The Signs of a Good Breastfeeding Latch

How to Tell If Your Baby Is Latching On Well

Mother Breastfeeding her 4 Month Old Baby
How can you tell if your baby has a good latch or a poor latch?. G Williamson / Getty Images

A good breastfeeding latch is one of the most important aspects of breastfeeding. When your baby latches on to your breast correctly, you are much more likely to be successful at nursing your child. Your newborn needs to latch on well to get enough breast milk to grow and thrive. A good breastfeeding latch and the regular removal of breast milk from your breasts is also necessary for the building up of your breast milk supply.

On the other hand, if your newborn has a poor breastfeeding latch, he may not get enough breast milk. He may gain weight slowly or even lose weight. A poor latch can also be very uncomfortable for you since it can lead to some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, or a breast infection.

So, how can you tell if your baby is latching on correctly? Here are some of the signs to look out for to help you recognize a good breastfeeding latch and a poor one.

The Signs of a Good Breastfeeding Latch

  • Your baby is latching on to more than just your nipple. Your child should be latching on to your entire nipple plus some of the surrounding areola (the darker area of your breast that surrounds your nipple). The amount of your areola that your baby takes in depends on the size of your nipples and the size of your areola. In general, your newborn should have your entire nipple and approximately 1 inch or more of your areola in his mouth.
     
  • Your baby's lips are turned out (fish lips) and flat against your breast. 
     
  • Your child's chin and nose are touching your breast.
     
  • The baby's tongue is down on the underside of your breast. The tongue is laying over the baby's lower gum, and you may be able to see it sticking out of his bottom lip.
     
  • You see and hear your child sucking and swallowing. 
     
  • You do not feel any pain.  A little bit of tenderness when the baby first latches on is normal, but it should not be very painful, and it should not last the entire feeding. 
     
  • After each feeding, your breasts feel softer and less full.
     
  • When your child has finished breastfeeding, he seems happy and satisfied.
     
  • Your newborn is gaining weight and growing in an expected and healthy way. 
     

The Signs of a Poor Breastfeeding Latch

  • Your baby is latching on to just your nipple.
     
  • You do not see or hear your baby swallowing.
     
  • Your child is sucking in her cheeks as she tries to breastfeed.  
     
  • Your baby does not have her lips out like a fish. You can see that she has her lips tucked in and under, instead.
     
  • You can hear clicking or smacking noises as your little one tries to suck.
     
  • Your nipples are sore, and breastfeeding is becoming more and more painful.
     
  • Your breast milk supply is low.
     
  • After you breastfeed your child, she seems unhappy and frustrated, and she continues to show signs of hunger.
     
  • Your newborn is losing weight, or not gaining weight at a healthy rate. 

What to Do if Your Baby Has a Poor Breastfeeding Latch

If you see the signs of a poor latch when you put your baby to your breast to feed, you should gently break the suction of the bad latch, remove your child from the breast, and try to latch her on again.

If you continue to have trouble with your baby's latch, or if you're not sure if your child is latching on correctly, get help as soon as possible. For more information or assistance getting your baby to latch on properly talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group.   

 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

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