5 Steps for the Optimal Breastfeeding Latch

by Dec 21, 2017

About the Author

Dr. Jeanne Sandheinrich, D.C.

Dr. Jeanne Sandheinrich, D.C. is co-founder and an esteemed chiropractor at First Step Family Wellness. As a St. Louis native, she has a deep connection to her community and is passionate about providing exceptional care to her clients.

Breastfeeding: mastering the latch

“Although breastfeeding is ‘natural’ so is giving birth, and most of us expect to get help with that. Many of us didn’t grow up around breastfeeding and have lived in a society with historically low breastfeeding rates. We may not even have seen breastfeeding up close until we come to do it ourselves. It’s not always easy. It’s important to find help and not struggle alone.”


Breastfeeding should be a restful and enjoyable time for mother and baby to bond. The goal of the breastfeeding team at 1st Step Family Wellness in Kirkwood is to provide each mother with the breastfeeding tips, tools, and support she needs to continue a successful breastfeeding relationship with her baby.

Not having an optimal latch can lead to symptoms relating to colic, reflux, less than ideal weight gain, and dental decay; which can result in the need for otherwise unnecessary medications and treatments. Making sure baby has a proper latch on the other hand, can ensure baby receives all the breastfeeding advantages.

Having the proper breastfeeding latch can:

  • Eliminate nipple pain and allow damaged nipples to heal naturally
  • Improve the transfer of milk, which can result in increased weight gain
  • Increase mother’s milk supply
  • Improve sleep patterns—by increasing the efficiency of milk transfer, less time is spent at the breast, which means more sleep for mother and baby

The best time to feed baby is whenever baby is showing hunger cues–sucking on hand or searching. If baby is fussy, bring baby skin-to-skin for several minutes to calm them, prior to bringing baby to breast.

1st Step Family Wellness’ Certified Lactation Counselor, Renee Muehlfeld, has compiled these 5 steps for achieving the optimal breastfeeding latch:

  1. GET COMFORTABLE–Get yourself in a comfortable position, with a pillow within reach if you need it to stabilize your arm.
  2. NOSE TO NIPPLE-Express a drop of milk onto your nipple and bring baby’s nose to your nipple.
  3. 140 DEGREE– We want baby to tilt their head back and open their mouth wide (140 degrees is the goal) which will happen naturally by bringing baby’s nose to your nipple. Big mouth, then slide baby’s body up and onto the breast. Aim your nipple at the roof of baby’s mouth to avoid pinching. If baby appears to have a tight or tiny latch, pop your pinky finger into the corner of their mouth to release the latch suction and try bringing baby’s nose to nipple again. This will correct a shallow latch during breastfeeding.
  4. HANDS OFF-Watch your hand placement on baby’s head. You want their neck to settle into the cup between your index finger and thumb. You want baby close, nose to breast, but not smothered in breast. Also, hands off your breast. Bring baby to breast, instead of breast to baby. When you push and pull your breast into baby’s mouth, your breast will slowly go back to where it naturally lies and baby may “pop off”, so it is best to bring baby to where your breast naturally lies to avoid having to relatch.
  5. LIPS CURLED OUT-Like a good vacuum, for optimal performance you need a good suction. Similar for breastfeeding. You need a good suction to have optimal milk transfer. You want to see baby’s upper and lower lip slightly flanged out, enough where you can see the beginning of the inner, wet part of baby’s lips. You can use your pinky to flip the lips out, if necessary. If baby’s lips seem tucked in or tethered to the roof/inside of the mouth by a thin piece of skin or gum, give us a call for further instruction.

How long does the average mom breastfeed?

Remember, it is not about the amount of time spent at the breast. It’s about how much milk is transferred. A successful optimal latch leads to less time on the breast, a happier, full-bellied baby and a happier, well-rested momma!

Need breastfeeding help?

Call us to get connected with one of our Certified Lactation Counselors or find a local breastfeeding group to join, like the groups hosted at Kangaroo Kids on Manchester.