Breastfeeding and good attachment: How-to-guide
Getting your baby comfortably positioned and attached is important in preventing sore nipples and allowing your baby to take your milk effectively. The first thing is to get comfortable yourself. Being skin-to-skin with your baby helps, especially at first and the emotional bonds built at this stage are an added benefit. See breastfeeding positions for ideas on different positions you can use.
If your baby is not already rooting for your breast, you can touch her top lip with your nipple. Her ‘rooting’ instinct means she will lift her chin and open her mouth. This is why it doesn’t help to hold her head, she needs to be able to move her head back to get comfortably fixed.
Wait for her to open her mouth as wide as a yawn. Her mouth needs to be open wide enough to take in both your nipple and plenty of breast.
As soon as your baby’s jaw drops and her mouth is opening really wide, draw her whole body closer so that she gets a good mouthful of breast. Your nipple will enter the top of your baby’s mouth, not the middle. That way, she will be able to feed on your breast milk effectively.
It may take several attempts to get your baby attached correctly – and that means comfortably for you both. Your nipple needs to be at the back of your baby's mouth so that it is not squashed. If you wish, support your breast gently from below, using the flat of your hand. It is important not to press or squeeze the delicate breast tissue as this could cause breastfeeding problems like bruising or a blocked milk duct.
If you are having difficulty in one position, you can try a different one.
Good breastfeeding attachment
What you should see:
- baby tucked in as close to you as possible
- chin against your breast, rather than tucked down, so head slightly tipped back
- wide open mouth
- nose not pressed into your breast
- deep jaw movements
- if some of the areola (the coloured part around your nipple) is showing, there will be more above the top lip than below the bottom lip.
What you shouldn’t see:
- cheeks sucked in
- lips looking like sucking on a straw
- squashed nipple at the end of the feed when your baby comes off.
What you should hear:
- soft sounds of milk being swallowed.
What you shouldn’t hear:
- clicking noises
- lip smacking.
What you may feel:
- a feeling of being ‘firmly gripped’
- the let-down reflex – a tingling, ‘drawing’ feeling in your breasts
- a fleeting pain at the start of the feed in the first few days or weeks. (Imagining a relaxing scene, or getting someone to massage your shoulders, may help in these situations.)
What you shouldn’t feel:
- pain while your baby is actually feeding, or persisting after the feed.
If you see, hear or feel anything that doesn’t seem right, you can gently insert your little finger into your baby’s mouth to break the suction and let her come off, then let her start again. It helps you both if you can stay calm and relaxed, so remember to breathe and ask a midwife or breastfeeding counsellor for help if you need to.
NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.
National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.
UK Association of Milk Banking has information on its network of milk banks across the UK.
Best Beginnings: view video footage online from 'bump to breastfeeding'.
Healthtalkonline.org provides a comprehensive library of face-to-face interviews where parents share their experiences about breastfeeding, birth, parenting and many other issues.