Top Five Tricks and Tips to Get Your Baby To Breastfeed

Breastfeeding your baby is such a wonderful experience… unless its not.  As a new mom, you can feel a lot of anxiety about whether or not your baby is getting enough milk, if the baby’s latch is correct, whether you’re positioning them correctly, and on and on.  This stress can be exasperated when your baby decides to stop nursing.  If your baby is struggling to nurse, read on to learn my five tips to get your baby to breastfeed!

There are a lot of reasons that a baby won’t breastfeed.

Here are a few examples of why a baby can refuse to nurse:

  • they are sick and they just don’t feel like eating, or it hurts to nurse
  • the milk comes out too fast
  • the milk comes out too slow
  • they are teething
  • they have an allergy or sensitivity to something the mother is eating
  • they are overstimulated
  • they are stressed out

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And there are way more reasons than this!

Its important to figure out why your baby won’t nurse, because this information may tell you that something needs to change.  Maybe you need to change your diet, or take the baby to the doctors for an ear infection.  In any case, if your baby won’t nurse, you should consult a doctor or a lactation consultant so they can assist you in determining why your baby won’t breastfeed.  In addition, they may be able to give you some tips to get your baby to breastfeed while you’re there.

But while you are exploring the medical or physiological reasons that your baby won’t breastfeed, your baby still needs to eat!

I have had two babies who had difficulty with breastfeeding.  My first born was definitely the hardest to get to nurse.  He had a lip tie, and we worked with a lactation consultant to modify his latch. Unfortunately, our consultant was more aggressive than he liked, and repeatedly forced his head to my breast.  As a result, my son developed an aversion to breastfeeding.  

It was awful. He’d be fussy, but just wouldn’t nurse.  He would latch on for a second and immediately unlatch.  He would arch his back and kick his feet to get away from my breast.  As a first time mom who was desperately trying to develop a successful breastfeeding relationship, it was incredibly disheartening.

After a lot of hard work and many long days that stretched into months, my son and I finally fell into a rhythm.

Long story short, we made it.

On our arduous, yet ultimately successful, journey, I learned a thing or two about breastfeeding a baby who just won’t nurse.

So here are five tips to get your baby to breastfeed when they don’t want to latch on.

1. Feed the baby when they’re sleepy

Nursing your baby when they are sleepy means that they are likely very relaxed, and more prone to demonstrate suckling behavior.  Ever notice how a baby sucks on a pacifier while they’re falling asleep?  This is the same sort of response that you are hoping for when you nurse a tired yet contented baby.  Try to feed the baby when they’re hungry, but not starving.  This ensures that the baby will want to eat, but won’t be so desperate that they are easily frustrated.

2. Long up and down bounces

This was a tip that I figured out on my own, but found it to work for all my babies.  Hold your baby in the normal breastfeeding position with your breast out, and bounce up and down in LONG up and down bounces.  Something about this motion, coupled with putting them to the breast, makes a baby latch on.  I would do this for my children when they would refuse to latch, and once they were latched, I would make the motions smaller.  Eventually, they would stay latched, and I would be able to walk around while nursing them.  If I sat, they would unlatch though.  It wasn’t exactly relaxing for me, but I got my baby to eat!

As an alternative to this, sometimes I would swing back and forth rapidly while holding the baby in a traditional nursing hold.  Again, the motion would cause them to latch on.

3. Tons of skin to skin

Both of my reluctant nursers did MUCH better when we had lots of skin to skin contact.  Wear a button down shirt and put the baby in one of those little zipper sleep sacks, so you have easy access to both of your skin.

Then, as much as possible, provide the baby with skin to skin contact.  Which brings me to my next point…

4. Co-bathe

The turning point in my son and my breastfeeding journey was when I started to co-bathe with him.  I would put a heater in the bathroom so it was nice and warm, fill the tub with warm water, and sit in it with him for a long time.  I would sing to him, making it a relaxing, sweet time for us both.  Throughout the time, I would present my breast to him, but would never really encourage him to nurse.  I would just make sure he knew that nursing was available to him if he wanted.  Sure enough, after a while, he began to suckle and eat.

5. Try using a nipple shield

A nipple shield can be a great thing to encourage a baby to nurse.  Sometimes, a baby won’t want to nurse because it is hard for them.  They can’t quite get their mouth on your nipple to draw out the milk correctly.  A nipple shield can make it a little easier for them, since it hits the roof of their mouth in the right place to make them want to suck.

Now, there is some discussion that using a nipple shield long-term can decrease your milk supply.  Because the baby’s mouth is coming in contact with the silicone of the nipple shield, instead of with your skin, the nipple is not stimulated in the same way it would be if the baby were nursing directly from your breast.  Being a first time mom, this counsel was enough to convince me that I needed to move away from using a nipple shield as quickly as possible.

While I understand and agree with this wisdom, I think that a nipple shield can also be really helpful for a baby who won’t nurse.  So my suggestion is as follows: start with the nipple shield on.  Once the baby draws your nipple out and milk starts to flow, quickly unlatch the baby, and immediately relatch the baby without the nipple shield.  This little trick was essential in getting my reluctant nursers to eat.

So there you have it.  My top 5 tricks and tips to get your baby to breastfeed.

These five things were crucial to helping my babies be successful at breastfeeding.  While it was emotionally and physically draining at times, I was so proud of myself and my babies for working to make this happen.  But, it was hard work!  It took my son almost 6 months to break through his challenges of both his lip tie and aversion to breastfeeding.  But it was so worth it!

I hope that these tips to get your baby to breastfeed work for you and your baby, and that you can have a successful breastfeeding relationship.  But ultimately, remember that fed is best.  Be kind to yourself, and patient with the process.

If you’d like additional information about breastfeeding, check out this awesome ecourse that covers everything you need to know!  Its super in-depth and easy to understand. Plus, its a great price!!

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5 Tricks and Tips to Get Your Baby To Breastfeed

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