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Breastfeeding Latch Problems

Sometimes, despite all of our efforts, mothers may experience breastfeeding latch problems, and babies just  don’t latch or feed well before they are discharged home. Sometimes babies are born too early to be able to come to the breast, and sometimes other issues may prevent nursing from happening. Mothers may be separated from their infants due to illness or other reasons, causing breastfeeding latch problems. Conditions such as Down syndrome may initially make it difficult for a baby’s central nervous system to remain alert long enough to nurse or to coordinate suck-swallow-breathe actions required for successful nursing. Health conditions, such as jaundice or infection and cardiac defects may also influence a baby's level of alertness or the ability to suck. A "mechanical" issue, such as tongue-tie or a cleft lip or palate, might directly interfere with a baby's ability to use the structures in the mouth for effective sucking.

There is a possibility that you may need to “buy time” until your baby is able to feed from the breast. That may take days or even months for some premature babies. When this happens, it is possible to establish and maintain an adequate milk supply until your baby is able to latch.

Here are some tips for expressing milk when you’re not nursing or cannot nurse enough.

  • Use a hospital-grade electric pump. These pumps may be rented from a hospital or medical supply company.
  • Pump both breasts together. This will save time and increase stimulation, which helps increase milk supply.
  • Pump at least eight times in 24 hours, going no longer than five hours between pumping sessions.
  • Pump breasts for at least 15 minutes the first week, or until your milk supply is established.
  • See guidelines for breast milk storage.

Sometimes, the cause of a breastfeeding latch problem is obvious, but often it is not. However, it is important to recognize the signs that a baby is unable to effectively remove milk during breastfeeding so that steps can be taken to remedy the problem.