Newbies and veteran moms alike know that latch is one of the most essential components of successful breastfeeding. Without a great latch, your baby won’t suckle enough breast milk for proper development, not to mention an improper latch may be painful for you and cause engorgement, which is painful itself. If your baby won’t latch, you’re likely to get very frustrated and worried, which doesn’t help matters at all.
Rest assured, many many many moms have gone through this very same issue. We’re here to help with what to do if your baby won’t latch.
The conditions for proper latch are supported by other factors including your breastfeeding position, both how you position your body and your baby’s body. Make sure you try out different positions to see what is most comfortable for both of you. Breastfeeding position also includes where you place your hands to support your baby and your breasts. You might want to play “Goldilocks” and try different seats or rooms that are most conducive to breastfeeding.
Some babies take several days and some take several weeks to figure out how to breastfeed. Keeping your baby close not only helps regulate her body to adjust to life-after-womb, but it also helps stimulate your milk production. Both of these benefits of skin-to-skin are great steps in developing your breastfeeding relationship. Skin-to-skin also offers the opportunity for breastfeeding whenever your baby is ready.
Although only a few days, weeks or months old, your baby is keenly perceptive of your changing attitude. When you get frustrated that your baby won’t latch, it only makes the situation worse and your baby may begin to get upset as well. Keep your cool, maintain a positive attitude, and know that you will work through the issue.
Express A Little Milk
Breastfeeding is instinctual but sometimes babies need a little coaxing to get them started. Before trying to latch, express a little colostrum or milk so your baby can smell and taste it as she tries to latch. Perhaps that morsel will motivate her to work for more.
Stimulate Your Baby
Especially with newborns, it’s often a stronger desire to sleep than eat which causes babies not to latch. Stimulate your baby with a cool wash cloth, bright lights, and a noisy environment to keep her awake. It can also be helpful to undress your baby to her diaper during feedings, which promotes skin-to-skin contact as well.
Monitor Your Baby
Over-hungry and over-tired babies are less likely to latch. Study her cues to determine the first signs of hunger and try feeding your baby then. Signs of hunger include rooting, smacking lips or sucking on fingers. If you’re not sure about hunger cues quite yet, err on feeding your baby frequently to ensure she has plenty of opportunity for nourishment and practice. Remember, the best way to know if your baby is eating properly is if she has an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers and she is gaining weight so monitor these factors as well.
Pump If Necessary
Whether or not your baby feeds from the breast or from a spoon, syringe or bottle, breast milk is the best first food choice for her body. If your baby won’t latch after several days of trying and your milk has come in, take up pumping every two to three hours. This will ensure your milk supply remains strong when your baby is ready to latch.
Have Your Baby Checked
Sometimes latch issues are caused by a lip tie, tongue tie, cleft pallet or other oral, sensory or neurological problems. Some of these can be easily addressed with quick procedures.
Have Your Breasts Checked
Flat or inverted nipples can make latching a challenge. Should either or both of your nipples be deemed flat or inverted, you may be able to pinch them to protrude outwards during feedings, or you may want to pump for a few minutes prior to feeding to get your nipples to stand erect. Using a nipple shied may help as well, even if only for a short time.
Visit a Lactation Consultant
Self-diagnosing why your baby won’t latch can be tough, especially for first time moms. Visit a lactation consultant as quickly as possible if you are having trouble. Lactation consultants can point out ways to improve positioning, milk supply and baby care practices that support breastfeeding, and they can also diagnose lip and tongue ties and nipple problems.
Sources: Bundoo, Breastfeeding Basics and Family Education