Mastering the Breastfeeding Latch for Success

A proper latch is key to breastfeeding success. Learn the basics and how to prepare here.

Perfect Your Breastfeeding Latch, Step by Step!

If you go into your breastfeeding journey with the expectation that this natural process will be instinctual for both you and baby, you may be disappointed. Both you and baby need to learn the best, most comfortable positions for breastfeeding - and baby has to learn how to successfully latch in order to nurse effectively. Ensuring that you know how to get baby to latch is essential for breastfeeding success!

Get Prepared

To get started, wash your hands and grab anything you may want within arm’s reach, like a glass of water or your phone. Settle in with your little one in whatever place works for you – a deep wide chair with side support and a place to put your feet up if you like sitting up – or, your bed if you prefer to lay down while breastfeeding (make sure you have pillows for support).

Learn the C-Hold

When you are comfortable and ready to breastfeed baby, cup your breast with the palm of your hand – your four fingers should be underneath your breast and your thumb should rest above your nipple, opposite of your baby’s nose. This position is called the C-Hold. Gently squeeze your breast, making your nipple protrude so it’s easier for baby to grasp.

When you’re ready, hold your breast and tickle your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. When he opens his mouth wide (like a yawn), quickly guide your baby’s head to latch onto your breast. If this doesn’t happen right away, press gently down on your baby’s chin with your finger and mimic your desired behavior by opening your mouth too. It’s normal to feel like you need several extra hands to get your baby positioned correctly. Keep trying!

Watch & Listen

After some practice, you’ll become used to the signs of a good breastfeeding latch:

  • Baby’s mouth is open wide

  • Lips are turned outward (like a rosebud)

  • You feel a tug when baby sucks, but no pain

  • You can hear baby swallow

If you’re not observing these signs, you may need to stop and start as you learn how to get baby to latch properly. If the latch is painful, break suction by gently sliding your finger between baby’s gums, not the lips.

Get Comfortable

There are several different ways to hold your baby while breastfeeding. Here are some of the most popular:

Cradle or Cross-Cradle – Baby on chest, in your arms, facing you.


Under the Arm or Football – Baby’s body is clutched under your arm, supported by pillows to the level of your breast, facing toward your breast with the back of his neck and base of head in your hand. (This position is great for moms who have delivered by C-section or are tandem-nursing twins.)


Laid Back or Semi-Reclined – Sitting semi-reclined with baby on top, tummy-to-tummy, looking down at your breast.

Side-Lying – You and baby facing each other, lying in bed.

If you need more support, a Lactation Consultant can be very helpful in helping you and your baby master the breastfeeding latch, and assist in finding the most comfortable nursing position for you. 

Related Products
Medela contact nipple shields.
Contact™ Nipple Shields
Medela TheraShells™ Breast Shells
TheraShells™ Breast Shells
Medela SoftShells™ for sore nipples and flat/inverted nipples.