The first thing to know is that you are not alone! Many parents have a baby who won’t latch after birth and it is common to experience a nursing strike at some point along the way. Your baby not latching and not breast or chest feeding does not mean that you are a bad parent or have done anything wrong. Babies refuse to latch for a variety of reasons and with some support and lots of patience, they will likely latch and nurse again!
What are three steps you can take right now to encourage your nursling to breast or chest feed?
- Try latching when you and your baby are both interested and calm. This might be when your baby is not super hungry or tired, after you have a short rest, or when you have a support person there to help.
- Wear your baby in a carrier skin to skin. Or if you don’t have a carrier, try simple skin-to-skin contact where you have a bare chest and so does your baby. Skin-to-skin will help release oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone for you and your baby. It will also help regulate your baby’s vital signs and help with infant-parent bonding. You can practice skin-to-skin whenever it is convenient for you and as often as you want!
- Try a new chest-or-breastfeeding position, such as laid back or biological nurturing. Tuck your baby in close, tummy to tummy, to encourage their breastfeeding instincts! Hopefully your baby who is not latching will latch soon!
I just gave birth and my baby does not latch!
Babies can sometimes have trouble latching in the beginning due to birth interventions such as cesarean section, induction, medications, and difficult labor and deliveries. It can be so hard for you and your baby to go through a tough birth experience! One or both of you may be exhausted or may need medical interventions after birth.
If you are separated temporarily, you can begin to express your milk using hand expression and hands on pumping at least 8-10 times per day and feed this milk to your baby. If your baby is stable, do as much skin to skin as possible to bond with your baby (see section above). Gaze into their eyes, talk to them, and gently stroke their soft head. This will reassure your baby and give you some comfort. If your baby does not latch right away, that is ok! You are protecting your milk supply for him or her once they do find the nipple and begin to transfer milk.
Help! My older nursling was latching fine, now he refuses to nurse.
Nursing strikes can happen for many babies who were happily latching up until now. Why does it happen? Often brainstorming ideas can help to figure out what the root cause is. Here’s a few ideas to start:
Has anything changed in your life?
Have you moved, did you have a new baby, are you using a new bath soap? Babies are very sensitive to changes in routine or smells so that is often a good place to start. If you can keep a similar routine, that might help her to chest or breastfeed again.
Are there any major stresses for you right now?
Maybe you started a new job, you are in a new relationship, or a relative is very sick. Your baby will pick up on your anxiety and stress levels and reflect them back to you. If this is the case, sometimes resting in a quiet, dark room with your baby might help to lessen your stress and promote a return to nursing.
Do you have a rapid milk let down?
If you baby is upset, gagging, or choking a couple minutes after beginning a feed, you might have a fast let down. Sometimes babies will not latch and may refuse to nurse after awhile if it causes them distress. You might try:
-More closely spacing your baby’s feeds to be less full
-Expressing a little milk until the flow slows and then try latching
Have you introduced a bottle recently?
If you have ruled out all the above reasons why your baby does not latch, it might be due to bottle flow preference. Sometimes babies can get used to the faster milk flow in the bottle and get upset that your breast or chest doesn’t flow that fast. To help make nursing like bottle feeding you can try paced feeding. Sitting you baby more upright, bringing the bottle in level to the ground, and letting them actively suck the milk may help.
Is your baby approaching a year old?
Babies from 10-12 months can be very distractible and might not latch! The first strategy is to offer to nurse frequently. If they refuse, try not to react, just try again later. Second, offer when they are sleepy, in a dark room, through the night, or in a quiet ‘uninteresting’ room. It can take trial an error to figure out what will work for them. This is often a passing phase and does not mean they want to wean!
If you have tried all these solutions and they are still refusing to nurse, sometimes taking a step back and doing as much skin to skin and cuddling as you can throughout the day will bring your baby back to breast or chest. It might not be an instant process, but over time they will likely return. It is important to express your milk the usual number of times they feed if you baby is not nursing through the day. This will ensure your milk production stays high.
If you have questions and need support to help your baby come back to breast or chest, we would love to help! You can reach Tara and Michelle by phone or text at 281-699-8054 or you can Schedule a consult today!