Learning to Breastfeed - Latch and Positioning
You may hear many breastfeeding professionals talk about latch an awful lot and for good reason. A good latch not only ensures that your baby receives enough milk, it also prevents problems with nipple soreness. If you think you have a latch problem it is important to seek advice from a breastfeeding professional. Your midwife or health visitor should be able to give you the contact information for your nearest breastfeeding councillor and may be able to give you information about any local support groups. You can find a list of breastfeeding charities, along with information about breastfeeding helplines here. Please Note: The information below is only meant as a guide and does not replace advice from professionals.
Learning to get a Good Latch
In the early days your baby may be feeding for up to 40 minutes or longer, it is important therefore that you are feeling relaxed and are in a comfortable position, you may want to use some cushions or pillows to help. Remember, both you and your baby are learning and you should therefore be as calm and relaxed as possible.
Perhaps the best position to have your baby in is the ‘tummy to mummy, nose to nipple position. This is where your baby’s tummy is against yours and their nose is roughly opposite your nipple. It is better to have your baby’s tummy against yours rather than them being on their back, like a bottle fed baby. In the tummy to mummy position the baby will not have to turn their head to reach you, which is more comfortable for them and will aid in swallowing. It will also prevent them from tugging at your nipple to keep it in their mouth.
Your baby needs to be held close to you, with your nipple opposite their nose, your baby will be encouraged to open his mouth (you could also gently rub your nipple on baby’s top lip), when their mouth opens really wide, their head will tilt back, quickly move your baby towards your breast, supporting your baby’s back and neck rather than their head. Your baby should take a large mouthful of breast along with the nipple, which should be positioned towards the back of the baby’s soft palate, their lips should be folded back and if you can see the areola (the dark area around the nipple), you should be able to see more above your baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip. If your baby is latched correctly you should not feel any pain after the first couple of sucks. If feeding is painful after the first couple of sucks, you may need to adjust your latch. Don’t try and carry on through the pain, your baby may not be getting enough milk and your nipples could become very sore, instead gently take your baby off the breast by inserting a clean finger into the side of their mouth to break the suction and try again. Importantly, try not to get upset if it seems to take a while to get a proper latch, this stress could pass down to your baby any make matters worse. Try to stay patient and relaxed. Putting the time and work into getting a decent latch now will make your life easier in the long run and will help prevent soreness.
The signs of a good latch include:
- Your baby should take a large amount of breast and their lips should be rolled out;
- Your baby’s chin should be touching your breast. There should be a gap, even if it is only a small gap, between your baby’s nose and your breast. Try not to pull your breast back to create a gap.
- If you can still see the areola, you should be able to see more above your baby’s top lip than below their lower lip;
- When feeding your baby’s cheeks should stay rounded with no dimpling and they should take long sucks and you should hear them swallow. You should see movement in their temple and ears. It is normal during a feed for you baby to take some pauses.
Some mothers may need to support their breasts with their free hand whilst nursing. To do this without restricting milk flow or damaging the breast, mum should use either a ‘C’ or ‘U’ hold.
Supporting your breasts with a 'C' Hold
A ‘C’ hold is when you support your breast with your thumb on top of your breast with fingers underneath. Your thumb should be placed well away from your areola and your fingers away from your baby’s mouth.
Supporting your breasts with a ‘U’ Hold
For a ‘U’ hold, you should place your fingers on your ribcage underneath your breast, your thumb should be on top. Drop your elbow and your breast should be supported between your thumb and index finger.
Further information on getting a good latch
It is useful to look at diagrams and pictures of how to get a baby to latch. The NHS website on breastfeeding shows step by step photo’s on how to get a good latch and the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute based in the US have videos showing correct latch and efficient feeding.
The Best Positions for Breastfeeding
There are a few breastfeeding positions that you can try, the most common are explained below but whatever position you feed your baby in, try and remember that:
- Your baby’s head and body should be in a straight line;
- You should be able to hold your baby close to you;
- Your baby’s nose should be opposite your nipple and importantly;
- You should be comfortable.
Using the ‘Cradle’ hold to feed your baby
The cradle hold is one of the most common positions used and uses the same arm as the breast being fed from. Your baby will be led on their side across your lap. You can use pillows to support your baby and to help them come up to nipple height. Your baby’s head will be placed on your forearm, in the crook of your elbow and his back will be supported by your inner arm and your hand will be supporting their bottom. Your free hand can be used to help baby latch and to support your breast during the feed if needed.
Using the ‘Cross-Cradle’ hold to feed your baby
The cross-cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold but uses the opposite arm as the breast being fed from, so for example if you are feeding your baby on your right breast, you use your left arm for support.
The ‘Clutch’ or ‘Rugby/Football’ nursing position
This position is good for mothers who had a caesarean birth as it takes pressure off the mother’s tummy. For this position you may need cushions behind you as well as under your baby. Your baby is again supported by your arm, but is placed beside you, under your arm, rather than in front of you (as in the cradle and cross cradle). Your baby’s legs will be positioned behind you.
Lying on your side to nurse
This position can be one of the most comfortable particularly at night, however if can be difficult with a newborn. In this position, you and your baby both lay on your sides, facing one another. Your baby should feed from the lower breast and can be cradled in you arm, with their back along your forearm. You can use pillows to make you more comfortable. With this position, it can be difficult to change sides, especially if you had a caesarean. However you can use a pillow to bring your baby level with the upper breast if you wish.
Other Articles on our website/blog that you may find interesting
- Why Breastfeed
- Getting Started
- Growth Spurts - They're not all that bad!
- My Breastfeeding Essentials for the First Few Weeks
Did you know that we also sell a great selection of breastfeeding supplies? Why not have a look at our online store for breast pumps,nursing necklaces, breastfeeding bras and vests, breast pads and alot more!
The La Leche League website includes a good section on supporting your breasts during feeding and also on positioning. It includes pictures of the positions described above.