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Solutions to Common Breastfeeding Latching Problems


Pregnant mothers know that preparation is the name of the game, and learning as much as you can before the baby comes is usually high on the list of priorities. Mothers who decide to breastfeed have a lot of things to consider, not the least of which are the problems that can arise.

A common breastfeeding issue experienced by many women is trouble getting the baby to latch on. There are a few issues that can cause this, as well as a few tried-and-true solutions to make sure your baby gets the nutrition she needs.

Why won't my baby latch on?

According to the International Breastfeeding Centre, there are several reasons why your baby may refuse to latch:

  • Abnormalities with baby's mouth or lips or with mother's nipples can make latching difficult.
  • Medication received during labor can potentially affect baby's ability to latch, suck and drink. Some babies don't show interest in feeding until 12 to 24 hours after birth.
  • Use of artificial nipples can make baby prefer the faster flow of a bottle as opposed to the slower flow from the breast.

There are a few other common problems that can come up specifically with latching. Let's take a look at what other mothers experience while breastfeeding and how you can solve these issues instead of struggling through:

Close up of child latched on to mother's breast, feeding while holding mother's hand. Some babies struggle to latch until they are over 24 hours old.

1. Feeding too often

One of the top reasons why babies refuse to latch is because they aren't hungry. Often, new mothers are told that they should feed on a regular schedule, with breastfeeding taking place every two to three hours. However, as the International Breastfeeding Centre pointed out, babies' hunger for nourishment often doesn't coincide with the clock. In fact, urging a baby to feed when he isn't ready or isn't in need of milk can create larger problems.

"When the baby is forced onto the breast, and kept there by force, especially when the baby is not interested or ready, we should not be surprised that some babies develop an aversion to the breast," the IBC stated.

That being said, if your baby isn't hungry, it's still important to keep milk production up - pumping, bottling and saving the milk for later is beneficial for mother and baby.

2. Getting baby in position before mom is ready

"When it's time to feed, make sure you're fully prepared and your baby doesn't have to wait."

Your baby may also refuse to latch if he is unhappy or uncomfortable. Putting baby in the feeding position before mom is ready can cause the baby to become frustrated as he waits to feed. Even the few moments it takes to undo a bra or remove a shirt can cause irritation for your baby. He will usually respond by not opening his mouth as wide, making it difficult for you to correctly position your breast and nipple.

When it's time to feed, make sure you're fully prepared and your baby doesn't have to wait - placing him in the position to feed should signal that he should find your breast and latch.

3. Pinching during breastfeeding

Another common issue that new breastfeeding moms face is feeling a pinching sensation during feedings. This can signal that your baby is not latched on properly, which can cause you discomfort.

Stanford Medicine recommends positioning your baby tummy-to-tummy with yourself, as you make sure his neck is slightly extended and his head is tipped up. Once he opens mouth widely and takes the nipple, make sure his lower jaw is positioned far below the nipple and his chin is pressed into your breast more than his nose.

Putting yourself and your baby in the proper latching position will help ease pinching and make sure you are both more comfortable.

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