What To Do If Your Baby Won’t Latch

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If you’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to get you baby to latch, you might be comforted to know I receive lots of calls from new moms who are having this challenge.

It’s often said if you make it through the first two weeks of breastfeeding, you’ve got it made. Latch problems are common during this time. Here are some tips to get you through.

Start with a calm baby if at all possible. Instead of waiting for your hungry baby to cry, watch for early signs your baby is getting ready to eat such as stirring from a nap, turning her face to the side, sucking hands and fingers. Help your baby get ready by changing the diaper and keep her calm by placing her skin to skin.

When milk “comes in” it can be difficult for your baby to stretch the nipple to achieve a good latch because the breast if full and firm. Often a baby will appear to be searching for the nipple with an open mouth but can’t seem to find it. That’s because the breast has changed, and the baby is looking for that familiar soft breast. Hand express a little milk before you try to latch your baby to help to create a nice soft base for the baby to latch to. This milk can be fed to a fussy baby with a spoon or medicine syringe.

In a comfortable semi-reclining position, place your calm baby skin-to-skin, tummy to chest, nose-to-nipple, and let your baby take over.  It’s fine to help, just be sure to allow your baby to use her natural instincts.  Wait for her to initiate latch, and support her well behind her neck and back while allowing her to move her head freely.   Support your breast if needed to help your baby position herself.

Another reason for latch difficulty during this time is early introduction of a pacifier or artificial nipple. There are some babies that don’t seem to mind what kind of nipple you offer, but many do. A rubber nipple or pacifier requires a completely different set of sucking skills. To breastfeed, the baby must suck to draw the nipple in and maintain suction to keep it in place inside the mouth, as well as suck to stimulate milk letdown and removal. An artificial nipple can be placed in the baby’s mouth, it requires no suction to keep it there, and bottles deliver milk instantly. I’ve seen lots of babies, who have been given rubber nipples early, forget what they are supposed to do to breastfeed. When placed at the breast, they open their mouths and wait. They are expecting mom to “stick it in and turn it on!” Unfortunately, breastfeeding doesn’t work that way. If this is the problem, try hand expressing to stimulate letdown. Once the milk is flowing, it will be easier to get your baby to latch. Breastfeeding instincts are strong. With patience, your baby should begin to latch again.

If your baby is not able to grasp the nipple after you have softened your areola, try cupping your breast in your hand and flattening it to make a sandwich. Form your hand like a letter C or U depending on the position of your baby, with your thumb in line with your baby’s nose. This ensures the sandwich is at the correct angle for your baby to be able to take a big “bite”. Be sure to keep your fingers behind the areola so your baby can get a nice deep latch. If you continue to have difficulty, consider seeking help from a breastfeeding support professional.

You can explore breastfeeding solutions and download my free Breastfeeding Tip Sheet at BreastfeedingTips4Moms.com.

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