This post may contain affiliate links. Read more in my disclosure policy.

breastfeeding latch-on problems

Mom’s Question:

Hi,

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?

Angela


Baby Helpline:

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 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. 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 dificult.

Try breastfeeding your baby before she is starving, more like a cosy moment. No pressure. Remember that she does take to 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

Believe it or not, but 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.

This is not a big deal, and quite common.

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 strech 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 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. 🙂

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: 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!
Paula

More on Newborn Babies

Add your comments below or return to Breastfeeding Q&A.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Avatar
    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

Leave a Reply