How to Get Your Baby to Open Wide for a Latch

Struggling with getting a deep latch with your little one? Learn how to get your baby to open wide for a latch — no more shallow latches!

How to Get Baby to Open Wide for Latch“A good latch is important,” they all say. But what do you do when your baby won’t open her mouth wide enough for a deeper one?

You dread every feeding because you know it’ll hurt despite a good latch. You’re afraid that if this keeps up, her latch will keep getting worse. And as much as you want it to work so badly, you keep thinking how much easier formula—or even exclusively pumping—would be.

Getting her to open wide is crucial for a good latch, but how exactly do you coax her to do so?

Thankfully, just as she has learned her current ways of nursing, so too can she learn new ones. That’s why correcting her latch is important. The more you reinforce the right way, the better she’ll get at opening wide. After all, she’s learning just as much as you are.

You can help your baby open wide for a deep latch. Here’s what helped me, and I hope these tips can help you, too:

1. Start with the right position

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Before you even hold your baby close to you to nurse, make sure you’re in an optimal position.

For instance, ask yourself whether your current nursing pillow is supportive for this stage in your baby’s life. Softer pillows work well for older babies, firmer and “boxier” ones (like the My Brest Friend) provide more support for newborns.

Then, experiment with different nursing positions. Many moms have said they’ve had more success with getting a wide latch by switching to the “football hold” instead of the typical cradle hold.

You can also try the “laid back” nursing method. Lie down on an incline (like against the arm of a couch), then place your baby on top of your breast to nurse.

Lastly, feed her after she wakes up, not to fall asleep. That way, she’ll be more alert and ready to get the right latch (instead of half-asleep and dozing off with a bad one).

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2. Hold your breast strategically

Help your baby find your breast by holding it correctly. To start, make sure you’re holding it far enough back from the areola so that she can get as much of it in her mouth.

You can also experiment with different holds. Some moms hold the breast in a U-shape, cupping it from underneath. Others prefer the “sandwich hold,” squeezing the breast from the side.

As you bring baby and breast closer together, aim the nipple up and toward her nose (instead of straight toward the back of the mouth).

3. Tease your baby to open her mouth

Does your baby pull back to a shallow latch? You can try a few tricks to get your baby to open wide.

For starters, position her nose so that it lines up with the nipple. Then, make sure that her head is slightly tilted back, just as you would drink a glass of water. (Try drawing your chin to your chest and swallowing and you’ll see how uncomfortable it can be!)

Then, using the side of your finger (not the tip), gently draw her chin down to encourage a wider mouth. (Imagine holding your finger up to your nose, as if pretending to have a mustache, then move that finger below your bottom lip.) You can also try this trick after she has latched to widen her mouth even more.

Next, touch her top lip to the nipple, but pull her back slightly. This can encourage her to open wider and search for the nipple with her mouth. Touch her lip to the nipple again, and pull her back once more. Then with the third try, she’ll hopefully have opened wide enough.

And finally, make sure she also has “fish lips” that are puckered out, not tucked back into her mouth.

Baby Pulls Back to Shallow Latch

4. Correct bad latches

Don’t let a bad latch fester and continue. Allowing it to keep happening only teaches your baby that this is how she’s supposed to nurse. You may be willing to bear the pain, but this only does a disservice to her.

Instead, stop every bad latch and keep trying to replace it with a good one.

If you see that she isn’t latched correctly, insert a clean finger into her mouth to break the suction (don’t just pull her off, as this will be painful for you). Once she’s off, encourage her to open her mouth wider again.

You can even talk her through the process and be her cheerleader. A simple “We’ll figure this out!” can encourage her to keep trying and you to stay calm.

Pain After Breastfeeding


A good latch can do wonders with breastfeeding, and hopefully, you learned a few tips on how to get your baby to open wide for a latch.

Starting with the right position is key, from the breastfeeding hold to the nursing pillow you use. Hold the breast strategically, aiming it toward the top of her mouth. Tease her to open her mouth wider, and only bring her to the breast when it’s wide enough.

And finally, always correct bad latches instead of letting them continue. This will teach her how to nurse correctly instead of enabling a bad latch to persist.

With these tips, you’re well on your way to helping her open her mouth wider for a comfortable breastfeeding session. “A good latch is important,” indeed.

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