Recognising effective attachment

It can take a little bit of practice at first to get a baby effectively latched on for breastfeeding. Here’s some guidance as to what you’re looking for.

Spot the difference

These two pictures show a good and a poor attachment for breastfeeding. Can you see the difference?

When a baby has good attachment for breastfeeding, you should see that:

  • Baby’s chin is touching the breast
  • Baby’s mouth is wide open
  • Baby’s lower lip is curled out (don’t worry what the top lip is doing!)
  • More of the areola (the brown area around your nipple) is showing above the baby’s top lip
  • Baby is doing a good impression of a hamster, with full cheeks!

More importantly, you shouldn’t feel any pain at all (although you might experience a slight pressure)

You should also begin to experience a pattern to the way your baby is feeding. They will start with little sucks. These tell your body to ‘let down’ (release) your milk. Your baby will then begin a deeper rhythmic suck and swallow movement, followed by a pause.

If you experience any of the following, it can be a sign that your baby isn’t correctly positioned for breastfeeding:

  • Baby’s mouth and chin are separated from your breast
  • A lot of your areola is still showing, especially below your baby’s lower lip
  • Your baby is taking lots of quick, small sucks rather than getting into a rhythmic sucking pattern
  • Your baby is starting to fuss (because they’re not getting what they need)
  • You’re experiencing pain in your nipple – ouch!

Talk to your health visitor for help getting your baby to latch on correctly, or call one of the helpline numbers below.

Useful links

National breastfeeding helpline


Page last reviewed: 16-10-2017

Next review due: 16-10-2020