of successful breastfeeding, and when baby’s latch is correct, you should experience pain-free feeding and an efficient flow of milk for your baby. Here we’ll get into breastfeeding tips, how to know if a latch is good, and resources for new moms.
3 Steps for Getting a Good Breastfeeding Latch
Step one: You’ll want baby’s mouth to be open wide. One way to get your little one to open up is to tickle their lips with your nipple.
Step two: Once that mouth is open, aim your nipple just above your baby's top lip. Make sure your baby's chin isn't tucked into their chest.
Step three: Aim your baby's lower lip away from the base of your nipple. Your baby should lead into the breast chin first and then latch. Baby's lips should be turned outward like a fish, their tongue should be extended, and your breast should fill your baby's mouth.
Signs of a Poor Breastfeeding Latch
According to Johns Hopkins, if your baby consistently displays one or more of these signs, it could point to ineffective sucking, which might be due to latching issues.
- Does not wake on their own to cue for feedings
- Cues fewer than eight times or more than 14 times in 24 hours
- Latches and lets go of the breast repeatedly
- Pushes away or resists latch-on
- Falls asleep within 5 minutes or after sucking for only two or three minutes
- Does not suck almost continuously for the first seven to 10 minutes of a feeding
- Nurses on one side for longer than 30 to 40 minutes
- Feeds for more than 45 minutes without acting satisfied or full after a meal
- Seems "gassy" or produces green, frothy stools after the first week
- Has difficulty taking milk by other alternative feeding methods
In those early days, life is all about baby but remember there are signs of an ineffective latch that are related to the mother, too.
- Has persistently sore or bruised nipples or areola
- Develops red, scraped, or cracked nipples
- Often observes misshapen nipples after feedings (for example, creasing or flattening)
- Rarely or never notices breast fullness prior to nursing and breast softening after nursing, especially if there are several hours between feedings
- Experiences more than one episode of plugged milk ducts or mastitis
What Makes a Good Breastfeeding Latch?
The easiest way to tell if baby’s latch is good is if you’re comfortable and pain-free. Start with comfort as your baseline, and then keep an eye out for these other ways to tell that everything is going right:
- Your baby's chest and stomach rest against your body so that baby's head is straight, not turned to the side
- Baby's chin is touching your breast
- Their mouth opens wide around your breast, not just the nipple
- You see their lips turn out and their tongue cups under your breast
- You hear or see swallowing (look for movement in their throat and ears)
How to Break a Breastfeeding Latch?
Sometimes you’ll want to break the latch because it hurts or if baby latches on the tip of the nipple—or simply because you’re done feeding on that side. To do this, gently slide a clean finger into baby’s mouth to break the latch.
It’s totally normal to want or need help on your breastfeeding journey. Fellow moms, female relatives, and lactation consultants can help you get started and troubleshoot any hiccups that come up along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the community of support people in your life. And if those great latches are leading to great feeds—and in turn, some gassy tummies—reach for Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops to help.
Remember to celebrate those good feeding sessions. You’re doing great, Mama!