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Attachment in breastfeeding

24 October 2016

Attachment, or latch-on as it is also known, is one of the basic principles of breastfeeding.

Ensuring your baby is attached to the breast correctly means:

  • your nipples do not become damaged
  • your baby stimulates your milk supply effectively
  • milk is transferred efficiently
  • a good supply of milk is maintained.

Babies are born with natural instincts which enable them to search for and find their mother’s breast. However, breastfeeding is also a learned skill for both   mother and baby which takes time and is gained through practice at the breast.

What are the signs that baby is attached correctly?

  • Baby has a good mouthful of nipple and areola - and in the case of small areolas, some breast tissue
  • Baby will display a short period of rapid sucking followed by long drawing sucks
  • Swallowing may be audible
  • The nipple will maintain its normal rounded appearance after the feed
  • Baby will be satisfied after a good feed and will produce plenty of wet nappies
  • Breastfeeding will be comfortable and not painful

To obtain optimal attachment, both mother and baby should be well positioned. The health professional assisting a new mother with breastfeeding will be skilled in assessing the most comfortable feeding position for both mother and baby at a particular breast.

‘Baby-led feeding’ is a term used to describe babies seeking out their mother’s breast themselves, using their natural instinct in order to do this. This is probably the most natural introduction to breastfeeding for mother and baby, particularly in the first 1-2 hours after baby’s birth, with the added benefit of skin-to-skin contact. Studies have shown that babies who engage in baby-led feeding are more likely to breastfeed for longer.

Our team of experienced lactation consultants are available to assist you with attachment and breastfeeding support through the St John of God Mt Lawley Hospital Lactation Clinic.

A lactation consultant can visit you Monday to Thursday during your post-natal stay in hospital. Appointments can also be made by our patients following discharge by calling the Lactation Clinic on 9370 9541 Monday to Thursday.

Useful links:

Attachment to the breast - Australian Breastfeeding Association
Baby-led attachment - Australian Breastfeeding Association

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St John of God Health Care
Bev Tansley - Lactation Consultant

Bev Tansley is a qualified midwife and lactation consultant who has been at St John of God Mt Lawley Hospital for 12 years. Working at the hospital’s lactation clinic, Bev supports women through their breastfeeding journey. She is also involved in the hospital’s parent education program.