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Breastfeeding Latch Problems: When to Get Professional Help

Breastfeeding Latch Problems: When to Get Professional Help #latch #nursing #IBCLC #WBWIt’s funny how we have been given such idyllic images of the early days of breastfeeding, isn’t it? Mamas and babies nestled together in nursing bliss. We’re lead to believe that it’s natural and normal and a good breastfeeding latch should just…happen.

And then you actually have a baby and find out that this whole nursing process doesn’t always come so easily and it definitely doesn’t come without its fair share of discomfort and, yes, even pain. Many of us haven’t been told that the breastfeeding relationship, while natural, is still a learned process for both baby and mama.

Sure, babies have a sixth sense that leads them nipple-bound like an arrow to a target almost as soon as they give their very first cry but that doesn’t mean they know how to latch on well. Most of us mamas have had so little exposure to the whole act of breastfeeding that we also don’t know what to expect, how best to hold baby or what to look for in a good latch. It all has to be learned.

What to Look for in a Good Breastfeeding Latch

So what should you be looking for to make sure your baby is latched on correctly? How do you know if the pain you are experiencing is just from your nipples needing to get “broken in” to this new, or re-found, job or if there is something more that needs to be handled?

  • Baby’s lips should be flanged out, not tucked in. Sometimes it can be hard for mama to see that tiny bottom lip so it can be helpful if dad or a trusted friend or family member can check and make sure that everything is as it should be. If lips are tucked in they can generally be gently nudged out without having to take baby completely off the breast.
  • More of the bottom of your areola should be in baby’s mouth than the top. Think of aiming your nipple up towards baby’s nose as you are getting them latched on as it helps initiate the proper clamping down reflex in their mouth as well as getting them properly positioned on your nipple & areola.
  • Baby should be directly facing the breast, not having their head turn away at all, and their body should be in alignment with their head.
  • There should only be gulping sounds, not clicking ones. If clicking is present then insert your finger to break the suction, take baby off and try again.

What to Look for in a Bad Breastfeeding Latch

Now, generally, in the first 2-4 weeks most moms, even moms who are not nursing for the first time, will experience discomfort or even pain for the first 30-90 seconds of a latch on. Our breasts have a period of adjustment to their new job and, if I’m being honest, it can be akin to feeling like someone put your nipple in a vice grip and dropped it off the Empire State Building!

However, that sensation should not last for more than 90 seconds and should not happen at all after the first month of breastfeeding. So, if you are experiencing pain beyond that initial minute and a half you need to start considering some other possible issues that could be present. If your baby is having a truly poor breastfeeding latch then you will also most likely notice some or all of the following:

  • Creased nipples showing a hard line even after baby has been unlatched for a few moments
  • Bleeding or very raw nipples
  • Baby’s tongue appears heart shaped or unable to stick out when mouth is opened
  • Baby’s lips seem very tight to gums when opening mouth (such as when they yawn)

If any of these conditions are present then your baby is most definitely not latching well and prolonged nursing in that way could lead to physical damage to you and a very disheartening breastfeeding experience. The issue could be that baby has a tongue or lip tie (in which the frenulum skin is too tight) and without a medical intervention cannot be fixed, or it could just mean that you both need a little bit more intensive assistance in figuring out this new relationship.

The very best thing you can do if these problems are arising is make an appointment with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who can not only identify exactly what the problem is but also help you fix it. IBCLCs are truly worth their weight in gold and many breastfeeding latch issues can be addressed in just 1 or 2 visits. It may seem costly and hard to make that step to ask for help, but you will not regret your decision to see one when your baby is growing and thriving at your breast months down the road and the pain, tears and frustration feel like a distant memory.

Remember, the best moms are the ones who are constantly learning and growing. Asking for help when you need it is one of the absolute best things you can do for your child and your mothering. So go find a great IBCLC and take a deep breath!

MacKenzie is a suburban gal living a country life and likes to think of herself as being a crunchy mama in disguise! As a mama to 3 (so far), writer, homeschooler, homemaker, crafter and doula, she always has a project and thrives on filling her days with her passions. She blogs about her natural-minded, counter-cultural life, and tries to encourage mamas to live both graciously and boldly, at
Bold Turquoise.


  1. […] experiencing nipple pain may want to consult a lactation professional for advice, but it’s true that many women experience pain in the early weeks even when no problem can […]

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