First of all this could be an emotionally devastating time. Don’t feel discouraged. I know it is easier said than done but believe me things can definitely turn around.There are many speculations why this happens and just like every pregnancy is different so is every baby and the reasons why they won’t latch. One thing that I do highly recommend and encourage you to do is getting quality help from an experienced lactation consultant that is an IBCLC.
Will my baby latch the next feeding, next week or next month?
We really don’t know. What we do know is that some babies will latch before three weeks of age and there are other babies who will latch anywhere between four and six weeks. I also know of babies, one who latched at 9 weeks and another one at 11 weeks. So it can happen at any time. The thing is we just don’t know when it will happen.
So what can you do to help along?
1. First and foremost you need to take care of yourself. It can be a very tiring and hard time. Emotionally and physically draining. You are also recovering from the birth and possibly even from surgery. When people are offering help, accept it. Ask them to help with household chores, taking care of older children if there are any, ask them to bring/ make freezable meals etc. In case family is living far away consider hiring a postpartum doula.
2. Find a feeding method that works for your family. We could certainly suggest for you to do cup feeding, syringe feeding, bottle feeding, etc. The method of feeding has to work for you otherwise you may not stick with it, you may resent the feeding time and get more and more discouraged. So find something that works not just for you, not just for baby but for the whole family.
3. Build up and protect your milk supply. I am not a fan of purchasing any breast pump during pregancy because it might not work for you or you’ll need a more efficient pump. Therefore, I encourage all mothers to rent a quality hospital grade double electric pump first, when they find out they need to pump. By renting this pump you will see and experience if it works for you. Will your body respond to the pump? Will it drain your breast to build up your milk supply and also protect it? This is also very useful to do, in case you need to return to work sooner then hoped and need to build up a stash of breast milk for the time you will be away from baby.
You will need to pump after each attempted feeding. What do I mean by that? Every time you attempt to latch and feed baby and it just doesn’t happen you will need to pump to protect your milk supply. You might also consider some herbal or even prescription supplements to increase and help protect your milk supply. By creating a good milk supply either with pumping and/or with the help of herbs you will create a nice consistent flow which will entice baby to come, stay and start sucking at the breast. We can also help create this consistent flow by using a supplemental nursing system (a.k.a. feeding tube at the breast).
4. Do as much skin to skin contact as you possibly can. If you have a ring sling or a wrap or any baby carrier that can be used without a shirt on use it. Have the baby in there skin to skin. It is the most comforting place for the baby and you, and at the same time baby is feeling, smelling, sensing you, even tasting you as your breast is available for him/her.
5. Try different feeding positions. There is no “one size fits all” with positions. You have to find one that is not just comfortable for you or baby but that actually works. The only hold that I discourage is the football hold unless you wish to feed two babies at the same time. I am not a fan of it as we tend to curl baby to the breast creating a tucked chin which makes them frustrated, encourages a shallow latch, causing pain and trauma to the nipples and they get very little milk leading to an undrained breast and possible blocked duct, etc.
Standing up swaying or dancing is one position that babies like and often times latch in that position. It certainly is not a position that we can do at every feeding because we would get exhausted pretty soon. Try it whenever you are up to it. Bouncing on one of those big gym/exercise balls can also entice baby to latch as we are more relaxed while bouncing or swaying, dancing or singing. Baby feels all your tension and by doing any of the positions mentioned above will help you be less tense and more relaxed.
Wishing you all the best! If your baby is not latching on or if you have a question, please don’t hesitate to message me or your local IBCLC.