How to breastfeed in the early days: baby-led attachment

Baby-led attachment is when you let baby attach to your breast by herself. Lie her between your breasts, skin to skin, supported by your arms. Lean back so baby can lie on your chest without support. If she’s crying, let her suck your finger before you start.

Let baby move towards your nipple. Help only if she needs it. She can lie at an angle down your body. Or if you’ve had a caesarean, encourage her to move her legs and body to one side of you, where a pillow can support her legs and feet.

When baby is just below your nipple, she’ll dig her chin into your breast, reach up with an open mouth and attach to your breast. This might happen very quickly.

Once breastfeeding is going well: mother-led attachment

Mother-led attachment is when you put your baby onto your breast. Hold baby behind his back and shoulders (not head), so his chest touches your chest. His nose should be in line with your nipple. Brush your nipple from his nose to lips to get him to open his mouth wide.

Bring baby to your breast. Aim your nipple at the roof of his mouth. Keep your hands across his back and shoulders. When he attaches, a large amount of the areola will be in his mouth.

With both baby-led and mother-led attachment, baby is attached correctly when his chin is pressed into your breast, and his nose is clear. His bottom lip is spread outwards, his cheeks are rounded, and your nipple is in his mouth. He’ll suck quickly to start and change to longer rhythmic sucks.

Breastfeeding problems: what to do

When your baby isn’t correctly attached and just sucks the nipple, feeding is painful, your nipples can get damaged, and your baby won’t be able to get enough milk.

If baby isn’t attached correctly, stop. Break the suction by inserting your little finger into the corner of her mouth, between her gums. Gently take her off the breast.

Your baby might need to burp after feeding from each breast. To do this, sit her up or hold her to your shoulder, and gently rub or pat her back.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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