Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly: Best Tips On What To Do

Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly

When you breastfeed, many things can make you scratch your head and wonder what you’re doing wrong. 

Sometimes the baby seems insatiable, sometimes it looks like they aren’t interested in food, and then there’s the constant worry about milk supply and flow.

So when you have baby latching and unlatching repeatedly, it can make you feel pretty confused and desperate for some answers.

The challenges of breastfeeding

According to the CDC, sixty percent of women who breastfeed quit doing it before they had initially intended to. 

As a society, we are influenced heavily by the media, which portrays many moms sitting happily and naturally feeding babies breast milk without a care in the world. It looks like the easiest and most natural thing to do on the planet.

So when we start to have challenges, like baby latching and unlatching repeatedly, or low milk supply, or too much milk flow at once, or issues with how our babies latch, it can make us feel inferior and like giving up.

However, life is not like the movies. You probably have never lost a glass slipper on the steps of a castle after a ball. You may not have saved the world with a team of mighty superheroes. 

Reality bites: life can be messy, and some plans may not go as perfectly as we want them to. 

The same goes for breastfeeding, a challenge, especially for new mothers. But there is a solution.

Finding a solution

When you start your breastfeeding journey, you will find that you may fit into that large category of women who don’t have an innate sense of knowing what to do. 

Baby latches, drinks the breast milk, gets full, and sleeps. That’s what we think is going to happen.

The baby sometimes thrashes around, screams, and latches for a few seconds only to spit out the nipple like the sunflower seed shells at a baseball game. 

You can get upset. You can give up and buy a can of formula (there is no shame in this; a fed baby is best), or you can get to work finding a solution.

Arriving at a solution, however, requires pinpointing the problem. 

This article will help you find that problem and help you figure out how to fix it. 

You don’t have to quit breastfeeding. 

You can make your breastfeeding experience better than you thought possible with a little bit of detective work and trying a few tweaks. 

You may not lose that glass shoe at a castle, but you can have that picture-perfect nursing session.

Baby latching and unlatching repeatedly

If your baby is latching and then unlatching repeatedly, you must get to the bottom. Not only is the baby not feeding when this happens, but it’s also uncomfortable for you.

The following are some of the things that might be causing the issue.

Slow milk flow

You can have a stellar milk supply but a slow letdown or milk flow, which means that getting the milk to go from the mammary glands and out of the ducts for the baby to consume takes longer than usual.

Babies prefer a faster milk flow. They aren’t exceptionally patient creatures. 

If you notice the baby latching, sucking for a minute or two, and then unlatching and crying or thrashing, there’s a chance that you have a low milk flow that is making your little one impatient and unhappy. 

They just want food. Now.

How to get the milk flowing

If you have a slow milk flow, try stimulating the nipple and the breast for a few minutes before you begin a nursing session. You can do this with breast compression, a hot shower, or a breast pump. 

Once you notice that your milk flow has begun, try latching baby. This may prove to be all the work you need to do.

There’s nothing wrong with you. You just have a slow letdown. It doesn’t mean that you have a low milk supply.

Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly

Not enough milk

Milk supply is a constant cause of worry for many breastfeeding moms. It’s a double-edged sword because women stress themselves out over it, and stress can dry up your supply. 

Babies require a certain amount of food in either formula or breastmilk form. If your body isn’t making enough to satisfy your little one’s hunger, then you need to do something to increase your supply or start supplementing with infant formula.

Ways to increase milk supply

There are many ways to increase your milk supply so that baby isn’t giving up and unlatching when you nurse. The following are a few of the things that you can try to increase your milk supply.

  • Take postnatal vitamins specifically formulated to increase milk supply
  • Pump more often
  • Nurse more often
  • Stay hydrated
  • Make or purchase lactation cookies, smoothies, or other superfoods and drinks to increase milk supply
  • Contact a lactation consultant
  • Eat a healthy diet with enough calories
  • Get enough rest
  • Relax and try to cut some stress from your life

The baby keeps pulling off the breast and relatching

If you notice that there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with your latch, your position, or your milk supply, but the baby is pulling completely off the breast, looking around, and then relatching, there are a few things that can be causing this issue. 

They are relatively easy to diagnose and also fairly easy to remedy.

Nursing positions make the baby uncomfortable

As your little one grows, the nursing positions you used to employ can become uncomfortable. 

The baby may feel compressed or squished, pinned, or even like they are about to fall.

