Breastfeeding takes practice. There aren’t any right or wrong positions. It’s about what feels most comfortable for you, so try them out to see which feels best.

Your baby needs to take a big mouthful of breast so that you feel comfortable and they get lots of milk. Sucking on your nipple the way they might suck on the teat of a bottle, will probably make you sore and mean your baby gets less milk.

Close up of mother breastfeeding in the library

Latching checklist

The C.H.I.N.S acronym is a useful one to remember when latching your baby.

  • Close – keep your baby nice and tucked in towards your body.
  • Head free – your baby needs to be able to tilt their head back when attaching to your breast. This allows their chin to lead as they come on to the breast.
  • In-line – Your baby’s head and body need to be in a straight line so that they don’t have to twist their neck. This makes swallowing easier.
  • Nose to nipple – Your nipple should be just below your baby’s nose. As they root and tilt their head backwards, the nipple will slip under their top lip, upwards and backwards, so it doesn’t rub on the inside of their mouth.
  • Sustainable – The position should be comfortable for you and your baby for the whole feed.

Sucking stages

Once your milk comes in it’s useful to listen to your baby’s sucks and swallows during feeding. It can help you to understand how effectively your baby is feeding. Your baby will usually have three sucking stages:

  1. Stimulating the let down: Babies start a feed with some quick strong sucks. These start your ‘let-down reflex’, causing milk to flow. Your baby’s tongue cups your breast and you can see their lower jaw moving up and down as it opens and closes on the breast. This stimulates nerves close to the nipple, releasing hormones. Milk will begin to flow within a minute or two.
  1. Active feeding: Once the milk lets down, sucking will be combined with swallows of milk. This is when your baby is actively feeding. The lower jaw can be seen moving up and down rhythmically. Listen out for a pattern of one suck per swallow or a few sucks followed by a swallow of milk. Your baby may take a break and hold the breast in their mouth for a minute or two without moving their jaw before starting to suck and swallow again.
  1. Flutter sucking: Towards the end of the feed, sucking slows down and the jaw movements get less pronounced. There are fewer and fewer swallows and your baby may fall asleep or let go of your breast when they have had enough. These slower movements at the end of a feed can be called “flutter sucking”.

If your baby falls asleep before taking a full feed, breast compressions and switching breasts can be useful. These will encourage another let down to get your baby back to actively sucking and swallowing again. This can be especially important if your baby isn’t gaining weight well or is spending a lot of time asleep.