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How to attach and position the baby at the breast

Nearly all the problems in starting to breastfeed come from not getting the baby properly positioned and attached at the breast.

Positioning refers to the relationship of the baby’s body to the mother's body and attachment refers to the relationship of the baby’s mouth to the breast.

Positioning of Mother and Baby

If you are breastfeeding it is essential to understand the fundamentals of good positioning.There are many ways in which the mother can position herself and her baby. Good positioning will facilitate attachment of the baby at the breast - this has to be right to ensure that there is no room for error.

Positioning baby photo


C- Close - your baby needs to be cuddled close during breastfeeding to allow them to attach at the breast.

H - Head free – your baby needs to be supported across shoulders and back with their head free to tilt back. This ensures that the baby approaches the breast at the right angle, with chin leading.

I - In line - baby’s body needs to be in alignment

N - Nose to Nipple - this allows your baby to attach at the breast ‘off centre’ getting a good mouthful. The nipple will reach to the roof of the baby’s mouth, far enough back to avoid damage.

S - Sustainability – ensure the position is comfy for both of you.


Effective Attachment

Below is a diagram of a baby attached properly at the breast and a baby who is badly attached – can you spot the difference?

 Breastfeeding attachment


  1. Baby’s chin touches breast
  2. The baby’s mouth is wide open
  3. Lower lip should be curled out - the top lip doesn’t matter
  4. More areola (the brown area surrounding the nipple) shows above the baby’s top lip-known as the ‘asymetrical latch’
  5. Baby has full cheeks - like a hamster
  6. There is a suckling pattern. First is the call up sucks (these are the little sucks that baby uses to call forth the milk and stimulate letdown), then comes the deeper rhythmic suck/swallow, followed by a pause.
  7. Absolutely NO PAIN – a generalised pressure may be felt.


  1. The baby’s mouth is too far away from the mother’s body
  2. The baby’s mouth and chin are separated from the breast
  3. Too much areola is visible especially below the lower lip
  4. The baby takes many quick small sucks
  5. The baby fusses/refuses because he does not get the milk
  6. The mother experiences nipple pain

A baby does not suck milk out of the breast as he would a straw. Instead he uses -

  • suction to pull out the breast tissue to form a teat and to hold the breast tissue in his mouth,
  • the let down reflex makes breast milk flow into the milk ducts.

The action of his tongue presses the milk from the milk ducts into his mouth.


How to achieve a good latch -

click here for breastfeeding step by step

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