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 her 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.

Reasons You May Have to Remove Your Baby From the Breast

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 she needs to remove ​your breast milk while she's breastfeeding.

Most of the time, when an infant finishes breastfeeding, she's ready to switch sides, or she just needs a break from the feeding, she will open her mouth and let go of your breast on her 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. Here 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.

Why You Shouldn't Pull Your Baby Off Your Breast

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 his grip or bite down on your nipple to try to keep your breast in his 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 Technique

  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 her 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

  • 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.