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The most important part of successful breastfeeding is the latch.  If your baby is not properly latched on to your breast, feedings could be painful.  There are specific techniques that can be used when latching the baby to the breast.

The position in which you hold your baby is also crucial.  When a good position and latch is obtained, breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience between mother and baby.


Hunger cues

Your baby may first display some hunger cues, signaling that he/she is ready to feed.  He might suck on his lip, tongue, finger, or fist.  Fidgeting and fussing at this time are also indicators that your baby is hungry.  Crying is a late hunger cue and may make it more difficult to begin breastfeeding. 

Try to pay attention and learn those earlier hunger cues.  Keep in mind that swaddling, pacifiers, and mittens can inhibit the hunger cues, as the baby’s mouth and hands are restricted. 

Positioning your baby to feed

There are many different positions that can work while breastfeeding.  It is important to find one that is comfortable for both you and your baby. 

Cradle Hold:

Your baby lays across your front at breast level with his/her tummy toward your chest.  The nose should be in line with your nipple, and the ear, shoulder, and hip should be aligned. 

Football Hold:

Your baby will lay along your side under your arm.  Again the nose should be in line with the nipple and the ear, shoulder and hip should be aligned.


Lay your baby on his/her side with a pillow behind his back for support.  You should also lay on your side facing your baby.  You might use a pillow behind your back or between your knees for support.  Your baby’s nose should be in line with your nipple.

There are other positions that can work for both you and your baby.  Some key tips to remember are to keep your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip in alignment.  This will make swallowing easier.  Make sure that you and the baby are comfortable.  If not, try another position.

Latching on

A good latch is vital to successful breastfeeding.  The following technique will help ensure a proper latch: 

  1. The baby’s nose should be opposite the nipple.
  2. You might need to hold your breast to help guide the nipple to your baby’s mouth. Grasp the breast on the sides, not the top and bottom.  If your hand is under your nipple, it will be in the way of the baby’s mouth.
  3. Aim the nipple toward the baby’s upper lip, not the middle of the mouth.  You might need to rub the nipple across the top lip to get your baby to open his mouth.
  4. The baby’s head should be tilted slightly back.  You do not want his chin to his chest. 
  5. When he opens his mouth wide with the chin dropped and tongue down, he should latch on to the nipple.
  6. Try to get as much of the lower portion of the areola (the area around the nipple) in the baby’s mouth. 
  7. The baby’s chin should indent the lower portion of your breast. 

Signs that confirm a good latch: 

  1. Tongue is seen when the bottom lip is pulled down
  2. Ears wiggle
  3. There is circular movement of the jaw rather than rapid chin movement
  4. Cheeks are rounded
  5. You do not hear clicking or smacking noises
  6. You can hear swallowing
  7. Chin is touching your breast
  8. Your baby ends the feeding with signs of satiety/satisfaction.  These signs include: the baby looks relaxed, “falls” off the breast, has open hands, and/or falls asleep.

Remember, breastfeeding should not be painful.  A good latch will help keep discomfort to a minimum.  When the baby has not latched on well, other problems can develop including cracked and sore nipples.  Once you get accustomed to positioning your baby and helping him/her to get a good latch, breastfeeding can be a wonderful, pain-free bonding experience between you and your baby. 

If you need further assistance, many hospitals have lactation consultants.  Seek to work with a lactation consultant at the hospital or birthing center in which you deliver.  If you are already home you can speak with your healthcare provider