Tips from an LC: Top 5 Tips if Baby Isn't Latching

For some babies, latching may not happen immediately or easily after birth - Use these tips if your baby isn't latching at the breast right away or if you're having challenges initiating breastfeeding together.

Top Tips if Your Baby Isn't Latching at the Breast

Transcript: Top 5 Tips if Your Baby Isn't Latching at the Breast

For some babies, depending on the type of birth they’ve had, the medications during labor, or if perhaps they have jaundice, latching on may not be as easy as for other babies. For most babies, this period of not latching on only lasts a few days…and then all of a sudden, they latch on as if nothing had ever been a problem before! But it can feel quite distressing when you have a baby who either doesn’t wake or only spends a few seconds at the breast before falling asleep, or your baby is screaming every time they come to the breast and it feels absolutely heart-breaking. All any new mom wants to do is put her baby to the breast and for them both to enjoy the feed.

So, What Helpful Tips May Help Babies Latch Better at the Breast?

  • Tip #1: Seek good support from a breastfeeding specialist. This is the most important tip; finding someone who has experience and knows what they are looking at is worth their weight in gold.
  • Tip #2: Skin to skin contact. Holding your baby in skin to skin contact is one of the most powerful things we can do to help settle our babies, settle our stress levels, and settle our minds. As we look at, smell, and snuggle into our babies, we release the hormone oxytocin, known as the love hormone. This hormone helps to reduce both our and our baby’s stress hormones, reduce crying and pain in babies, and it helps them to tap into their natural instincts to search and find the breast. When you hold your baby for long periods of time in skin to skin contact, it really helps get breastfeeding off to a good start and is such a simple, yet important, thing to do. Spending time just hanging out together, watching, and observing your baby can really help get them to feel calm enough to start latching on at the breast. This is not just a “nice to do”; there is a huge amount of science behind how important this is for both mom and baby. So, don’t leave this out when you’re trying to get your baby to latch better at the breast!
  • Tip #3: Try different feeding positions:
    • Laid-back breastfeeding
    • Koala style
    • Football hold
  • Tip #4: Your healthcare provider may recommend that you try a nipple shield. This will likely be recommended only if your milk has come in. A nipple shield can help some babies stay attached at the breast, especially if, for example, a mother has flat or inverted nipples or perhaps for some babies who have tongue tie and cannot maintain a latch. But, a breastfeeding specialist will assess whether this is right for you and your baby and will use these other tips first before they introduce a nipple shield.
  • Tip #5: Ensure that you switch on your milk-making cells by pumping a minimum of 8 times in 24 hours until your baby is breastfeeding well. It’s important to initiate and build your milk supply from as soon as the first 3 hours after birth if your baby is unable to breastfeed. And thereafter, it is recommended to continue pumping 8 times in 24 hours to help you bring in your milk, as well as build up your milk volumes - Ensuring you have enough milk for now and the future. Once your baby is breastfeeding well, you will no longer need to pump - just relax and breastfeed.

Remember during this difficult time seek as much support from breastfeeding specialists as you can, but also be kind to yourself, get rest, enjoy having lots of lovely cuddles with your baby, and let those people around you shower you with love, provide you with yummy food, give you hugs when you need them, and dry your tears. Know that it’s normal to feel emotional ups and downs when things feel like they’re not going quite to plan. Give it time and just take things one feed at a time.

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