Breastfeeding: get it right from the start.......

Many mums give up in the first week of feeding because they find it painful – the sad fact is that the problems they had may have been avoided. Follow our guide to get it right…

Step-by-step to positioning your baby

Breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily come naturally to you or your baby – there’s a technique involved and getting the hang of it in the early days makes all the difference between a peaceful feed and a content baby, or sore nipples and a baby who hasn’t been able to drink his fill because he can’t nurse effectively. Many mums give up in the first week of feeding because they find it painful – the sad fact is that the problems they had may have been avoided. Follow our guide to get it right… 


1. Get comfortable

Feeds can take a while with a young baby (when he’s older he’ll be a  more efficient feeder and take what he needs in a shorter time) so before you position your baby on the breast, make sure you’re comfortable and your back is well supported. Even the tiniest baby can feel heavy after you hold him for an extended period, so lay a pillow or a specially designed nursing cushion or wedge across your lap to support his weight. Bear in mind too that breastfeeding can be thirsty work, so have a drink placed where you can easily reach it.

2. Position your baby

Hold your baby with your forearm on the side you’re going to feed from supporting his body and your other hand supporting his head. He needs to be lying on his side, facing your nipple so he can feed effectively – as a rule, think ‘tummy to tummy’.

Your baby’s rooting reflex causes him to search for your breast if you lightly stroke his cheek with your little finger or your nipple.

3. Get him to root

Gently brush his cheek or his lips with your nipple – it’ll stimulate him to open his mouth wide. When his mouth is so wide open it resembles a yawn, guide him onto your breast as opposed to leaning forward and guiding your nipple into his mouth.

4. The perfect position

As you guide your baby onto the breast, try to make sure your nipple is pointing towards the roof of his mouth so that his lips are around the areola (the darker area immediately surrounding your nipple) and his chin is snuggled against the lower portion of your breast. This means your baby’s tongue can literally ‘milk’ the breast, stimulating the milk ducts to release the milk. You may feel what’s called the ‘let-down’ reflex as this happens: it’s a tingling sensation. Your baby’s top lip should be closer to the actual nipple than his lower lip and you should be able to see some of the areola above his top lip. He should take in more of the areola with his lower lip.

Remember: you’re breastfeeding, not nipplefeeding. Your baby needs to take as big a mouthful of breast as he can in order to suckle properly and painlessly.

5. Is your baby feeding?

If your baby is properly latched on, both of his lips will be curled outwards (if his bottom lip doesn’t seem to be but you’re not in any discomfort he probably is latched on properly – gently touching his lower lip should curl it). You’ll see his jaw and ear moving and see him swallowing. You may also see a froth of milk appearing where his mouth is sealed to your breast.

6. If it hurts…

If the feed is painful, your baby isn’t positioned properly and is in all likelihood trying to feed from your nipple. Don’t try to pull him off – instead, gently insert the tip of your little finger into the corner of his mouth to break the suction. Then try positioning him again.

Related links

  • Breastfeeding: we reply to your questions: There’s no doubt breast milk gives your baby the best start in life, but isn’t without its challenges, as these mums’ questions demonstrate!
  • Breast is best: For a new mum, the breastfeeding issue can feel like a battleground. Everyone – other mums, the media and medical professionals - seems to have an opinion, but what works for one mum or child may not necessarily work for another.
  • Breastfeeding bug-bears: Our tips on how to solve them....: Almost half of breastfeeding mums quit before their baby is six months old and often it’s because they’ve run into problems that are actually pretty easily solved. If you’re thinking of stopping, read on for quick solutions to common problems…

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