Attaching your baby to the breast in the first few days can be challenging.  There are so many ways to do this and you will find that some ways suit you better depending on your baby and your breasts.

For you to understand latching well you need to first know a little history of our human race.  We are mammals, as you know, but we are very different from others mammals.  We only gestate for a short time, 9 months; it may seem long but others mammals can gestate for 2 years!  With this in mind we have to know that our babies are very immature and require a lot of attention.  Horses, for instance, can walk not long after birth and will find its mothers teat and feed.  For humans we have to put them in the vicinity of the breast and guide them.  Having said this babies are very instinctive and have a set of survival skills that are stimulated when your baby is but on your skin.

We live in a western society with rules, time frames and demands but we have to remember that our babies are not born with rules, they are instinctive.  They need to learn how to feed just like you but they can teach you their set of skills.

So the first step in attachment is not to get the ‘right’ pillow, chair or bra, but to put your baby on your chest, skin-to-skin.  Like you were taught in antenatal classes, this is not restricted to the birth suite it is a great way to start each feed.  Start the feed with a hug.

You now have your baby very close to you and you can learn their set of skills to search for the breast.  What a lot of mothers always say to me is that their baby’s hands get in the way or they don’t open their mouth wide enough.  This first step of starting the feed with a hug will eliminate these problems.  Your baby will have its face on your chest which means it won’t need to put its hands in its mouth and also they will open their mouth to start to search for the breast.  Just watch and learn and be guided by your beautiful baby.

When your baby is clam he/she will open their mouth and start to bob their head back and forth.  Some babies may start to move themselves down to the breast and with others you may have to move them.  But when you move them towards your breast make sure you keep their face in contact with your skin.  If you take them off you they are lost and will get upset.  At any time if they are upset stop and give your baby a cuddle to calm again.  There is no point trying to attach a crying baby and it is much nicer if you get more cuddles.  There is no rush with the latch, you are just learning.

The second step is to make sure your baby’s chin is touching the breast.  When your baby has moved down to your breast keep their chin touching, this will encourage them to open their mouth.  This whole time you have your baby very close to you, they will fit in the spot just below your breasts and above your tummy.  This spot was designed for your baby, how beautiful is that!

Depending on your breast shape you may need to support your breast from underneath and your other hand is holding your baby at their shoulders.  At this stage you don’t need a pillow, you can use a pillow when the baby is latched to support your arms not your baby.  If you start with a pillow on your lap and place your baby on this then your baby is immediately too low and will not get that skin to skin contact that is needed for a good latch.

The goal for attachment is to have your baby off centre that is due to their chin, tongue and jaw doing all the work on your breast.  Their tongue needs to come out of their mouth and cup under your breast not feed on the nipple that is why it doesn’t matter what shape your nipple is.  You don’t want to just put your nipple in their mouth (I know it sounds silly) you want to offer them your breast and fold this into their mouth.

Back to the second point, the chin is touching the breast and now you need to make sure the nipple is pointing to the nose.  You can do this by either moving your baby back or tilting your nipple up.  You need to put your thumb on your breast at the 3 or 9 o’clock position or opposite your baby’s nose.  So the third step is nipple to nose.

If you have large breasts you may need a hand underneath your breast to support it but make sure your hand is well back from your baby’s chin and that your thumb is opposite your baby’s nose.

Now for the latch, this is the last step and will go well if you have set yourself up as above.  It doesn’t have to be rushed you just wait for a big open mouth, which will happen as you have the chin touching the breast.  When you see this push your baby to you and use your thumb to put our nipple in your baby’s mouth.  Don’t reach your baby too far over the nipple if you do this the chin will slip towards the nipple and your baby’s tongue will rub the nipple in its mouth and cause pain and ridging of the nipple.  You don’t need to get all the areola in your baby’s mouth, it is more important to have more in their mouth at their chin than top lip.

Once you have achieved latch you must HOLD your position.  You have to hold the position so the breast doesn’t slip out of their mouth.  You may feel pain in the first 30secs then it will settle down.  Don’t try and check the attachment by pulling the breast back and looking for the lips, just hold your baby in and wait.  Your baby will either keep sucking and the pain will settle or your baby will come off and you can start again.

To recap:

  1. Start with a hug
  2. Make sure your baby’s chin is touching the breast
  3. Tilt the nipple to the nose by putting thumb opposite nose and pull back
  4. Don’t reach your baby too far over the nipple
  5. HOLD