Help for New Moms: How to Handle Latch Problems with Baby?

I have always praised my breastfeeding coach, Vivien, on here. Without her help in a strange land as a new mom, I think I would have gone insane. You can find a breastfeeding coach or lactation consultant near you with La Leche League that can help you get your latch just right.

But what if you did all that, and the baby suddenly won’t stay latched on anymore and cries? I remember calling her one night when my eldest was just a few months old. As I described the situation, she told me a few things to try out because she suspected my milk was letting out too quickly. Lo and behold, the problem stopped, and my eldest latched on without letting go until she was so full she fell right asleep.

Believe me, I KNOW how frustrating it is when you get that latch right while you’re still at the hospital, and then at home, you can’t get it, and there’s no one to help you.

I worried my eldest would starve or I’d have to give her formula. And while the formula is nothing to be ashamed of, I worried about our particular situation since we lived in China, and the quality was a huge concern to me.

I have to tell you that there is no one exact reason why your baby won’t stay latched on and cries. But there are a bunch of them. Much like troubleshooting your devices, you’ll have to do a little troubleshooting to find out why your baby is pulling away. Once you determine the problem, you’ll be able to apply a solution that will set things right again.

Before I go into this, please know it’s nothing personal. Your baby doesn’t suddenly hate you. You’re not doing something wrong. It happens to all of us mamas!

Why does my baby pull away and cry while breastfeeding?

Without further ago, let’s get into some of the problems that can arise while breastfeeding.

baby cries while breastfeeding

Your baby has a growth spurt

Babies have growth spurts often through that tender first year of life. The first one begins a few days after you get home, then after day 7 or 10, at 2 or 3 weeks, at 4 or 6 weeks, at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and even beyond. From firsthand experience, I can tell you that BOTH of my daughters were fussy little misses during their growth spurts.

Your baby may be going through this issue and just coming off the breast and getting frustrated. I’ll talk about some tips on how to resolve that further below.

Baby is at a milestone

When babies start hitting those new developmental milestones, they can distract easily. It can absolutely play a role in how well they nurse. Some babies are hardly bothered, while others get fussier during nursing time. Some want to nurse even more than usual. It all depends on the baby.

Your milk is coming down too fast (or even too slow)

With my eldest, this was the problem I had that made me call Vivien. She’d suddenly pull back and shriek right after she’d latch on. Was something wrong with my milk? Nope! It’s just that my boobs were so eager to let out the milk that it was too much at once. A quick change of position helped, and that solved our problem.

Other friends of mine had slow letdown problems. The crying will come because they’re impatient and want milk now. Again, changing your position to ease the flow better can help. My friend Trina only had this problem when she was out in public.

As she wrote, “Ashley was so easy to nurse at home, but any time we went anywhere, and she needed to eat, she’d get so frustrated, unlatch, and just start wailing. Everyone would stare, and I’d feel like I was on stage. It wasn’t until I realized I was stressed and nervous about this happening with every outing. It just perpetuated the problem. I finally figured out a way to keep calm and relax so that my milk would flow as well as it did at home, and we haven’t had any more troubles.” Thanks for sharing, Trina!

I have more to add here too. Sometimes, the time of day can be a factor in your milk flow. Keep an eye out for that!

Baby needs to burp

It’s so simple, I know. But if the fussing starts at the end of a feeding, the baby just might need good burping. Give it a try, and then offer your breast again (best to offer the other side) and see how that goes. Your baby might not be very burpy, but if she’s been crying, it can help ease the gas pains and keep her from being uncomfortable.

It’s something you ate

Our breasts really are miraculous creations! They can nourish our babies into tiny little humans. It’s truly amazing! However, some babies can become fussier due to the foods you eat. They are getting the nutrients from whatever you’re ingesting.

It’s not all that common for babies to react to the foods you eat, but there are plenty that does. My eldest would have difficulties only after I ate broccoli and only during the first 3 months. I kept a journal of what I was eating as per Vivien’s suggestion to see if I could spot the problem. On all the nights she got fussy, I’d had broccoli. When I stopped eating broccoli, she stopped getting fussy. Problem solved!

You will also notice other things when it comes to what you’re eating. Spitting up, diarrhea, colic, rash, stuffy/runny noses, or even excessive gas can indicate that this could be an allergy. Call your pediatrician and schedule an appointment to investigate further.

