How to Break the Suction of a Breastfeeding Latch

Safely Removing Your Baby From the Breast

Woman breastfeeding her young infant

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An important part of taking care of your breasts when you're breastfeeding is learning how to safely and correctly remove your baby from the breast. You may not need to do it often since your child will likely release the suction on their own most of the time. But, on those occasions when you have to do it yourself, using the right technique will help prevent unnecessary pain and damage to your breasts and nipples.

Overview

When your baby is latched on to your breast the right way, all of your nipple and part of your areola, the darker area of skin surrounding your nipple, will be in your child's mouth. A good latch makes a strong seal between your child's lips and tongue and your breast. This strong seal allows your child to create the suction they need to remove ​your breast milk while they're breastfeeding.

Most of the time, when an infant finishes breastfeeding, they're ready to switch sides, or they just need a break from the feeding, they will open their mouth and let go of your breast on their own. However, there may be times when your child just doesn't let go, and you have to be the one to remove your baby from your breast.

Causes

Below are a few examples of when you may have to break the suction of the latch on your own.

A Poor Latch

It's normal to feel a little bit of nipple tenderness when your baby first latches. But, if you continue to feel pain after the first few moments, your child is probably not latched on correctly. Since a poor latch can cause sore, damaged nipples and other breastfeeding issues, you don't want to let your baby stay attached to you in that way. Instead, you'll want to take her off of your nipple to reposition her and try to latch her on again correctly.

Alternating Sides

If your child is still attached to one breast and you want to switch to the other side, you may need to remove your child.

After Feedings

If your child is continuing to suckle for a long time after a feeding has ended or if she falls asleep at the end of a feeding and is still holding on to your breast, you may want to release her hold so that you can put her down and do something else.

Correct Technique

When you're ready to remove your little one from the breast, you shouldn't try to pull him off. The pulling can damage the delicate skin around your nipple and areola. Babies also have a natural instinct to try to stop the breast from leaving the mouth. Your child may tighten their grip or bite down on your nipple to try to keep your breast in their mouth. Not only is it painful, but it can lead to nipple issues.

It's important to learn how to take your baby off of your breast without causing pain and sore nipples.

Removal Process

  1. Make sure your fingers are clean.
  2. Place your finger at the corner of your baby's mouth.
  3. Gently slide your finger into the side of the mouth.
  4. Go past your baby's lips and between his gums as you press down slightly against the skin of your breast. This action will break the suction between your child's mouth and your breast.
  5. Once your baby opens her mouth, remove your breast.
  6. To prevent your baby from accidentally biting down on your nipple as you try to remove your breast from their mouth, keep your finger between your baby's gums until your nipple is safely out of the way. 

Where to Find Help

If possible, learn how to break the suction of a latch right from the start. Ask your nurse or a lactation consultant to show you the correct technique. If you didn't have the opportunity to learn how to remove your baby from the breast when you first started breastfeeding, it's never too late. Your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group can provide you with assistance and more information.

 

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tiruye G, Mesfin F, Geda B, Shiferaw K. Breastfeeding technique and associated factors among breastfeeding mothers in Harar city, Eastern EthiopiaInt Breastfeed J. 2018;13:5.doi:10.1186/s13006-018-0147-z

  2. Kent JC, Ashton E, Hardwick CM, et al. Nipple pain in breastfeeding mothers: incidence, causes and treatmentsInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(10):12247–12263. doi:10.3390/ijerph121012247

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

  • Berens P, Eglash A, Malloy M, Steube AM. ABM Clinical Protocol# 26: Persistent pain with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2016 March 1;11(2):46-53.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.
  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.
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