Baby-related Breastfeeding Difficulties


Your baby’s unique personality or his condition at birth may affect your nursing relationship. Remember that every baby is an individual and that no baby “goes by the book.” Meet his individual needs and hopefully these difficulties will quickly be overcome. If the problems continue, call a breastfeeding counselor or visit a certified lactation consultant.

Sleepy Baby

sleepy babyIf you were medicated shortly before birth or received general anesthesia for a cesarean, your baby may be sleepy and somewhat sluggish about nursing. To stimulate him, change his diaper, move him around, or gently rub his back. Uncover him and expose him to the air. Alternately sit him up and lay him down, supporting his head and back. Pat his feet, and talk and play with him. Wipe his face with a cool washcloth. Feed him as often as possible to prevent weight loss. Offer him the breast every 2 hours.

Many babies have short quiet alert periods followed by deep sleep in the first days after birth. Take advantage of the awake times to nurse, instead of allowing visitors to play with the new baby. Often, by the time you get the baby back, he has fallen into his deep sleep again. Also, watch for cues that he wants to nurse, such as sucking movements or bringing his hand up to his mouth. Try nursing him immediately hen you see those signals.

Baby who Refuses the Breast

Sucking trainingIf your baby has been given pacifiers or bottles, you may notice that when he latches onto the breast, he pushes the nipple out with his tongue, releases the beast, shakes his head, and screams. He has become nipple confused and is attempting to suck from the breast in the same manner that he did on the rubber nipple. You may have to retrain his sucking with your finger to encourage his tongue to “milk” the nipple, rather than push against it. Do not give him any more rubber nipples. It is best to delay the introduction of rubber nipples until at least 3 to 4 weeks of age to prevent nipple confusion.

If his nose is stuffy, he may latch on but pull away from the breast to breathe. Since infants are nose breathers, you may need to suction his nose with a bulb syringe so that he can nurse without difficulty.

When the let-down is delayed, the baby may not like to wait for his meal and may become frustrated. This may occur if the mother is under a lot of stress, smokes, or drinks excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine. some of these causes can be eliminated. If you feel tense, try playing soft music, using warm compresses on the breasts, massaging the breasts, and visualizing the milk flowing to your baby.

Fussy Baby

Fussy babyOccasionally, your diet may include foods that upset your baby. First, try cutting out all diary products. The protein in cow’s milk passes through to the baby, and your baby may be sensitive to it. Spicy or gassy foods cause fussiness in some babies. Does your diet contain large amounts of caffeine? If you consume it in the evening, you may find that your baby is wide awake when you are ready for him to go to sleep. Do you exercise vigorously? The buildup of lactic acid after strenuous exercise can cause your milk to taste sour. Are you menstruating? Some babies become fussy or reject the breast at the beginning of the mother’s period. Also, if you use hair spray, deodorant, or any other perfumes or sprays, keep them off your breasts. They may mask your normal scent and cause your baby to become fussy or reject the breast.

Vigorous Nurser

If your baby nurses vigorously, he may gulp too much milk and air. If this occurs in response to a strong let-down, hand express some milk before nursing to allow the let-down to subside. Also, taking him off your breast several times and burping him will reduce spitting up and gas discomfort.

If your baby is overly hungry, he may bite down hard o your breast and cause a sore nipple. Avoid making him wait too long before feeding him. Watch for cues that he is hungry.

Ineffective Nurser

A baby may be a weak nurser due to preterm birth, a birth defect, cesarean delivery, or a medicated delivery. If your baby is a weak nurser, feed him more frequently and longer. Nurse him for as long as he wants. Help him to get started at each nursing by hand-expressing some milk into his mouth. You may need to pump your breasts to maintain an adequate supply.