Nursing patterns are shifting

Sometimes, nothing at all might be wrong. Your baby grows and changes so much during this first year. She will not eat ravenously every 2 hours from birth until she goes to college. Her nursing patterns will shift. As she gets bigger, she’ll eat faster and more efficiently. If she acts frustrated and there are no other factors, she might want to do something else now. She could even just want to suck without having milk come out. Try handing her a pacifier or a teething toy if she’s 4 to 6 weeks or older.

It’s the beginning of the teething phase

Baby chewing on teething ring toy

I recently wrote ALLLLL about teething for you guys. Some babies find great comfort in sucking and may even eat more when their gums are sore and swollen from teething. Others will scream and howl, breaking quickly from their latch like something is wrong. Check out my posts about teething, and you’ll find quick remedies to help you along.

If you try those out and the latch problems stop, you will know that you’ll see some pearly white poking through soon enough.

Your baby wants the other boob

I didn’t have this trouble with my eldest. But my youngest only liked my left boob. I had to trick her to get her to empty the right one. I had no idea why she was doing this. I emailed Vivien since she’d moved away when my sweet little clinger was born. She told me sometimes, babies prefer one side over the other for a variety of reasons. It could be one side is faster or slower. Whatever it is, you can work through that by releasing the milk when you’re relaxed for slow-release or changing position when using that breast so it comes out more slowly.

The baby might be sick

Even before you check for the signs of teething, you will likely have that baby thermometer out and ready to go. Stuffy noses can also make it really hard for your baby to stay latched on and can certainly result in lots of crying. Your baby is hungry but can’t stay latched because of that clogged-up nose. Poor thing!

Your milk supply might need a boost

Sometimes during a growth spurt, your baby might want more from your boobs. If she seems like she can’t get enough, try pumping too to increase your supply. For newborns, check to see if you’ve got a proper latch. Those early days are the most important for keeping your milk flowing.

Baby has reflux

As an adult, I can tell you reflux is just no fun. For babies, I imagine it’s even worse. They don’t have our worldly knowledge yet. If the baby spits up a lot after eating, try changing positions and keeping her more upright to keep things from coming back up; pardon the pun.

What You Can Do to Keep Baby Latched On and Nursing Peacefully

As you work through this challenge of momhood, you can try a few things to get your little one latched on and over the hurdle.

  • Regain your calmness

Babies can sense our tension. If you’re getting frustrated, she sees it too. So breathe in and out and calm yourself down. Use a soothing voice, swaddle your little, and hold her close. She’ll soon feel your peace and calm down too.

Skin contact with newborn
  • Keep baby close to the boobies

You can keep her close by your breasts even if she’s pulling away from the latch. Skin-to-skin contact will help her feel comfortable again, and she may just latch back on when she’s ready.

  • Adjust your position

Make sure you’re in a good position that provides proper milk flow. If you notice one position that seems to make your milk flow too quickly, and that’s what the baby is fussing about, change it. Good form is also essential, so be sure you’re giving your baby an easy and comfortable way to latch on.

  • Add a little enticement

Sidetrack story: I could never go into their rooms at night for both of my daughters. Why? They’d sniff out my milk boobs and wake up! I always sent my husband until it was feeding time. Babies KNOW you’ve got their milk. And they love it. So squeeze a few drops of the good stuff out onto your nipple, and hopefully, that will be enough to get the baby latched.

  • Offer your milk in a different format

In the cases of colds with stuffy noses, your baby is probably ready for that milk but can’t breathe out her nose. Express some of your milk and offer it up in a baby spoon. You should also steam your bathroom from the shower and take the baby in when it’s nice and steamy. Sit there and read a story or entertain her while the steam clears her tiny nose. She might be good to go after that!

  • Check your nipples

It’s important to be sure your nipples aren’t flat with newborns, or else it will be hard for your baby to latch. Draw out your nipple first before nursing to solve this dilemma.

  • Keep pacifiers away for now

Another tip about keeping babies latched when it comes to newborns is to avoid giving pacifiers. You can use them later, but you want your baby to become a latching pro in those early days.

One last thing…

Don’t forget that you need to keep your milk supply strong even when your baby isn’t latching. Pump your milk about every 3 hours and keep offering expressed milk. As long as your baby isn’t losing weight and you keep your supply up, your baby will get through this hiccup and get back on the boob.

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