I had never heard of ‘latching’ before having my daughter, so the idea of there being a ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ way to breastfeed didn’t actually occur to me.

My image of breastfeeding was more the following scenario: crying baby, give baby boob, sleeping baby, awesome mum has cup of tea…it didn’t quite happen that way!

My little girl has always had (and still has) a really shallow latch. About three days after she was born I developed cracks that ran the entire length of the nipple and made me dread breastfeeding. I would tense up every time she was due for a feed because I knew it would hurt.

She didn’t take enough of my areole into her mouth and was just sucking the tip of the nipple, which placed a lot of pressure on my breast. It took a really long time to develop good attachment and even today (she’s 14 months old) if she feeds a lot then the right side gets quite red and sore - she likes the left boob better – I have no idea why!

It is really worth learning what good breast attachment looks and feels like both for your own comfort, and so that your baby feels comfortable feeding as well. After all – it’s new to both of you and will take time and practise to get the hang of it.

There are currently two different approaches to breastfeeding;

Baby-led breastfeeding is where the mother lies back in a reclined position and allows the baby to nuzzle and search for the nipple. It allows the baby to rely on their instincts in order to breastfeed and may take a little practise.

Mother-led breastfeeding is when the mother holds the baby close to the breast (usually cradled in her arms) and guides the baby to her nipple. There are many different opinions about these two forms of breastfeeding. I would suggest you try both ways and then decide what is going to work best for you and your baby.

Video Source: http://raisingchildren.net.au

When you baby is correctly attached to the breast:

  • You will feel a strong sucking sensation that may initially be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful.
  • The baby should have their head tilted back with a mouthful of breast.
  • There will be more of your areole near the chin than the nose so your baby’s airway is unobstructed.
  • Your baby will initially make a few quick sucks which will deepen to into longer sucks as the milk comes in.
  • You shouldn’t hear any ‘slurping’ or air sounds as they’re drinking – satisfied burps are good!
  • Never push a baby’s head towards your breast as it may discourage them from breastfeeding further.

I felt very overwhelmed at the hospital by all the breastfeeding information and initially found it to be a stressful, rather than enjoyable experience. It took me a long time to feel good about breastfeeding. There are many different opinions and ways to breastfeed so listen to advice, but ultimately you are the one connecting with and nourishing your little one, so choose what feels right for you.

If your baby is not correctly latched then you can simply reposition by gently placing your little finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth and slowly breaking the seal. Don’t ever just pull your nipple out – it really really hurts – trust me on this one!

If you are experiencing difficulties, then a lactation consultant can give you personal support and advice in your own home. Read our interview with lactation consultant Sharon Armstrong here to find out more about lactation services.

The most important thing to remember when breastfeeding and seeking a good attachment, is to relax and connect with your bub, take a deep breath – tummy to mummy and nipple to nose!

Add your own breastfeeding experiences and tips in the comments section below.