Breastfeeding Latching Problems: Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

Breastfeeding Latching Problems and Solutions

Breastfeeding is a crucial phase for babies since they are growing and developing their organs during this time. A baby that doesn’t latch may be at risk of steady weight gain or weight loss and face growth abnormalities and nutritional deficiencies. For the mothers, the fate is just as worse as the breast milk supply begins to lower when the body realises that it isn’t being used to feed the baby. Making sure your baby latches on properly will ensure a steady supply of breast milk and the achievement of growth milestones in little ones. Here’s everything you have to know about latching problems during breastfeeding and their solutions.

Video : Common Breastfeeding Latching Problems and How to Deal With Them

Signs & Symptoms of Latching Problems

Signs and symptoms of problems with latching on for a newborn are:

  • No swallowing of breastmilk by your baby.
  • Clicking and smacking sounds during sucking.
  • Baby’s mouth lies at an angle of 160 degrees or less during breastfeeding sessions.
  • Low breast milk supply.
  • Your newborn is unhappy and temperamental after breastfeeding.
  • Weight loss or weight gain at unhealthy rates.
  • Your baby latches on to only one nipple and not both.

Common Latching Problems and their Solutions

 A mother breastfeeding her baby.

Every baby is different and every mother will experience a different latching problem with her little ones. There are some common patterns though in them and here are some of the similar latching problems to watch out for.

1. Fussy Baby

Your baby may be irritated, angry, crying or temperamental after your breastfeeding session. There are several reasons behind this but the most common ones are being tired or too stimulated. A hungry baby makes a bad candidate for latching during breastfeeding.

How to Solve

Try to pour a few drops of breastmilk onto your nipples before the latching session to encourage your young one to latch. Make sure your baby is well-fed and meals are given properly on time to avoid making them too hungry before/after the latching session.

2. Sleepy Baby

Sometimes it may be the medications administered after birth that make your baby too tired and sleepy. If your baby feels sleepy, it could also be because of the fact he’s not waking up often or used to waking up that much.

How to Solve

If that’s the case, try waking your little one after two or three hours and train him to get ready for breastfeeding. Talking to your baby, unwrapping, and experimenting with your breastfeeding latching positions will help.

3. Large Nipples

Large nipples make it difficult for babies to properly latch on during breastfeeding. If your nipples are too big, they won’t be able to latch on to the areas surrounding the areola.

How to Solve

Using a breast pump to make your nipples thinner and longer for breastfeeding works for most mother. Another alternative is using a nipple shield which makes is easier to latch on to.

4. Large Breasts

Large breasts make your baby disappear from your field of view and unable to see how he’s latching. Having large breasts makes it difficult to position your baby properly during breastfeeding.

How to Solve

Get your spouse to help you out during breastfeeding sessions and once both you and the baby get in sync after a few times, you’ll be able to manage the breastfeeding session on your own.

5. Premature Birth

Premature babies have a small mouth which makes them difficult to get the hang of latching during breastfeeding. They get tired too quickly too before they’re able t suck out the milk.

How to Solve

You may have to pump your breastmilk out and feed him directly if that’s the case. You may try using a nipple shield to make the process of latching on to you easier.

6. Down Syndrome

Babies with growth abnormalities like Down Syndrome have difficulty latching due to poor muscle tone and lack of proper facial muscle coordination. They don’t remain that way forever though and you’ll find breastfeeding them becomes easier with a bit of practice.

How to Solve

Gently train your baby to latch on to you by encouraging skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding. Guide them mouths during latching times and wait patiently. With time, their facial muscle coordination and muscle tone will develop.

7. Tongue-Tie

Tongue-tie in babies is referred to as Ankyloglossia which is a medical condition where the tissue that connects their tongue to their mouth gets located at the tip of their tongues. Babies with this condition are unable to reach their tongue out far during breastfeeding which may cause latching problems.

How to Solve

There’s no natural remedy for this condition and you’ll have to talk to your doctor regarding possible treatment options.

8. Cleft Lip

Breastfeeding become hard when your baby is born with a cleft lip. Cleft lip is a condition where splits are formed on the roof of the mouth or the upper lip. This makes it difficult for them to suck during breastfeeding.

How to Solve

If your baby is born with a cleft lip condition, you will have to teach him how to breastfeed in a different way. Talk to your doctor or paediatrician for more information regarding this.

9. Special Medical Problems

Your baby may have been born with special medical conditions or have cognitive problems. He may have trouble sucking because of difficulty breathing due to heart disease or something similar.

How to Solve

You’ll have to talk to your healthcare professional regarding treatment options if your baby is born with special medical conditions. Treatment and breastfeeding training techniques will depend on the results of medical diagnosis.

10. Inverted Nipples

Inverted nipples plague mothers when breastfeeding sessions come around. If you have a case of inverted nipples, you’ll find it difficult for your baby to latch on. Some babies, however, are able to latch on to them though.

How to Solve

You could try using a breastfeeding suction pump to suck out the breastmilk and lengthen the nipples enough for breastfeeding. Another alternative is using a nipple shield. But it is best to talk to your doctor about it before using it.

Tips to Prevent Latching Problems

Here are a couple of tips to prevent latching problems in babies-

  • Feed Them On Time- This is a golden rule. Don’t overfeed nor starve them angry. Feed them small-sized meals at spaced durations to make sure they don’t feel hungry during latching sessions.
  • Let Them Latch On – This may sound obvious but some mothers become hesitant or panicky when their child wants to latch on to them pretty often. If your baby wants to breastfeed frequently, let him do that. It will aid the process and as a mother, you shouldn’t stop it be let it happen naturally. Your breast milk supply production will be underway too.
  • Turning In The Mouth – Turn out your baby’s mouth during breastfeeding and not inwards.
  • Proper Alignment – The shoulders and hips should be aligned. Make sure your baby doesn’t have to extend forwards to latch onto you.
  • Breast Support – Hold your breasts gently and support your baby during latching sessions. Compressing your breast a bit also helps.
  • Pump Your Breastmilk – Pumping your breastmilk will ensure a steady milk supply coming from your nipples and if your baby isn’t drinking breastmilk a lot, then this is a good way to ensure a proper supply.
  • Avoid Giving Pacifiers – Don’t give your baby a pacifier when he’s busy trying to latch onto you. It interferes with the process and may confuse them. Avoid giving them artificial nipples too during the first six weeks.
  • Use A Nipple Shield – Keep the use of nipple shields as a final resort if you have inverted nipples and face difficulty breastfeeding despite trying the above tips.

When to Consult a Doctor?

You should consult a doctor if you notice any of the following situations or signs arising in your newborn:

  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Soft spot on your baby’s head sinking into her scalp
  • Low frequency of diaper wetting throughout the day
  • Newborn not waking up during her feedings or latching sessions

Although baby latching is no rocket science, it is important to keep in mind and be wary of common problems that arise during feeding sessions. Every newborn is different and every mother is too which means you have to find a way to get those breastfeeding latching sessions in sync. Hopefully, the above tips and tricks will help you and if you notice anything abnormal going on during your breastfeeding sessions with your newborn, please consult a paediatrician or doctor immediately for a medical diagnosis and follow-up treatment.

Also Read: 

Tips on Breastfeeding Newborn
Is Extended Breastfeeding Beneficial?
Supplementing Breastfeeding with Formula

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