Latching on (attachment) – getting it right from the start

Successful breastfeeding depends on correct attachment and positioning. Getting it right at the start will help to prevent pain, frustration and physical problems.

Attachment (also known as latching on) refers to how your baby attaches to your breast to feed. The baby will form a strong suction and if the position is not right, it can cause soreness – it’s worth spending some time getting it right so do ask for help in the first few days when you are starting out. It’s a great help to have a sister or friend who has breastfed before or, if not, do not hesitate to give your public health nurse a call.

To help encourage your baby to root (look for the breast), try touching his/her lips with your nipple. Wait for your baby to open his/her mouth wide, like she/he is yawning, so she/he can take in your nipple and plenty of breast tissue.

Initially, your nipple needs to point at your baby’s nose – if you try to put your nipple in your baby’s mouth, they won’t get enough breast tissue to ensure an effective feed and you will get sore nipples.

Be patient and positive, it might take several attempts to get the correct attachment. If your baby doesn’t take enough breast tissue alongside your nipple, slip a clean finger into the corner of his/her mouth, between the teeth (if you are feeding an older baby), and let the nipple come out. Pulling your baby from the breast without breaking the suction may cause sore nipples.

Signs of incorrect attachment include sucked-in cheeks, clicking noises (your baby is sucking air) and painful feeds for you. If your baby is not correctly attached, they won’t feed efficiently and this can affect their weight gain. It is worth making sure you get the attachment right in the early days and then before long you and your baby will be experts!

First 1000 Days Team

Our expert team of dietitians and nutritionists have created lots of articles, tips, advice and recipes all about the importance of good nutrition to help you give your baby the healthiest possible start in life.

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