POSITIONING AND LATCHING
Getting your baby positioned and latched effectively is the most important part of nursing. It goes beyond the “correct” hold to learning what works best for you and your nursling. Find some basic steps of breastfeeding positioning and getting a good latch here.
BASIC STEPS FOR POSITIONING
Here are some basic steps for positioning your baby to nurse. If you have pain or feel uncomfortable, try a different position. Even small adjustments can make the difference between a painful latch and a painless latch.
Some general tips are:
- Position yourself comfortably with your whole body supported including back, arms, and feet.
- Position baby close to you, with their belly turned towards you, so that they do not have to turn their head to reach your breast. Their mouth and nose should be facing your nipple. Their body should be so close that they are touching you. If possible, ask a helper to hand you the baby once you are comfortable.
- In the early days, you may need to manually support your breast. Your baby’s chin should touch your breast, then the baby’s nose.
- Attach or latch baby onto your breast. Encourage them to open their mouth wide and pull them close by supporting their back (rather than the back of the head) so that their chin touches your breast first. Their nose will be touching your breast.
- Enjoy! If you are feeling pain, detach baby gently by placing your finger in the baby’s mouth between baby’s gums to release the latch, and try again.
These steps may need to be repeated frequently during the early weeks. You and your baby will find a technique that works for you after some practice.
LAID BACK BREASTFEEDING
While you may have heard of different breastfeeding positions, you may not have heard about laid-back breastfeeding. Laid-back breastfeeding, or Biological Nurturing, means getting comfortable with your baby and encouraging your own and your baby’s natural breastfeeding instincts. Unlike many other breastfeeding holds, it isn’t based on traditional bottle-feeding holds but rather what many mammals do naturally with their babies.
- Dress yourself and your baby as you choose.
- Find a bed, couch, or recliner where you can lean back and be well supported—not flat, but comfortably leaning back so that when you put your baby on your chest, gravity will keep your baby in position with their body molded to yours.
- Have your head and shoulders well supported. Let your baby’s whole front touch your whole front.
- Since you’re leaning back, you don’t have a lap, so your baby can rest on you in any position you like. Just make sure that your baby’s whole front is against you, and they feel securely supported.
- Let your baby’s cheek rest somewhere near your bare breast.
- Help them as much as you like; help them do what they’re trying to do. You’re a team.
- Hold your breast or not, as you prefer.
- Relax and enjoy each other.
Laid back nursing relieves nipple soreness in some nursing pairs because gravity helps you attain a deep latch. It also has the added benefit of letting baby lead the nursing sessions and have more control.
OTHER NURSING POSITIONS
There are many resources that list the various nursing positions include cradle hold, cross cradle hold, football hold, and side-lying. This video from Global Health Media does a great job outlining them all Breastfeeding Positions.
Remember that there is no one position that you must learn first or that you must use. Do what works for your body and breast shape as well as your baby. Worry more about how it feels for you than how it compares to the pictures of the “correct” way. You’ll find that there are many different positions as your baby grows including some very creative toddler-invented options.
BREAST SUPPORT TECHNIQUES
As you hold your baby in any of the above positions, you may need to support your breast with your free hand. This removes the weight of the breast from the baby’s chin, allowing them to breastfeed more effectively.
“C” hold–See the cradle hold illustration above. Support your breast with your thumb on top, well back from your areola (the darker skin surrounding the nipple) and the fingers underneath. Your fingers should also be well back from your baby’s mouth. This hold is helpful when breastfeeding in the clutch or football position as well as the cradle position.
“U” hold–Place your fingers flat on your ribcage under your breast with your index finger in the crease under your breast. Drop your elbow so that your breast is supported between your thumb and index finger. Your thumb will be on the outer area of your breast and your fingers will be on the inner area. This hold is helpful when breastfeeding in the cradle and cross-cradle positions.
IS MY BABY LATCHED ON WELL?
When latching on your baby, use your nipple to tickle the center of your baby’s bottom lip. This will encourage them to open their mouth wide (like they are yawning). Aim your nipple slightly towards the roof of their mouth, bringing baby to you, chin first.
Good latch-on checkpoints for your baby include:
- Nose is touching or nearly touching your breast
- Lips are flanged
- At least a ½ inch of your breast around the base of your nipple is in baby’s mouth.
If the latch is uncomfortable or painful, gently place your finger in the baby’s mouth, between the gums, to detach and try again.
A baby who is offered the breast will suck without swallowing as they position the nipple in their mouth and tells your breast they are ready for the milk to let down. When baby begins to receive milk, you will see their jaw working all the way back to their ear. Baby’s temples will wiggle. You will also hear them swallowing, quickly at first, then more slowly, as baby’s appetite is satisfied.
Are you experiencing sore nipples? Find info about causes and treatment of sore nipples on our Sore Nipples page.
Sore Nipples, LLL USA
Attaching Your Baby at the Breast VIDEO, Global Health Media
Breastfeeding Positions, VIDEO, Global Health Media
Laid Back Breastfeeding (PDF), LLL Canada
Laid Back Breastfeeding Video, Biological Nurturing
Breastfeeding Pain, LLLI
Sore Nipples, KellyMom
Nipple Pain, LLL Great Britain
Our Latching Story, LLL USA blog
Katelyn’s Story: Overcoming mastitis and tongue-tie, LLL USA blog
Success! Latching On Luna, LLL USA blog
IS YOUR CONCERN OR QUESTION NOT COVERED HERE?
Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.
Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.
Page updated January 2020
Resource partially adapted from LLLI materials.