Having trouble getting baby to latch on? Here I tell you about my visit with a lactation consultant and the magical trick she taught me that I had never heard before.
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What to check first?
Check that you are producing milk. If baby latches on but doesn’t get anything, they will pull off not because they aren’t hungry but because they are frustrated. Either start the flow of milk by using a pump or seek help.
Ask your pediatrician if baby has a tongue or lip tie. These could cause a problem with baby being able to nurse correctly.
Make sure to try to read baby’s hungry cues (turning head side to side, hand in mouth, opening and closing mouth). Crying is a very late cue and it means you missed the early ones where it is easier to get baby to latch. Even if baby just nursed but is still showing signs of being hungry, allow them to continue nursing. The act of sucking tells your body to up production so find a nice spot, turn on a TV marathon, read your phone or a book and allow baby to nurse for a few hours to increase the milk supply.
Check for symptoms of allergies if baby is very upset or colic. If you think your baby may be colic, I highly recommend reading why baby cries after latching.
The lactation consultant’s tip:
As most of you know babies love to be swaddled. Well, when you are trying to get your baby to latch most of the time, all their limbs are free. Their arms may be tucked in to you but their legs usually dangle. My little one hated this feeling and every time I would try to get her to latch she would start crying and I could not get her to latch.
The lactation consultant sat next to me and as I held L in the cradle breastfeeding position, she held both of her feet and pushed her legs up so that she was more secure and tucked in. With this simple change, L stopped crying and latched on AND stayed on. It was amazing. After this, I usually had my husband help me keep her “swaddled” and tucked in to get her to latch.
When I needed to get her to latch on by myself, I would put her in a swaddle and leave her arms free. Once she was 3 months, I would dress her in the Magic Merlin’s Sleep Suit as it would make her feel like she was being held everywhere. She loved nursing in this. Another option is to nurse baby in a carrier (side note: carriers are also awesome for newborn sleep). The main point is to find a way to nurse baby while baby feels completely secure so the Moro reflex doesn’t kick in during nursing.
Still having trouble?
In addition to the tip from the lactation consultant about pushing up L’s feet, she also recommended that we visit a chiropractor because L would only nurse in a certain position. If your baby was not born via C-Section then a chiropractor may help your little one as a vaginal birth can often cause them to start their lives with a painful misalignment. Peoples opinions vary greatly on chiropractors, with some thinking they are useless and others swearing by their effectiveness. We were also skeptical about the suggestion but our insurance covered it so we gave it a shot. Our experience with a chiropractor was very positive as she specialized in infants and came highly recommended, she applied very gentle pressure to certain areas of L’s back and neck. It was very different from a chiropractic adjustment on adults. One thing the chiropractor asked was if L’s head always tilted to one side in car seats. After flipping through some pictures we realized that her head always fell to the right side.
While our car seat did have an infant insert it didn’t provide enough support to keep her neck in a neutral position. Our chiropractor recommended an additional head support insert for her car seat to help her neck issues. While we waited for the insert to ship, we simply rolled up a towel and placed it around her head to support her neck. The car seat insert, the gentle adjustments from the chiropractor, and the nursing position tip from the lactation consultant made a huge difference with L’s ability to breastfeed and probably saved our entire breastfeeding experience.
Find a Support Group:
If you are having any trouble and these tips don’t solve it, I also recommend getting help in person. A great support network of friends is also a must for new nursing moms, if you are not sure where to meet new mom friends, check out some ideas in this post.
If you’re also working on sleep with your little one, check out my sleeping section.
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Let me know in the comments how your breastfeeding experience is going, maybe I can give you some tips or at least provide support.
Dr. Trina Fitzpatrick is a wife, mom, blogger, and a breastfeeding advocate. She is the co-author of the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook. She attributes her success at breastfeeding her own children into toddlerhood with working with lactation consultants in the hospital in the early stages and on a weekly basis afterwards. By writing at MomSmartNotHard, she educates mamas-to-be on all things pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Read more about Trina.