Breastfeeding: Help for latch-on difficulties

My wife is having trouble getting our 10-day-old daughter to latch on. Sometime it takes 10 minutes or more. She seems to push the breast away even if she's hungry. Any suggestions?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Get thee to a lactation consultant! She can quickly evaluate your wife's positionsing and remedy the situation.

You mentioned that your baby is pushing your breast away. Try not to push her toward it. This can cause "oral aversion". Work with her and be patient.

Time to nurse -- get comfortable! Sit in a comfortable chair where your back and arms are supported with pillows at the ready. Place your feet on a low footstool (you can also use a large telephone book) to raise your knees a bit above hip level.

Never underestimate the importance of proper positioning!
To position your baby at your breast, place her alongside of you, supported with pillows if necessary to raise her to the level of your breast. Use your hand to support the back of her neck, rather than her head. With the opposite hand, hold your breast in the "C-hold" (thumb on top and finger cupped underneath breast, keeping fingers back from your areola.) Tickle her lower lip with your nipple until she opens her mouth wide, like a yawn, and then hug her in quickly to your breast.

7 ways to know if your baby is nursing effectively:


1. Your little one is taking in a good mouthful of your breast. She should take in at least one inch of your areola/breast tissue. (You can mark one inch back from the base of your nipple with a bit of lipstick to check.) Your nipples should feel very comfortable when she has taken your breast deeply into her mouth.

2. Her lips should be flanged. This will look like "fish-lips." Her lips should not be folded in.

3. Her tongue should be visible cupping your breast. Ask your partner to check the positioning of your baby's tongue during a feed to be sure it is cupped underneath the breast as she nurses. If she is sucking on her tongue it may not be visible. You might not see her tongue cupping your breast if she has a tight or short frenulum. With a short frenulum (tongue-tie) her tongue may not be able to extend properly over her lower gum line and this would make it very difficult to achieve proper attachment.

4. You hear a regular suck-swallow pattern, with occasional pauses once your baby is well attached.

5. Your baby stays awake for a good feed. In the early days of life, a baby can be very sleepy, especially if medications were used during the labor and birth. In the newborn period, babies that are nursing well often stay at the breast for at least 30 to 40 minutes. They often fall asleep at the end of the feed, very relaxed and satisfied. If your baby's sucking begins to slow early in the feed, you can use your hand to gently compress your breast, massaging toward your nipple. This will get your milk flowing and is very effective in helping to keep a sleepy baby feeding well.

6. Your breasts and nipples are comfortable. Check your nipples as your baby comes off your breast. Your nipples should be round and pink in color. If they seem crunched or creased, or if your nipples appear white at the tip, it can indicate a problem with positioning or a sucking difficulty.

7. Your baby is happy, healthy and growing well, and she has good output. Once a baby has regained her birth weight by the two week checkup, normal weight gain in the first three to four months is four to eight ounces a week. In the first five to six weeks of life, normal output is at least six to eight wet diapers and at least two to three bowel movements each day.

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