The key to a good latch is timing. When your baby’s mouth is opening wide you should pull them onto the breast quickly and gently, chin first. With a good latch, your baby’s lower jaw should be positioned as far from the base of the nipple as possible with their chin pressed into the breast.
Your baby needs to take a large mouthful of breast tissue – not just the nipple – into their mouth and as far back as possible. With a good latch your baby’s mouth should be pulled onto the breast so that the lower jaw is as far away from the nipple as possible. There should be more areola showing above your baby’s upper lip than below your baby’s lower lip. To release the milk your baby will draw the breast to the back of their mouth, where the hard and soft palates meet. This means that your baby’s gums need to bypass the nipple completely and take in a large mouthful of areola. While your baby is opening wide, you should pull your baby onto the breast, chin first and aim the nipple to the roof of your baby’s mouth. Since the baby’s lower jaw does most of the work during feedings, the baby’s lower jaw should connect with the breast first. For a latch to be as effective and comfortable as possible you should aim for the “asymmetrical” or “off-center” latch angle which is when your baby’s lower jaw needs to be positioned as far from the nipple as possible. This allows the nipple to extend more easily back to the “comfort zone” in the baby’s mouth, where the hard and soft palates meet. With this correct positioning it means the latch will be more comfortable for you and your baby. Although breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, it is normal for your nipple to feel a little tender in the early days while breastfeeding is being established. This is usually at the beginning of feeding due to when your baby first sucks stretching the nipple and areolar tissue far back into their mouth. If your nipples are sore it usually means the nipple needs to be further back in your baby’s mouth where it cannot be gummed or chewed. Once a good latch is established breastfeeding should be more comfortable within a week. It may take time and patience for your baby to latch well. If your baby goes on the breast and you feel some discomfort or your baby doesn’t seem to be sucking properly, gently take your baby off the breast and try again. With time and practice latching-on will become easier and more automatic.