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What if baby refuses to latch during the first few weeks after birth?

Try the following suggestions:

  • Offer the breast when baby first awakes, avoid diaper and clothing changes.
  • If breast is offered before the crying phase, (late stage of hunger) you will have a better chance at a successful latch.
  • Suck train before latch and if not effective give a "jump start" using expressed breast milk of ½ to 1 oz via a slow flow nipple/bottle such as a Dr. Brown's preemie nipple/bottle. Attempt latch briefly again.
  • Try brief attempts to latch ranging between 1 - 5 minutes. Trying too long may result in a "power struggle" with your baby. We do not want baby to perceive that the breast is not a "happy" place to be.
  • If your baby refuses to latch, take "time out" with baby on your chest "give baby a hug" then pump while a family member feeds your expressed breast milk.
  • Assure baby opens wide for latch to your breast. If a bottle/nipple is used to feed expressed breast milk family should encourage a "wide open mouth" response as well.
  • Try to avoid over feeding baby, give up to 2 oz then swaddle and allow baby to nonnutritive suckle on a clean finger.
  • If your baby does not settle down after 30 min. then consider offering another ½ -1 oz only. Remember, just because baby cries, does not mean it's a "hunger" cry.
  • Pump every 2-3 hours, if baby is not consistently latching and nursing for 10-15 minutes per breast, with breast softening.
  • Rest when baby rests.
  • Let family do the housework, laundry and meals.
  • Limit time spent with visitors, cell phones and I-pads so you can focus on learning how to feed and care for your baby when you are awake.
  • Use the "All Things Baby" site.
  • Consider viewing the breast feeding tutorial information at newborns.stanford.edu/breastfeeding.
  • Attend our breastfeeding support group for a reweigh, baby care advice and peer to peer support.

If baby is still refusing to latch after practicing the above suggestions, call Allen Hospital's Lactation Consultant Service at (319) 226-BABY (2229), to discuss your concerns. Your Lactation Consultant will evaluate if a feeding assessment is needed at that time.