Breastfeeding: Positioning and latching

Positioning and latching advice for breastfeeding success.

A mom kissing a baby.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most common reason that was reported for stopping breastfeeding during the first month was “baby had trouble sucking and latching on.” This is the reason it is so important to have a good latch from the very beginning. Some nipple tenderness in the first few weeks of breastfeeding is common as you and your baby learn to breastfeed. Your nipples are a sensitive part of your body and may need time to adjust. Many people say they feel a pulling or tugging when their babies latch on to their breasts. Some say this is painful, but it should only last a few minutes. Pain that lasts longer than a few minutes or continues through the feeding may signal bigger problems. This type of pain and soreness requires a change. Nipple pain is one of the first signs of positioning and latching problems. Ask for help as soon as possible if your nipples become and stay sore. Having your breastfeeding support person observe a feeding is the best way to identify what’s wrong and what you need to change.

Try different breastfeeding positions to find the most comfortable one for you and your baby. Bring your baby to breast level so you are not leaning over them. Use pillows or cushions to help support your back and arms. Hold your baby close, facing your breast. Remove your baby’s blankets and clothing to get your baby close and make it easier to see that their head, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. Bring your baby to your breast, not your breast to your baby. Remember that every baby and mother are different and different positions can work better for you and your baby compared to another. Your local WIC office provides a variety of resources from the USDA to help you find the best position for you and your baby.

Latching is also very important. Your baby needs to open their mouth wide and take the breast deeply into their mouth for a good latch. To encourage this, tickle your baby’s nose or lips with your nipple. Wait for them to open their mouth wide before latching. With proper positioning and latching, you and your baby should be off to a good start.

Michigan State University Extension offers breastfeeding education to feeding parents, their babies, and their companions. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find support near you.

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