Breastfeeding: The Importance of Getting the Proper Latch and Maintaining It

How the baby latches on to the breast is one of the most important ingredients in the breastfeeding relationship. How the baby latches on affects mom and baby. A good latch breastfeeding motherbenefits baby because it enables him/her to suckle effectively, drawing out an adequate amount of milk from the breast. A good latch benefits mom because it helps reduce the risk of sore and chewed nipples, bleeding nipples, raw nipples, and chafed nipples (from the baby’s mouth causing friction against the nipple, and/or the baby pulling on the nipple with his/her mouth – trying feverishly to get milk from the breast due to improper latch).

How can a mother help her baby to properly latch on? Most importantly, a mother should watch for her baby’s feeding cues. When babies are hungry and ready to nurse, they will exhibit many behaviors. There are early, mid, and late feeding cues to watch for. The early feeding cues are wiggling around, moving arms or moving legs, rooting, and sticking hands or fingers in the mouth. Mid-stage hunger cues include becoming fussier, high pitched noises, restless, and intermittent crying. The late-stage of hunger cues include full cries, screaming, and turning red. A mother will want to get the baby to her breast in the early stage of hunger cues. This will make it easier for mom to get the baby on the breast properly. When a baby is crying (as when in the late stage of hunger), it is nearly impossible to get the baby to latch on properly. The baby will need time to cool down and relax, and be consoled by the mother, before attempting to nurse again.

To get a proper latch, there are several steps. The first step is to sit with the baby (the mother and the baby should be tummy to tummy). Next, the mother should hold the breast near the baby’s mouth. Then, the mother should touch the nipple to the lower lip of the baby. Finally, when the baby opens his/her mouth wide, pull the baby in, to latch on to the breast. There are some signs to look for that will ensure that the baby is latched on properly. Signs of a good latch are:

  • Cheeks are rounded
  • Mom can hear the baby swallowing
  • The ears move
  • Baby falls off the breast after feeding, or is very relaxed after feeding

The mother should never hear a clicking or smacking noise, the cheeks should never be dimpled, and the nipple should never feel like it’s rubbing against the roof of the baby’s mouth. These are signs of an improper latch, and the mother should break the seal caused by the latch and try again.

There are several reasons why the latch should be maintained. One is that it keeps breastfeeding related discomforts, such as sore, cracked, and irritated nipples, to a minimal. When a good latch is maintained, it also lessens the risk of the mom becoming engorged because the baby is able to suckle properly, maintaining good milk flow and emptying of the breast. Maintenance of a good latch also ensures that baby is satiated, and getting enough milk for proper nutrition, hydration, weight gain, and development.

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Breastfeeding: The Importance of Getting the Proper Latch and Maintaining It

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33 comments

  1. Tiare says:

    This Article was super helpful 🙂 I’m 6 and a half months Pregnant with my 1st baby and I’m set on Breastfeeding, not only for the Health Benefits for Baby, but also to help my Uterus Contract back down quicker. I love that this article lets us know Exactly what a “Good Latch” is…I’ve been researching about that, but never found this type of desciption. Tyvm I’m Happy 🙂 Also, I had done some research on Breastpumping the Milk and they say that a good Breastpump can help produce more Breastmilk which I like because some women have low milk production. Breastpumps are expensive, but can be rented…not sure what I will do. I like the fact that you can Pump your milk into a bottle, for me, I would like to do that for On-the-Go so I won’t need to hide out with an Apron to Breastfeed my baby…I’m not that kind of Woman that pops a Boob out in Public like someone I know :p

    • Tatianna says:

      Yes thank you! I have been trying to educate myself on breastfeeding and breast pumps for awhile now. 7 months next Sat, so I know I will be sooner than I think! I also got a breastpump through insurance. Can’t wait to meet our baby Lilly! <3

  2. Sierra Lyn says:

    Im going to breast feed but imma try using a pump & feed her with bottles is this a bad idea?

    • If that is what feels comfortable for you, then you can certainly make it work. There are many mothers who do. The issue many have with the pump is the added work it entails – time spent pumping, washing parts, etc. However plenty of mothers take on pumping and find that it works great for their needs, so it’s really down to what you’re wanting to do.
      You can always talk to a lactation consultant before or when you give birth, to discuss your options and lifestyle and get personalized advice. Best wishes!

