Like anything new, breastfeeding can be a case of getting the hang of it. It’s just about practise and mastering that initial latch
Everyone from your mum to the midwife will tell you that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but what you may not appreciate is that it’s also a skill. And like any new skill, it takes practise (and patience!) to get right.
One of the trickiest things for mum and baby can be getting the latch right.
‘Latching on’ refers to how your baby attaches to the breast – if the latch is right it will be easy for baby to feed, and shouldn’t result in discomfort for mum. Feeling pain while feeding or having sore nipples can be signs your baby isn’t attached correctly.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Before you introduce your baby to your nipple, make sure you’re comfortable. Check that your baby’s head and body is in a straight line (if not, it can make it harder for him to swallow) and that you are supporting his neck, shoulders and back.
Whichever breastfeeding hold you choose, your baby should be able to tilt his head back and swallow easily.
Introducing baby to breast
Position your baby so that his nose is opposite your nipple. To feed well, your baby will need to use his tongue to scoop a big mouthful of your breast from beneath the nipple. To help him do this, his bottom lip and tongue need to reach your breast first.
Once your baby opens his mouth wide, bring him to your breast quickly and smoothly, aiming his bottom lip as far away from the base of your nipple as possible. His head should be tipped back slightly, so that he is leading with his chin. Once his lips touch your breast he should respond by dropping his lower jaw and drawing your nipple to the roof of his mouth.
A good latch is all in the timing. Once you see your baby’s lower jaw start to drop, start to move him towards you. If you wait until his mouth is at its widest before beginning the movement, his mouth may already start to close and won’t be able to draw in a big enough mouthful.
As you bring your baby towards you, focus on his lower lip rather than his top one. As long as his bottom lip makes contact well away from the base of your nipple, his chin will indent your breast and his top lip should easily reach over the top.
How to tell you’ve got it right
If the latch is correct, you should be able to see your baby swallowing and there shouldn’t be any pain. If you think the latch isn’t right, gently insert your finger between your baby's mouth and your breast to break the seal – and then have another go.
If your baby seems content and satisfied after most feeds, is putting on weight after the first two weeks and has at least six wet nappies and two soiled ones a day, it’s a good indication he is feeding well.