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what to do when your baby won't latch after delivery

When we are expecting we hope that everything we have planned for our birthing process will go as desired but there are times when the unexpected arrives. The common concern most mothers have after delivery is making sure they get off to a great start establishing their milk supply by latching their baby. Of course we know the key to establishing a healthy milk supply is frequent feeds or frequent drainage of the breast...

But what happens when your baby doesn't latch immediately after birth?

When a baby is not latching on to the breast, we must take into consideration

  1. How was your birth?

  2. Was your birth traumatic for you or baby?

  3. Were medications needed?

  4. Was a C section given?

The way a person births can heavily weigh on breastfeeding initiation and determines the start of the mother baby breastfeeding relationship.

For example, medications can leave both the mother and baby drowsy and unable to feed or maybe your baby had difficulty traveling through the birthing canal and may have a cone shaped head as a result, this can alter the shape of babies head, face and jaw therefore creating a hinderance to baby's instinctive sucking movements. Baby could possibly need to have body work done from an occupational therapist and practice suck training.

So the first step!


Your baby will need the calories and nutrients to learn how to breastfeed so baby needs to eat whether using mother’s milk through an alternative feeding method, donor milk or infant formula.


It is very important for the mother and baby to remain skin to skin for as many hours possible in the day. Skin to skin contact will help baby learn to breastfeed. If you are working with a lactation care plan, skin to skin should be an ongoing routine act until breastfeeding is going well for mother and baby.

In the beginning days you will produce a thick, yellowish creamy milk called colostrum and it is difficult to remove with an electric pump. I encourage mothers to hand express or use a manual pump to extract the colostrum. Your colostrum can be given to your baby through spoon, syringe or cup feeding until he or she learns to latch to the breast.

Establishing your milk supply through alternative means such as hand expression or pumping after delivery quickly is key to increasing the volume of your milk. Before you are to leave the hospital make sure you have been given an electric hospital grade pump and double pump kit to begin establishing your supply at home. Pumping and hand expression will allow you to receive more milk than pumping alone. (Morton et al., 2009) Hand expression is the removal of milk from the breast using a rhythmic compressing technique to extract milk. See how here.

You should pump both breasts at the same time for a total of 10-15 minutes 8-12 times per day. There are videos online that can show you how to hold your pump while you use your other hand to massage your breast. It is extremely important for you to remove as much milk from your breasts as you possibly can.

Once your milk supply increases in amount which is usually around day 3 you will begin to pump until the milk drips or sprays subside, stop pumping, massage her breasts and begin pumping again. Repeat this process twice. You should be able to finish pumping within 30 minutes. Your goal is to pump anywhere from 750 to 1000ml of milk by two weeks postpartum.

Make sure to work with a lactation consultant outside of the hospital after you’ve been discharged. Many consultants cannot help you once you have left The hospital.

Even if your baby just adamantly does not want to nurse it is still very possible to get your baby to latch but it will require time, patience, and lots of skin to skin frequency. It will not be a straight path to the nipple but in time most babies latch within 4-8 weeks.

If you are need of breastfeeding education or a virtual consult, I am here to help.

How can I help you achieve your goals today, honey?

Jada Metcalf | is a mom of two, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, Postpartum Doula, ROSE Community Transformer, IBCLC in training and a lactation and postpartum wellness business owner.

Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions including the CDC (Center for Disease Control), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), WHO ( World Health Organization), NIH (National Institute of Health), ABM (Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine) Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th Edition, Wambach Spencer)


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