The Signs of a Good Breastfeeding Latch

Mother Breastfeeding her 4 Month Old Baby

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A good breastfeeding latch is one of the most important aspects of breastfeeding. When your baby latches on to your breast correctly, you are much more likely to be successful at nursing your child.

Your newborn needs to latch on well to get enough breast milk to grow and thrive, otherwise, they will require infant formula. A good breastfeeding latch and the regular removal of breast milk from your breasts is also necessary for the building up of your breast milk supply.

On the other hand, if your newborn has a poor breastfeeding latch, they may not get enough breast milk. They may gain weight slowly or even lose weight. A poor latch can also be very uncomfortable for you since it can lead to some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, or a breast infection.

So, how can you tell if your baby is latching on correctly? Here are some of the signs to look out for to help you recognize a good breastfeeding latch and a poor one.

Signs of a Good Breastfeeding Latch

If your baby is latching on to more than just your nipple, you probably have a good latch. Your child should be latching on to your entire nipple plus some of the surrounding areola (the darker area of your breast that surrounds your nipple). The amount of your areola that your baby takes in depends on the size of your nipples and the size of your areola.

In general, your newborn should have your entire nipple and approximately 1 inch or more of your areola in their mouth. Additionally, your baby's lips should be turned out (fish lips) and flat against your breast, and your child's chin and nose should be touching your breast.

Ideally, the baby's tongue will be down on the area of the breast below the nipple. The tongue should lay over the baby's lower gum, but you may not be able to see it.

You should see and hear your child sucking and swallowing, and you should not feel any pain. A little bit of tenderness when the baby first latches on is normal, but it should not be very painful, and it should not last the entire feeding. After each feeding, your breasts should feel softer and less full.

If your child seems happy and satisfied after breastfeeding, they likely had a good latch. Seeing that your newborn is gaining weight and growing in an expected and healthy way will reassure you that breastfeeding is going well.

Signs of a Poor Breastfeeding Latch

When your baby is latching on to just your nipple, or you do not see or hear your baby swallowing, they may not be getting a good latch. Additional signs of a poor latch include:

  • Your child is sucking in their cheeks as they try to breastfeed. 
  • Your baby does not have their lips out like a fish. You can see that they have their lips tucked in and under, instead.
  • You can hear a clicking or smacking noises as your little one tries to suck.
  • Your nipples are sore, and breastfeeding is becoming more and more painful.
  • Your breast milk supply is low.
  • After you breastfeed your child, they seem unhappy and frustrated and continue to show signs of hunger.
  • Your newborn is losing weight, or not gaining weight at a healthy rate.

What You Can Do

If you notice signs of a poor latch when you attempt to breastfeed, you should gently break the suction of the bad latch, remove your child from the breast, and try to latch them on again. If you continue to have trouble with your baby's latch, or if you're not sure if your child is latching on correctly, get help as soon as possible.

For more information or assistance getting your baby to latch on properly talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group.  

8 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. Joshi H, Magon P, Raina S. Effect of mother-infant pair's latch-on position on child's health: A lesson for nursing careJ Family Med Prim Care. 2016;5(2):309-313. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.192373

  2. Martin CR, Ling PR, Blackburn GL. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant FormulaNutrients. 2016;8(5):279. doi:10.3390/nu8050279

  3. The Nemours Foundation. KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand.

  4. Leung SS. Breast pain in lactating mothers. Hong Kong Med J. 2016;22(4):341-6. doi:10.12809/hkmj154762

  5. Stanford Medicine. Getting Started: Position and Latch.

  6. Sears M, Sears J, Sears W, Sears RW. The Baby Book, Revised Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company; 2013.

  7. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Office On Women’s Health. Getting a good latch.

  8. Cincinnati Children's. Breastfeeding: Ineffective Latch-On or Sucking.

Additional Reading

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.