      • Sierra Lyn says:

        Im also worried that i wont be able to breast feed, due to what people in my family have said. My gma & mom both had issues with breastfeeding. Just because they couldn’t, does that mean i might not be able to as well?

  3. erika says:

    Nursing my first child was almost simple until he started teething early. He nursed six months.. With my second child it is a little harder he does not latch on as easily so I have constant soreness and cracking. I am trying to nurse as long as I can the pain getting pretty bad. I believe it will get better tho he is only six weeks and three days.

  4. LIZ says:

    i didnt have so much milk, but the consistence is the key i think

  5. Ginger says:

    Thanks for this article!! It is very informative! I am very nervous about breastfeeding since I have heard so many horror stories. Hopefully I can learn enough from my classes and in the hospital that I will be able to breastfeed with as little difficulty as possible.

  6. Flo says:

    This is some helpful information, I am planning to breastfeed and I hope and pray that my little man and I get a good latch. Thanks for the tip on getting a little milk to touch his lips first, I will definitely try that and then place the nipple for him once he opens his mouth. By the way, do the breastfeeding classes really help?

    • I think that breastfeeding classes are a great introduction. Once baby arrives it is likely that you’ll still have questions, but you’ll feel more prepared if you’ve taken a class. Best wishes!

  7. April says:

    my son is six weeks and sometimes it hurts for him to latch on.i have flat nipples so i think that makes it harder. but he is picking up his weight pretty well. he was 6 pounds and 15 ounces and hasn’t drop he’s now 9 pounds and 15 ounces. so i guess he’s getting a good latch lol but this article was very helpful i know what signs to look for to ensure he’s latched properly.

  8. JacquelynC13 says:

    My son is about six weeks old and although he shows to be tongue-tied we have no issue with the latch or feeding. He was about three weeks premature, also, and has done great with breastfeeding.
    This is a good article for beginners or women considering breastfeeding, but there is SO much more information out there available!!

  9. connie says:

    all this information is very helpful.

  10. life says:

    this is great information i can keep and use all the time

  11. Zaiynab says:

    this seems like it will be pretty helpful when I’m learning =)

  12. octmama says:

    It was hard to get my daughter to latch on in the beginning. Because one of the reason was shyness

  13. Jeanetta says:

    My daughter and I are having a hard time getting the proper latch…

  14. Valerie says:

    Never knew the latch was so important. good to know(:

  15. Bebe+Emmys says:

    Good article. But there is so much more to it. I’d like to see something on tongue/lip ties and breastfeeding. I would have never known about them but my daughter has them. It causes issues with breastfeeding. If a new mom is not feeling confident, please talk to people and do your research!

  16. Jeanetta says:

    I’m excited about breast feeding but I am worried about getting the proper latch.

  17. ErinF says:

    Great article, very thorough. I’m planning on taking breastfeeding classes and attending LLL meetings, and it’s good to take in as much information as possible beforehand. It’s especially good to know the hunger cues and the steps for a proper latch.

  18. Mama-Yaya says:

    Hi, what I usually do is express a little so a few drops bubble up and I put it to his lips so he can taste it. And then when he opens his mouth a little I hold the breast and put it in. That first taste usually gets him but if not I squeeze a little more milk.

  19. Jaclyn says:

    helpful because this is my 2nd child first breastfeeding though extremly nervous

  20. Autum says:

    I tried breastfeeding with my first little girl and it only lasted two months i hope it lasts longer this time

  21. Rachna says:

    I am breastfeeding for a week now (the baby is 1 week 2day), Sometimes there is problem latching. However even though i watch his early cues, he refuses to nurse at that time & then they turn into full blown cries. How do I get him to nurse at the early cues? Please help…

  22. stephani says:

    Hope I can do this

  23. Osei says:

    it is so important to breastfeed

  24. cvalle81 says:

    Great information! Still nervous. 🙁

  25. Great article! My son, now 5 months old, had always problems latching. Finding his cues and noticing little things, the lactation consultant told me he had a mild tongue-tie. He would get so tired while eating, so I stuck to pumping all these five months. Finally today he had his procedure to fix his tongue problem but now (this has been going on for a few weeks) my milk has drop the supply dramatically. Any way I can get the supply back up?

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