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Approaching the breast

  • Bring baby gently towards the nipple and touch their top lip with the nipple, then move them slightly away again gently.
  • Repeat these movements quietly and gently until baby opens their mouth wide, or run the nipple very gently along the baby’s top lip (not the bottom lip or baby may latch suddenly on to the nipple and squash it).

Wide-open mouth

  • Your baby has to have a wide-open mouth and their tongue forward to latch correctly. It is not possible for them to latch unless these things happen.
  • Don’t rush baby. Don’t try and pull them on or try to push the nipple into the baby’s mouth without this very wide mouth happening.
  • If your baby isn’t bringing their tongue forward when their mouth is wide enough for a latch, try hand expressing a little milk into their mouth to encourage the tongue to come forward.
  • When your baby opens wide and brings their tongue forward, they may latch by themselves, or you may have to quickly bring baby to the breast when they are ready – this has to be fast or they may close their mouth again.
  • Don’t worry if the wide mouth is missed a few times – you’re both working it out together and it takes practice.

Taking enough breast tissue into the mouth

You may be told that a baby has to take as much of the areola (darker area around the nipple) into their mouth as possible to latch properly. This isn’t true.

Here are some tips to make sure your baby has latched on to enough areola:

  • Your baby’s nose should be level with the nipple.
  • The baby needs to grasp more of the areola (darker area around the nipple) under their bottom lip. To make sure this happens, the nipple should point upwards toward the roof of their mouth, rather than straight forward.
  • You may see areola above the baby’s top lip – this is normal.

Don't worry if it doesn't work the first time

  • Go back to the beginning and try again if it doesn’t work the first time.
  • If you’re still not sure what to do, ask your lead maternity carer for help.
  • Check out this useful checklist of latching points from La Leche League

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