How Do I get the baby to latch correctly?

A good position is a great place to start. 

But for breastfeeding to succeed, a proper latch—making sure that baby and breast hook up just right—is a skill you’ll have to master. For some moms and newborns, it’s effortless—for others, it takes practice.

Verified by:
iMumz Expert Panel
Updated on:
September 30, 2022

Understand what a good latch is like

A proper latch covers both the nipple and the areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple)—not just the nipple alone.  Baby’s gums need to compress the areola and the milk ducts located underneath it in order to start the flow. When the baby is sucking only on the nipple, he will remain hungry because the glands that secrete the milk won’t be compressed. For mum it will make the nipples sore and even cracked. 

Wondering why the baby keeps sucking even if he isn’t getting any milk? That’s because it's a reflex and he gets comfort from it. So, don’t get fooled by that.

Learn how to get a good latch

Get into a breastfeeding position of your choice and gently tickle your baby’s lips with your nipple until his or her mouth is open very wide. Yes, watch it to see if it's wide open like a yawn.

Here’s a trick:

Aim your nipple toward your baby’s nose and then direct it down to the lower part of your baby’s upper lip to get him or her to open the mouth very wide.

This prevents the lower lip from getting tucked in during nursing.

Some babies may not open their mouths. Don’t let that worry you. If your baby isn’t getting ready to open mouth wide, you might try to squeeze some colostrum (and later on, milk) onto his or her lips to encourage latching on.

If your baby turns away, gently stroke the cheek on the side nearest you.

The rooting reflex will make the baby turn his or her head toward your breast. If someone advises that you press the baby’s cheeks (both of them) to open his mouth, DON’T DO IT. It only makes the baby very confused,  

Once the baby starts catching on to latching on, just the feel of the breast, and sometimes even the smell of milk, will cause him or her to turn toward your nipple and open up wide.

Get the Suckling Started

Only when you see the baby’s mouth wide open, put your nipple and part of the areola into it. Make the move gently.

Do not move your breast toward the baby, and don’t push your baby’s head into your breast.

If the baby is not opening his mouth, do not forcibly shove your breast into it.

It might take a couple of attempts before your baby opens wide enough to latch on properly.

Remember to keep your hold on your breast until the baby has a firm grasp and is suckling well—don’t let go of your breast too quickly.

Check the latch.

You’ll know your baby is properly latched on when her chin and the tip of her nose are touching your breast. Watch the baby suckle. It is important to note the cues till you become a pro at it. As your baby suckles, your nipple will be pulled into the back of his or her throat, and those gums will be compressing your areola. 

Baby’s lips should be open wide, covering more area and not tucked in.

Also check to be sure your baby isn’t sucking his or her own lower lip (newborns will suck on anything) or tongue (because your nipple is positioned underneath the tongue instead of over it). Is the baby’s tongue under your nipple?

You can check by pulling the baby's lower lip down during nursing. The baby’s mouth has firmly grasped your breast, so be gentle. But, it is important to check.If you feel the baby is sucking at her own lip and not getting milk, remove and reattach the baby.

Remember, breastfeeding won’t hurt if your baby is latched on properly. If you feel nipple pain while nursing, your baby is probably chewing on your nipple instead of holding the entire nipple and areola. Take the baby off your breast and latch him or her on again. 

Another cue for an incorrect latch is if you are clicking noise when he is feeding.

Baby Needs to Breathe

If your breast is blocking your baby’s nose once he or she’s latched on, lightly push the breast with your finger. Another tip that helps is if you raise the baby slightly and provide some breathing room

The only thing to watch out for: don’t lose all the hard work you did to get a good latch when you move the baby!

Unlatch Gently

If your baby has finished suckling but is still holding on to your breast, pulling it out abruptly can injure your nipple. Here’s a tip: insert your small finger into his mouth and move over his gums. This act will break the grip of his mouth over your breast.