Help! My newborn has latching issues. What do I do?

Help for new breastfeeding moms with latching issues.

Congratulations on your new baby! Don't worry, difficulty with latching on is a common issue for newborns (& new moms!).

Try following these steps to find some relief: 

  • Find a comfortable chair. Sit with your hips positioned several inches from the back of the chair so that you will be leaning back slightly. You do not want to lean into the baby while nursing. A nursing stool may be needed to raise your knees and relieve strain on your lower back. A stool can make a big difference in achieving good positioning, which is key to mom’s comfort and success.
  • Baby lies in your arms entirely on his side. Baby’s face, chest, tummy and knees are facing you (a good rule of thumb is tummy to tummy contact, then everything lines up). Baby’s head is snug in the crook of the arm that is holding him. Your hand holds and supports his bottom or upper leg as your forearm supports his back. Baby’s lower arm is around your waist, the upper arm is tucked in close to you.
  • Support your breast with your free hand. With your hand in the shape of a “C”, the fingers support the breast below and slightly lift it and the thumb rests on top. Make sure the fingers and thumb are placed behind the areola.
  • The nipples should point straight ahead or slightly downward. If this is not the case, press slightly on the breast from below with your index finger. Soreness and blisters may develop when the nipple enters the baby’s mouth at an upward angle.
  • Position the breast to stroke downward the baby’s lower lip with the nipple. Continue to tickle until the baby’s mouth opens wide.
  • Pull baby in quickly, centering the nipple in the baby’s mouth. The baby should close on the areola not the nipple.
  • Baby should be close enough to you to see that the tip of his nose touches the breast. If baby is on his side with his knees touching you, he will be able to breathe out the side of his nose.
  • If baby does not latch on correctly, remove the baby from the breast and try again. It may take several attempts. Remember, the baby is learning too.
  • The first few seconds after latching-on may be slightly uncomfortable. If the discomfort is not tolerable after a few seconds, remove baby and re-latch. If pain persists beyond day 7, seek medical advice from an IBCLC or physician.
  • If the baby is sleepy at the breast, gentle compression of the breast between the thumb and forefinger placed back toward the chest wall will aid in increasing the flow of milk to the baby. This decreases the amount of time and effort a sleepy newborn has to expend to extract his or her feeding and the amount of physical stimulation mom has to administer (rubbing baby’s back, face, etc.) to get the baby to wake up for the feeding. Avoid using compression when the fast flow of the milk letting down has begun, as this may overwhelm and gag the baby. Wait until you are several minutes into the feeding and the baby is drifting to sleep. Compression will push milk down into the baby’s mouth, necessitating a swallow. This method also provides mom the opportunity to examine the breast tissue, making sure there are no knots or plugs of milk in the breast.
  • If the baby is not sleepy but just staring at mom or squirming and fussing, try burping the baby. Some babies take 2 or more ounces from each breast. If a baby was being bottle-fed that amount, mom would stop several times to burp him.
  • Examine with care the areas of the breast receiving pressure from the nursing bra. Be fitted for a good quality nursing bra and avoid underwires if at all possible.

Thank you for trusting us with your question; we hope this information helps! Feel free to check out our other Babywise breastfeeding articles for further advice.

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