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common latching problems and how to solve them

“My baby won’t latch!” “Skin to skin is the way to go,” says Millbrook, Ont.-based lactation consultant Melisande Neal. It’s like a magical cure for the non-latching baby (and helps with other issues too). Get naked from the waist up, strip baby down to just a diaper, and get yourself comfortable in a semi-reclining position with baby on your chest. When your baby is ready, he’ll scoot down to the breast and latch on. (You many need to provide your baby with expressed milk in a cup or syringe until he figures it out, and pumping or hand-expressing during this time will also help build up your milk supply.)

“He falls asleep at the breast after a few minutes. Is he even eating?” The best wake-up-and-eat signal for your baby is a mouthful of milk, and you can encourage your milk to flow by doing breast compressions. Just squeeze your breast (gently, not so that you get bruises) between your thumb and fingers, and your baby will respond by sucking and swallowing. Let go when the sucking stops, then squeeze again. Stroking the baby under his chin can also sometimes encourage sucking in a sleepy baby.

Latching on hurts.” “New mothers may experience some sensitivity or tenderness, but you shouldn’t feel outright pain,” says Neal. Pain as the baby latches on usually means the baby is not getting a big enough mouthful of breast at the start. You want the baby’s mouth to be open wide as she latches on, with her chin pressed into your breast and her head tipped back so that her nose is away from the breast. Make sure your hand is not behind her head, as that can prevent a good latch. If making these adjustments doesn’t help, consult a lactation expert.