The following information can be used to help your baby latch on and feed well. This approach is a good starting point when learning to breastfeed and is also helpful for addressing any and all breastfeeding challenges or concerns (including nipple pain, baby not getting enough milk from the breast, and blocked ducts).
Keep your baby close by, skin-to-skin if possible, as much as practical, and watch for early feeding cues (e.g. licking lips, bobbing or pecking on your chest, bringing hands toward the mouth). Offer the breast as soon as you see these cues – in other words, feed your baby on demand, when the baby is ready. Feeding by the clock results in difficulties in the short term and long term. The earlier you put the baby to the breast once he/she is showing signs of hunger, the less likely the baby is to be frustrated or angry the baby, and thus, the more likely he/she is to take the breast calmly. Note, crying is a late sign of hunger.
How a baby takes the breast (latches on) can affect how well the baby gets milk and whether or not you will have nipple pain.
When latching babies in any position, these basic principles should always apply.
Your view of baby when latched (cross-cradle position shown)
When the baby no longer drinks even with compressions, and before the baby gets too sleepy or fussy, switch sides and repeat the process. It may be useful going back and forth from one breast to the other as many times as needed as long as the baby is doing some drinking. Keeping the baby drinking by compressing and switching sides should keep the baby happy and awake. This will help the baby get as much milk as possible and make the feeding efficient.
If supplementation is needed, the best way to give it is with a lactation aid at the breast. Please add the lactation aid as recommended by your lactation consultant and depending on baby’s drinking and behaviour at the breast. See also the “Lactation Aid” information sheet.
Ideally , the baby will fall asleep or pull away from the breast while drinking and not from sucking without drinking. If you are ending the feed and trying to unlatch your baby but she/he wants to stay on and continues to suck, then it’s likely that the baby still wants more. Add compressions or switch sides to help the baby continue drinking.
If the baby is full, he/she will generally be content when off of the breast (even if put down) and may or may not go to sleep. If in doubt offer the breast again and use compressions from the beginning and switch sides as needed to keep baby drinking.
The information presented here is general and not a substitute for personalized treatment from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or other qualified medical professionals.
This information sheet may be copied and distributed without further permission on the condition that you credit International Breastfeeding Centre that it is not used in any context that violates the WHO International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (1981) and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions. If you don’t know what this means, please email us to ask!
©IBC, updated June 2017
Questions or concerns? Email Dr. Jack Newman (read the page carefully, and answer the listed questions).
Make an appointment at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic.