Latching, or latching-on, is the process of getting the baby attached to the breast so that he or she can suck and remove milk from the breast. For baby to effectively remove milk from the breast he or she needs to have a deep latch, which means taking a large amount of nipple and areola (the dark area around the nipple) into the mouth.
Tickle the baby’s bottom lip and wait for the gape – the wide gaping mouth as baby seeks to latch on. Bring baby up to the breast (don’t bring the breast down to the baby unless you want a sore back!) Aim your nipple toward the roof of the baby’s mouth and wait for baby to close his or her lips around the nipple/areola area. Baby’s lips should be flanged out like a fish when latching. A helper can look to see if the bottom lip is flipped out (if not, gently reach your finger there to flip the baby’s lip – some babies suck their bottom lip in when they first latch on.)
From here, you should see baby’s jaw moving and start to hear sucking and swallowing noises. A newborn’s swallow doesn’t sound like a grownup’s, instead it sounds like a soft kkkk sound. If so, congratulations, your baby is latched on! If not, have no fear – try again. Remember that you are both learning how to breastfeed. While your body and the baby’s is made to do this, you haven’t read the same instruction manuals. Give yourself a little time to learn. If you experience pain or sore nipples, remember to go back to the basics and make sure baby is getting a nice full mouth of breast each time. Be sure to seek help from a local lactation professional if you are experiencing significant pain or problems.