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  • Post last modified:December 9, 2020
  • Post comments:3 Comments

breastfeeding latch-on problems

Mom’s Question:


I have severe breastfeeding latch-on problems and I need help!

I have a 5-day old little girl who can’t seem to latch on, and when she does she lets go, starts to cry, and won’t do it again. So I end up pumping and feeding her with a bottle. I’ve been told it’s something you have to learn… Any help?


Easy Baby Life:

Tips For Breastfeeding Latch-On Problems

Hi Angela,

Although it is so common, a newborn baby with breastfeeding latch-on problems can be very stressful! But please, take a deep breath and relax. Both you and your newborn are new to breastfeeding – no wonder it takes a bit of time to figure it all out!

A baby can certainly learn how to latch on, in fact, a lot of babies do not latch on perfectly from the start.

Is it possible for you to meet a lactation consultant where you live, for example at the hospital? This is probably the easiest way to get rid of your breastfeeding latch-on problems quickly.

Many babies have trouble latching on in the beginning, but in most cases, a lactation consultant can help you by watching what your baby does and help you identify what the breastfeeding latch-on problem is caused by. For example, the lactation consultant or midwife can usually give very helpful tips on breastfeeding position or any other obstacles to the latch-on.

4 Common Reasons for Breastfeeding Latch-on Problems

A New Situation

As I just said, both you and your baby are breastfeeding beginners! This means uncertainty, stress, pain, and frustration. Your baby might be hungry and you might be worried. No wonder you are overwhelmed!

But try to give yourself a pep talk. You can DO this! And take a deep, deep breath and do what you can to not transfer your worrying to your baby. The stress itself can easily make the latch-on and the whole situation more difficult.

Try breastfeeding your baby before she is starving, more like a cozy moment. No pressure. Remember that she does take to the bottle, so she will survive! ANd stop before she gets frustrated. Just make eye contact, smile, express a little bit of milk, and let her try to latch-on to the nipple. A calm situation will make it much easier.

Flat or inverted nipples

Sometimes mom’s nipples can be a bit hard for the baby to latch on to. If mom has flat or inverted nipples, for example, the baby may need some extra help, for example, you may need a nipple shield.

Nipples can be inverted or flat to different extents, and it can therefore be more or less challenging for the new mom to breastfeed.

The best advice I have, if you do have flat or inverted nipples, is to get professional help from a lactation consultant right from the start. Most moms with inverted nipples can breastfeed, but positioning and latch are very important to get right, and in addition to nipple shields, there may be other ways to help the situation. For example, pumping can be helpful in certain situations.

Keep in mind that the baby is supposed to latch on to the breast, not the nipple, so even if it can be more challenging, it is certainly possible to make breastfeeding work also with inverted nipples.

The breastfeeding position

Sometimes – actually quite often, it can be as easy as positioning your baby in some other way to help her latch on!

For example, if you prefer to lie down while breastfeeding, it is easy to position your baby too close to your own head. You have to put your baby so far down that he or she has to stretch their neck to reach the nipple. Otherwise, the latch-on and the swallowing will be difficult for your baby.

Engorged breasts

In addition to both mom and baby being new to breastfeeding, a common (but easily solved) problem, in the beginning, is if your breasts are engorged (very common a few days after birth).

Engorged breasts mean that they are very full and almost hard to touch. This happens when milk production is increasing rapidly a few days after delivery.

Your breasts may then be so full that it is hard for a little baby to latch on and suckle. In such a case, express some milk with your hands before breastfeeding and also smear a little bit of milk on your nipple and offer the (now softer) breast again to your daughter.

This way, it will be easier for her to get latch on, and the milk will start flowing immediately – but not with the same force as if your breasts are over-full. Simply a nicer way to start her meal for your baby. :-)

What to Do to Mitigate the Breastfeeding Latch-on Problems

Above all, don’t give up!

Your little girl is obviously also frustrated just like you since she starts to cry.

In addition to reading and following the tips above, call the hospital or even your baby’s health care provider immediately and don’t settle until you have an appointment within the next couple of days (preferably today!) with someone who can help you!

The longer you pump and use the bottle, the harder it will be to get your girl to breastfeed. (But it’s very good that you pump rather than just switch to formula. Now you’ll keep the supply up and you have a great chance to get the breastfeeding to work over the week or so to come.)

A tip: Try hand-pumping, until the let-down reflex has started even if your breasts are NOT engorged before you try to get your baby to latch on. This way, your girl will immediately get some milk when she latches on, which may be a way to reduce her frustration and impatience.

You should know that especially the first time, it can take several weeks for mom and baby to learn how to get the breastfeeding to work smoothly. This can be a very tough time, with sore nipples, a sense of failure, worrying that the baby will not get the nutrition she needs, etc.

Support from a lactation consultant or an experienced midwife is a really good way to shorten this tough time and to not have Mom simply give up.

Since your girl is only five days old, it is not strange at all that the two of you have not gotten this to work yet, but you WILL, with a little help. While waiting for your appointment, you can also check out these breastfeeding latch-on video clips, to see if they might help you a bit.

You can read about more common breastfeeding problems here.

Finally, I recommend this breastfeeding course, which takes you through many issues a new breastfeeding mom may have, including latch-on problems! It’s online, so very convenient!

I really wish you good luck and congratulations on your daughter!

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jill

    I wish new mothers with inverted nipples were not constantly being told that breastfeeding is easy or ‘no big deal’. I sometimes wonder if the people who write this advice really know just how severe some inverted nipples are. For me it was impossible and the sooner health and lactation professionals acknowledge the real problems such women face, the better.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Jill, and thank you for taking the time to comment! You are totally right. Breastfeeding with inverted nipples can be extremely challenging. I had to check what I had written, and I rephrased a bit thanks to your comment.

      I agree with you that this is probably much more ignored than it should be. One of my best friends had a similar situation to yours, and it was a nightmare. She was in so much pain before she got proper help.

      Sometimes breastfeeding is not the best choice for the baby and mom or simply doesn’t work.

      Take care,

  2. Erin

    This was very helpful. I have a 5 day old son and we are going through the same thing. So it was encouraging. Thanks Paula