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Pregnancy and baby

Breastfeeding: positioning and attachment

How do I know if my baby is properly latched?

Media last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 20/03/2017

How to breastfeed

If breastfeeding feels a bit awkward at first, don't worry. Breastfeeding is a skill that you and your baby learn together, and it can take time to get used to.

There are lots of different positions you can use to breastfeed. You just need to check the following points:

  • Are you comfortable? It's worth getting comfortable before a feed. Use pillows or cushions if necessary. Your shoulders and arms should be relaxed.
  • Are your baby's head and body in a straight line? (It's hard for your baby to swallow if their head and neck are twisted.) 
  • Are you holding your baby close to you, facing your breast? Supporting their neck, shoulders and back should allow them to tilt their head back and swallow easily.
  • Always bring your baby to the breast rather than leaning forward to 'post' your breast into your baby's mouth, as this can lead to poor attachment.
  • Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast. Placing your baby with their nose level with your nipple will encourage them to open their mouth wide and attach to the breast well.
  • Avoid holding the back of your baby's head, so that they can tip their head back. This way your nipple goes past the hard roof of their mouth and ends up at the back of their mouth against the soft palate.

How to latch your baby on to your breast

  • Hold your baby close to you with their nose level with the nipple.
  • Wait until your baby opens their mouth really wide with their tongue down. You can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their top lip.
  • Bring your baby on to your breast.
  • Your baby will tilt their head back and come to your breast chin first. Remember to support your baby's neck but not hold the back of their head. They should then be able to take a large mouthful of breast. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.

See Start4Life's visual guide to latching your baby on.

How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk

  • Your baby will appear content and satisfied after most feeds.
  • They should be healthy and gaining weight (although it's normal for babies to lose a little weight in the first days after birth). Talk to your midwife or health visitor if you are concerned your baby is not gaining weight and is unsettled during or after breast feeds.
  • After the first few days, your baby should have at least six wet nappies a day.
  • After the first few days, they should also pass at least two soft yellow poos the size of a £2 coin every day.

See tips on building up your milk supply.

Breastfeeding premature and ill babies

If your baby is in a neonatal or special care unit after the birth, you'll probably be encouraged to try kangaroo care once your baby is well enough. This means holding your baby close to you, usually under your clothes with your baby dressed only in a nappy.

This skin-to-skin contact helps you bond with your premature baby and increases your milk supply.

Read more information about breastfeeding a premature baby.

More information on breastfeeding

If you have any questions or concerns, you can:

  • speak to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter
  • call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am to 9.30pm, daily)
  • get online advice on breastfeeding problems

Visit healthtalk.org to see mums talking about positioning and attaching their babies at the breast.

Page last reviewed: 02/10/2016

Next review due: 02/10/2019

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