How To Latch

Below is a checklist I created to help mothers with common breastfeeding challenges.  These guidelines will be helpful for most mothers and babies. However, there can be exceptions to some of these rules, and you might need to experiment with solutions that differ from what you see here.  For example, when holding a baby in a horizontal position across the mother's chest, most babies latch better if you slide their body a bit toward the mother's center; however, a few will do better if you slide them away from the center and toward the mother's side.  If breastfeeding continues to be painful, seek a lactation counselor or consultant who can assess for issues such as tongue tie or neonatal abstinence syndrome which can cause baby's jaws to clench. This checklist may be reprinted for individual use by families or healthcare providers with credit given to the author, but may not be mass-reproduced without permission.

"How to Latch" Checklist

by Ananda Lowe, Certified Lactation Counselor

  1. Skin-to-skin – important!
  2. Tummy-to-tummy – important!
  3. Baby directly faces nipple – follow the “angle of the dangle.”  (Nipples may point forward, up, down, or to the sides.  Line up baby with your anatomy, which may be different than the placement you’ve seen someone else use.) 
  4. “No pillows or Boppys” is best, allowing for fullest range of motion
  5. Do not remove baby’s hands from mouth or breast.   (Baby uses hands to locate nipple and to stimulate mouth, and will remove hands on her own)
  6. Support baby’s neck
  7. Do not touch back of baby’s head
  8. Do not position baby as far out as the crook of your elbow; move baby closer to the center of your body
  9. Position baby so his jaw is well below the nipple.  Baby will tilt head back, then mouth will align with nipple
  10. Place your hand far behind nipple and areola
  11. Wait for baby’s mouth to open very wide – important!
  12. Hug baby in close to you, so his mouth can take in breast
  13. In case of nipple discomfort, use micro-adjustments.  Move baby a centimeter to the left, right, above, and below nipple, until you find the placement that is not painful.
  14. If baby’s lips are tucked inward around the nipple, you can use your finger to gently flip the lips outward
  15. Do not tolerate pain with latching.  Gently insert finger into baby’s mouth to break suction, and start again.
  16. If latching involves struggle, hold baby to breast when she is not frantic, such as upon waking.  Stop “trying” and simply hold baby tummy-to-tummy and skin-to-skin.  Wait for baby to discover nipple on her own, usually within 5 to 30 minutes.