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A step by step guide to breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a learning curve for you and your baby and can take some time to establish, so be patient with yourself.

There are many positions you can hold your baby while breast feeding; it’s about finding the one you and your baby are most comfortable with.

Whichever position you hold your baby to feed, there are some points to observe to ensure you get your baby latched on and feeding well.

Ensure you are sat in a comfortable position, supported by cushions if necessary. You should be relaxed as you may be in this position for a while. Can you reach your drink, phone, TV remote?

Step by step – how to get started

  • Hold your baby really close to you, ‘tummy to mummy’ on their side, their head should not be twisted
  • Their nose should be level with your nipple
  • Hold your baby across the back of their shoulders, supporting their neck. Your baby’s head should be free to tip back when opening their mouth wide
  • When your baby feels the nipple under their nose, they will tip their head back, opening their mouth wide and may put their tongue out ready
  • Swiftly bring your baby’s shoulders towards you, their head will tilt backwards as the come onto the breast and let them self-latch
  • What you should see:
  1. Chin indenting breast
  2. Much more areola (darker nipple skin) above top lip than below bottom lip
  3. Cheeks should look full and round
  4. Movement of whole jaw, not just lips and gums
  • This should feel comfortable. There may be an initial pulling sensation, but this should all settle as the feed continues.
  • If pain is felt as the feed goes on, the latch may be shallow. Break the latch by slipping your little finger gently in the corner of their mouth to release suction. Reposition and re-latch your baby onto the breast.

If your latch does not feel right or comfortable remember to take your baby off and start again. Don’t worry how many times you do this, it’s all part of learning.

Signs your baby is getting enough milk

  • Once latched, your baby will start sucking quickly. This stimulates the let-down reflex. Your baby will then get into a rhythm of suck then swallow (you should be able to hear them swallow)
  • Your baby should appear calm during the feed
  • At the end of a feed, you may feel you baby’s tongue flutter on the breast. It’s important to let them do this and come off the breast naturally when they have had enough
  • Your baby should appear satisfied after a feed
  • Babies can lose weight in the first week, and should be gaining weight by two weeks – your health visitor will weigh your baby at two weeks
  • Babies should have at least six wet nappies per day and two small poos per day.

If your baby is not settled during or after a feed, speak to your midwife or health visitor for support.

Mother breastfeeding baby

For further information, there is a short video on the Best Beginnings website showing a baby being positioned well on the breast and feeding nicely.

This ten minute video also provides more information about attaching your baby at the breast.

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

Useful links

National breastfeeding helpline


Page last reviewed: 26-11-2020

Next review due: 26-11-2023