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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?


Baby Helpline:

Tips For Breastfeeding Latch-On Problems

A newborn baby with breastfeeding latch-on problems can be very stressful!

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?

Many babies have troubles 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.

Here are some common reasons:

If mom has flat nipples, for example, the baby may need some extra help, for example you may need a nipple shield.

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

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 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 starting 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. 🙂

Don’t give up! Your little girl is obviously also frustrated just like you since she starts to cry. 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: By 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, 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.

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

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This Post Has One Comment

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    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

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