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How to Get a Good Latch

Updated: Feb 1

Getting a good latch can make a huge difference to your breastfeeding journey. You might be thinking, surely breastfeeding and getting a baby to latch is easy? It's natural right? Breastfeeding may be natural but is certainly not something you just know how to do. It's a skill that needs to be learnt, just like learning to walk and talk. Traditionally, women would see other mothers breastfeeding well before they have their own baby. Their grandmother, mother, sister, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, friends and well, all the women in the village, would be there to show her what to do. In Western society, we no longer have this village and so we need to learn how to breastfeed in a different way. All this to say: it's okay to not know what you're doing! So anyway, back to latching. How can you get a good latch?

What does a good (deep) latch look like?

A good latch has a few elements to it:

  • Your baby's chin will be touching the breast

  • The angle of your baby's lips should be wide (and by wide, I mean around 120 degrees)

  • More of your areola (the dark circle around your nipple) will be showing above your baby's mouth compared to below your baby's mouth

  • Your baby's nose will be free

  • Your baby's cheeks will be full and round

The most important thing is that the latch is NOT painful. If it's painful, there is something wrong (no matter what anyone tells you), and usually it's the latch. If the latch is perfect and you're still in pain, there might be something else going on such as a tongue tie. In this case, it is best to see a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for a face-to-face appointment.

baby breastfeeding good latch

This baby has a good latch and meets all the above criteria.

baby breastfeeding good latch

This baby has a good latch and meets all the above criteria.

What does a shallow latch look like?

If your baby has a shallow latch, it is likely that you will feel it! Some mothers even end up with cracked or bleeding nipples. However, some lucky few won't feel anything. A shallow latch has the following elements:

  • Your baby's chin may be far away from the breast

  • The angle of your baby's lips will be narrow (less than 90 degrees)

  • You will see the same amount of your areola above and below your baby's mouth (symmetrical latch)

  • Your baby's nose may be tucked into the breast

  • Your baby may have some dimpling in their cheeks during sucking

baby breastfeeding shallow latch

This baby has a shallow latch. You can see that the chin is far away from the breast and the baby has a symmetrical latch. The angle of the lips is not as wide as the above photos.

baby breastfeeding shallow latch

This baby has a shallow latch. You can see that the baby's nose is squished into the breast. The angle of the lips is not as wide as the above photos.

How can I improve the latch?

Working on improving your baby's latch can be exhausting. I recommend choosing one or a few feeds a day only to start with when both you and your baby are relaxed and calm. I like the acronym CHINS to remember these tips:

C - Close

You baby should be nice and close to you. This means that their tummy should be touching your tummy. Their chin should be very close to or touching your breast before they latch.

H - Head Back

Your baby's head should be free. Your baby will need to move their head back to get a good latch. This means, do not hold the back of your baby's head. I know, goes against everything we have been told right?! It's best to support your baby's head by holding them on the bony part of their head just above their neck. The traditional cradle position can sometimes interfere with head back. Try using the cross-cradle position instead.

I - In Line

Your baby's head, shoulder and hips should all be in one line, imagine eating with a twisted body? Not too comfortable.

N - Nose to Nipple

Many mums hold their baby too high so that the mouth is over or in line with the nipple. The problem with this is that the nipple doesn't go very far into the mouth and voila - you have a shallow latch! Aim for your baby to be at the height where their nose is over or in line with the nipple instead. This will help you get a deep latch.

S - Swallowing

When you baby is latched, you want to hear and see your baby swallowing the milk.

Some extra resources:

Global Health Media is my favourite breastfeeding video resource. Check out their video on latching your baby for a more visual demonstration.

Check out this video if you want more information on positioning your baby.

The exaggerated latch may be helpful for some. You can check it out here.

What to do when nothing helps?

Get help! If you can't get a pain free latch, it's best to seek out a local Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or breastfeeding support group. If you live in and around Surrey, United Kingdom, we can offer a home visit.

how to get a good latch

What helped you achieve a good latch?

If you would like support with your baby's feeding, contact us to book an appointment.


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