Try switching up your position to see if the baby’s mouth can get to the nipple in a more comfortable position. 

For example, if you usually use a cradle hold position, try mixing it up with the cross-cradle hold, giving your baby more room. This can make for an immediate change in how the baby latches and stays latched.

Fast milk flow

The high milk flow issue is on the opposite side of the spectrum from a slow letdown. This is when your milk flow is nearly immediate, and the milk gushes rather than flows. 

The baby’s mouth is bombarded with a stream of milk, and it can be overwhelming.

Often, you will have a baby latching and repeatedly unlatching simply to have a break from the excess milk coming out of the nipple at super speed.

When there’s more milk than you need

Imagine being blasted in the face with a high-capacity water gun. That’s a lot like what newborn babies experience when you have a very high milk flow. 

Baby unlatching and getting a face full of milk is a pretty good indicator that you have this issue.

Try pumping first for a few minutes to slow down the amount of milk your little one is getting in one go. 

This way, you get to keep what comes out first, and as the milk flow starts to regulate itself, you can stop pumping and latch your baby.

Stomach discomfort

If the baby feeds immediately after, or even during a feeding session, you notice that baby seems to tense up, unlatch, or cry; you may have a little one with gas issues or stomach pain.

This happens to a lot of babies, and there are many ways to help correct the problem.

How to help a gassy baby

If your little one is latching and unlatching due to gas pain or stomach cramps, contact your baby’s pediatrician. 

They may prescribe or recommend that you change positions while nursing or prescribe or prescribe gas drops to be given before feeding.

It’s also often helpful to hold the baby upright for a while after nursing or to nurse the baby in an upright position. This way, trapped air doesn’t end up in the baby’s tummy. 

This will result in less milk getting to the baby, and more trapped air that the baby will struggle to get out, often painfully. 

Simply holding the baby’s head upright during nursing so that they are almost sitting up will remedy this issue considerably.

Distracted baby

When you have a newborn baby, they typically aren’t very receptive to what is happening in the room. They only really concern themselves with eating and sleeping.

However, as baby gets older and develops more, they start to get easily distracted. Older babies turn their heads towards noise, voices, movement, and light.

Try moving to a quiet room for nursing and keeping the lights dim.

If you watch television while you nurse, turn down the volume, or better yet, turn off the TV and opt instead to focus on talking softly to the baby or rocking the baby to keep the baby relaxed and focused on the task at hand. 

This simple change in routine may keep your older baby from latching and unlatching repeatedly.

Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly

Sick baby

If the baby has a stuffy nose, snotty nose, cough, or is pulling on their ears, you may have a sick baby on your hands.

If the baby has a stuffy nose, it’s difficult for them to breathe, especially when trying to swallow, so you may see the baby unlatching repeatedly from the nursing breast, even though they are hungry.

Nasal congestion can be remedied somewhat by nasal saline drops to help break up the snot, get it out of the nose, and help your little one breathe easier.

Comfort nursing

Sometimes, your little one will start frequent nursing to soothe themselves, much like a pacifier. 

Most bottle-feeding babies have some way of soothing themselves, such as sucking their thumbs, pacifiers, or toys. 

Sore gum issues from teething, tiredness, and illness are reasons the baby fastens onto the breast without really eating, then unlatching. 

Sometimes they’ll want to go to the other breast and then back to the first one, thinking that maybe one breast may help soothe better than the other.

Look for signs that your little one isn’t hungry and is just self-soothing. 

If this seems to be the case, you are fine nursing to make your little one happy, but make sure that when it’s feeding time, the baby has a proper latch and you’re expressing milk so that you can give it the nutrition they need.

Keep trying

Figuring out the problem is half the battle won. 

If your baby is getting too much or too little milk, it’s an easy fix that just takes an extra step or two in the feeding process. 

If your little one is distracted, finding a quiet, dark room for nursing may be all you need to do to get that good latch you’ve been hoping for.

A good latch leads to a happy baby and a more successful nursing experience. 

Your breastfeeding position, such as going from a laid-back to a more upright position, or trying different nursing positions as your little one gets bigger, may solve the issue when the baby unlatches and thrashes around uncomfortable.

A slow flow or low milk production can be fixed with supplements, a change in diet, and stimulating the breasts before a session.

If all else fails, there is also bottle feeding.

Just be patient, and remember that you and your baby are learning together. You can get there. 

It just takes some faith, a little bit of a reality check when you realize that this isn’t always easy, and a determination to get this poor latching habit of your little one under control.

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