The keys to successful breast-feeding are getting the baby in the right position and ensuring the mother is comfortable. When the side of the cheek is touched or stroked, a young baby searches automatically for the nipple (this is called rooting), but they may need help in latching on for the first few feeds.
When sucking, the baby's lips should form a seal around the areola (pigmented part of the nipple). This will make the tip of the nipple rest against the baby's palate (roof of the mouth). One of the main signs of good latching on and feeding is that the baby responds with rhythmical sucking motions. A health visitor or midwife can offer support in showing parents the signs of good feeding.
At the end of the feed, if the baby does not doze off and let go of the nipple, they should not be pulled off the breast; instead, the suction effect of their lips should be broken with the mother's finger tip inserted into the side of their mouth.
A feeding baby has to breathe through their nose, so time and patience are needed if they have a cold. Premature babies often do not suck well but they benefit from breast-milk, so again patience is essential. Some babies are born with a tooth (or several teeth); this is said to make no difference to breast-feeding, though a few mothers find it painful.
A mother's comfort during feeds is vital, whether sitting or lying down. The atmosphere should be as relaxed as possible; a telephone answering machine and someone to look after any other children are useful luxuries.