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Latching your baby

A good latch is very important for successful breastfeeding.

Latch means how your baby takes the breast and nipple into their mouth. It should not be painful or damage your nipples.

Some babies can latch easily on their own, but usually it takes a bit of practice.

Before you latch, make sure you are in a comfortable supported position. Use a pillow for your back if needed. Your baby's head and body should also be supported.

How to latch

If your breasts feel hard and it makes latching difficult, try the following before feeding to soften the breasts:

Keeping your baby awake at the breast

See our knowing when your baby is hungry section for information about breast compressions.

Taking your baby off the breast

Put your index or baby finger gently into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction. Then remove your baby from your breast. This will avoid your baby pulling on your nipple during this process.

Other information

Breastfeeding should not be painful. It's important you get help as soon as possible if:

  • You are having difficulty latching your baby.
  • You have nipple pain or damage.
  • Your breasts are hard, and you can't soften them.
  • You have a fever or a red, painful area on your breast.

Ways to prevent nipple pain or damage

  • Make sure your baby is latched well.
  • Break your baby's suction before removing them from your breast. Put your index or baby finger gently into the corner of your baby's mouth to break the suction.
  • Try to avoid bottles or pacifiers until your baby is breastfeeding well.
  • Use proper techniques for expressing your milk by hand or with a pump.

What to do if your breasts become engorged

Breast engorgement is the painful overfilling of the breasts with milk. It's normal to have increased breast fullness during the first week after birth as your milk gradually increases.  However, engorgement is not normal. 

Signs of engorgement include:

  • Very firm, hard breasts that make it difficult for your baby to latch and remove milk.
  • Lumps in the armpits.
  • Numbness and tingling in your hands and arms.

Preventing engorgement

  • Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.
  • Breastfeed at least 8 times or more in 24 hours in the first few weeks.
  • Get help to improve your baby's latch and position.
  • Pump or hand express your breast milk as needed for comfort.
  • Try to avoid bottles and pacifiers until your baby is breastfeeding well unless advised to do so by a health care professional.
  • Watch and listen while your baby is breastfeeding to make sure they are swallowing well. Your baby's swallows will sound like a soft "kuh kuh".

Caring for engorged breasts

  • Avoid wearing an underwire bra.
  • Use cool compresses to reduce swelling or a warm shower or warm compresses to help soften your breasts.
  • Massage your breasts gently, using circular motions just before feeding to help your milk to flow.
  • Express enough milk from your breasts to soften the nipple area (areola) just before you latch your baby.
  • Avoid medication to decrease your milk as it is not considered safe and is not recommended.

Learn about expressing your breast milk.

If you are experiencing nipple or breast pain, we can help. Learn about our breastfeeding services.