How to get a good latch

by Laura Howells
2 min reading time
(Updated )

Parent nursing baby on couch in semi-reclined position

As most of you know getting a good latch is important. Getting a good latch helps in a few ways, it helps breastfeeding and chestfeeding parents to be more comfortable but it is also necessary for babies to be transferring milk well.

Update August 2020: You can view an update to this article which includes my own video showing the steps to a good latch, here: "How to avoid nipple pain while breastfeeding or chestfeeding".

Signs your baby isn’t latching well

  • nipple pain
  • cracked or bleeding nipples
  • nipple looks compressed or pinched after feeding
  • decreased milk supply
  • milk supply is adequate but your baby isn’t getting enough directly at the breast

Other things you should know as well as what it said on the video

This video is the best that I have found so far to show how to latch. Something you will notice is that the parent is not using a boppy or a breast friend nursing pillow. This is because it is harder to get a good latch with one of these pillows when you are first starting out.

One of the things that is not mentioned in this video is that the baby’s head should be tilted back just a little so that the chin presses firmly into the breast/chest and the nose sticks out to make it easy for baby to breathe. This isn’t always easy for little ones especially after sitting in a pelvis and being squeezed through a birth canal or pulled from a belly—they may have a little tension. Tummy time and other exercises, which I won’t go too much into detail here, can help to relax those stiff little necks. I won’t go into more detail here as this will be its own blog post.

How to tell if you have a good latch

Whether or not your latch looks like the one in the video, you have a good latch if:

  • You are not experiencing and breast or chest or nipple pain
  • baby is getting enough milk
  • baby is gaining weight
  • baby is peeing and pooping as is age-appropriate

When to call a professional

Please call a lactation consultant if your baby isn’t gaining well, you are in a lot of pain with latching and you don’t see improvement with positional changes or you are just feeling like you need a little extra help to feel confident.

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Laura Howells (she/her) is an IBCLC and postpartum doula who works with clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been happily supporting growing families during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and the first years since 2009.

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