Baby Pulls Back In A Shallow Latch? (Learn What To Do For A Successful Breastfeeding)

A baby pulls back into a shallow latch if you have a breastmilk letdown. When there is too much milk, it makes the baby swallow more. Thus, he pulls back to catch his breath and fusses in protest. A shallow latch is painful for the mother, while the baby is not getting enough milk for the feed. Often, a change in position helps solve poor latching; over time, most babies correct themselves out of it. 

What is a shallow latch?

A shallow latch in breastfeeding means that the baby is not opening his mouth wide when nursing.

He does not cover the mother’s breast areola as much as he should, leading to weak sucking. As a result, the baby gets less milk every feed, and the nipple rubs in the hard palate.

As the little one tugs the breast to suck, the event can become painful for the nursing mom. 

For moms, a shallow latch can cause:

In babies, a shallow latch may cause them to:

  • Exert more effort every feeding
  • Ingest more air as the airlock between the mouth and breast is compromised
  • Become fussy from hunger and unsatisfaction
  • Gain weight slower

Why is my baby pulling back in a shallow latch?

Newborns are born with the suck reflex, but they still need to learn how to do it properly.

A new mom is trying to breastfeed her newborn son, but is having a hard time due to a shallow latch.

For the first few weeks after delivery, you are likely to spend time easing your child into breastfeeding. 

If you are a new mom, it can get frustrating, but it is not a reason to give up on breastfeeding.

Breastmilk is the most miraculous food specially designed for your baby since it naturally adjusts to their needs. You can also use this time to bond with your little one as you both learn the art of breastfeeding. 

Newborns may not be capable of opening their mouths wide to feed at first. Eventually, they will learn how to do it properly but may slip back to shallow latch at times.

It can be because of a wrong position or a strong breastmilk flow

📌 Tongue-tied babies, or those with short tissue that attaches to the floor of the mouth, struggle with nursing. This is because they cannot cup the breast properly as their tongue does not extend into their lower gum line.

A pediatrician, or a lactation expert, can help teach you proper techniques if you think it is the cause of your baby’s improper latch. 

How to keep the baby from pulling back while feeding?

A shallow latch is as frustrating for the baby as it is painful for the mommy. You can tell your baby is not latching properly by the pain you endure while feeding.

Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt if your baby is sucking the whole areola and not nipping on a part of it. 

Here’s how you can help your baby:

1. Pull the baby’s chin down

If your baby cannot get a mouthful of your breast, assist him in opening his mouth wider.

You can pull his chin down to encourage him to open his mouth. As he does, insert the breast fully, as the position will make enough room for the areola.

As your baby gets older, avoid helping him latch on for a baby-led feeding.

2. Use the “Nipple Flipple” technique

Flip the nipple or flipple is a technique used by many moms in achieving a deep latch.

It involves putting the baby in the upright position, aligned with the breast and the nose at nipple height.

In that position, bring the baby close, with the chin pointing towards the breast and the bottom lip lining the areola. 

Tucking the nipple into the baby’s mouth creates a good latch.

This is useful if the baby is tongue-tied, has a cleft lip, or has Down Syndrome or other special needs. 

3. Pump or hand-express milk before breastfeeding

If you have a breastmilk oversupply, pumping before feeding may help.

Pump a few minutes on each breast to prevent letdown. It will also manage breast engorgement or swelling of the breast from overfilling milk.

Engorgement itself is a reason why your baby is doing the shallow latch. 

4. Dry the breast before feeding

Sometimes, babies slip into the shallow latch because of the wet surface of the breast.

To prevent it, wipe your breast and give your baby’s mouth a quick pat before feeding. Increasing the friction will prevent slip-ups, making breastfeeding a pleasant experience for you and your baby. 

5. Nurse your baby at an angle

When your little one is prone to pulling back when breastfeeding, try changing position during a feed.

Mom is trying to breastfeed her newborn son at a different angle to help her baby get a better latch

Instead of holding him with your body upwards, put him on top of you as you sit in a reclined position.

You may do this in a recliner or simply lying down at a slight angle.

Gravity will help slow down the gushing of breastmilk. Thus, even if you have a strong letdown, your baby can enjoy the feed without slipping into a shallow latch. 

Some of the breastfeeding positions that create a good latch are:

  • C-hold or palmer grasp
  • V-hold
  • Football hold
  • Cradle hold
  • Crossover hold 
  • Laid-back or straddle hold


Will the baby get a tummy ache from a shallow latch?

More likely. Without good contact, the baby can ingest more air which causes gas. 

What should I do if the baby still slips back into a shallow latch?

Babies learn more quickly than you think, but some babies may take a long time to adapt to latching training. If it is taking them too long, consult a lactation expert.

A shallow latch every feeding can take a toll on your baby’s growth. 

Is surgery necessary for a tongue-tied baby?

If breastfeeding does not cause you any more pain and the baby has no trouble breastfeeding, then surgery is not necessary.

If the tongue-tie is mild, babies will nurse well after repeated training and may not require frenotomy


The breastfeeding journey can be challenging for many first-time moms.

More often, pain and their baby’s dissatisfaction make them quit. If such pain stems from a shallow latch, some simple training and breastfeeding techniques will help.

A good latch will make breastfeeding more wholesome and beneficial for the mom and the child. 

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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