When mom is at her wit's end trying to get baby to latch on, she's often willing to try anything to get her baby fed. But there are many tricks that new moms might want to try that doctors do not necessarily recommend.
Between post-birth hormones, fatigue, and adapting to life as a new mom, you have a lot to figure out in the early days. If you choose to breastfeed, there's a whole new host of problems to deal with. From not enough milk to too much to allergies and spit up, there's always something!
Fortunately, breastfeeding usually balances itself out- as long as the baby is latching correctly. But what happens when baby won't latch, or his latch doesn't get enough milk out?
There's no shortage of online advice with tips on how to get babies back to the breast, but there's a lot that doctors don't agree with. Some tactics even border on obsessive and harmful when it comes to mom getting milk for her baby. Whether downright unsafe for baby or just not a helpful idea in general, these fifteen tricks new moms use to get the baby to latch are not what the doctor ordered.
15 Food For Thought
It's so common that there are online forums discussing the strategy. The first trick many new nursing moms try is sugar water. Whether baby can't quite figure out the latch or he's just not interested, mom might try mixing up sugar water as an incentive.
However, doctors don't recommend giving babies sugar water at home.
While some doctors say sugar water can reduce pain for babies, there aren't conclusive studies that prove that theory. And the wrong balance of water and sugar can cause babies' electrolytes to get out of balance, Healthline reports.
Their experts explained that parents shouldn't use sugar water for babies. Breast milk and formula are the only things babies need as newborns, doctors say. Still, moms constantly ask whether they can use something sweet to get babies interested in the breast. In one online forum, a mom even said she knew it wasn't the best idea, but she wanted to know whether it was really unsafe.
And she's not the only one, either. Plenty of parents give babies tastes of foods they're not ready for for all sorts of reasons. But even if baby does decide that sugar water is better than the flavor of breast milk, there are no guarantees that he'll latch well, or at all.
14 Nosey Tricks
Like many soon-to-be mamas, I watched endless episodes of Bringing Home Baby and other baby shows. I wanted to know what it would be like birthing my baby and bringing him home. Watching other moms go through those experiences gave me some insight. Mostly, though, it taught me what not to do.
I remember one episode where a woman's mother was in town for the grandbaby's birth. It was mom's first baby, a son. The mom and baby duo was struggling with breastfeeding in the first few days after birth.
Grandma's solution? Pinch the baby's nose shut so he couldn't breathe. That forced him to open his mouth, and then grandma helped mom shove her nipple in.
At the time, I found grandma's behavior odd and kind of cruel to the baby. The mother didn't seem to care- although she and her mother clashed later on other parenting topics. The idea that you can create an effective latch by pinching baby's nose shut isn't nice, but it can also be dangerous.
Odds are, your pediatrician is not going to recommend that you nearly suffocate your infant to get him to nurse. Think about when babies get sick and stuffy and can't breathe through their noses. It's not a nice feeling, and it's even less nice when it's a fight over food.
13 Pinching Problems
One of the biggest struggles many moms of newborns have is keeping baby awake. Whether your newborn is full term or a few weeks early, she probably wants to sleep a lot. If she has jaundice, that makes her sleepiness even worse.
But at the same time, babies must eat! Most healthy babies won't let themselves starve. Still, nurses and doctors often suggest that new moms try to feed every couple hours for the first few months. That way, they make sure baby gets enough calories and milk production stays up.
So keeping baby awake long enough to nurse effectively becomes the issue. Not only that, but getting a good latch is crucial, too.
Here's where things go south. Gentle ways of keeping baby awake include a cool washcloth, undressing her and holding her skin to skin, or talking to her and bouncing her gently.
Not-so-gentle ways of keeping baby awake involve poking or pinching, to the point that baby might even cry. Sadly, a crying baby means a baby with an open mouth- the perfect opportunity for a deep latch.
Yes, some parents actually make their babies cry to try and get them to eat. It's sad to think about, and doctors will not endorse that method of milk delivery.
12 Shielding Mom’s Milk
Personally, I struggled to breastfeed both of my sons. I tried everything to get them to latch right and drink enough milk. There were nipple shields, pumps, supplements, consultations, and more. So I understand the drive to get the baby milk no matter what.
At the same time, I wish I had known which things could truly help and which ones made things worse.
According to the experts at The Leaky Boob, there are no "rigorously done" studies that show nipple shields are effective. There aren't any guidelines for nursing moms who use them, or those who want to. Some hospitals and lactation consultations tell moms straight up no. Others hand out nursing shields like candy and don't offer any instruction on how to use them.
Some studies suggest that nipple shields can decrease milk supply. I know from personal experience that using a nipple shield might make you think your baby is getting more milk out.
In fact, for me, it was just the vacuum suction from the thing attaching that made milk flow. Then it's like baby's drinking out of a straw. So let's be clear- there are multiple sizes of nipple shields, a few different techniques for putting them on, and they aren't always the best solution.
11 Letting Loose Lip Ties
Personal story time! I was convinced my second son had a lip tie. If I had known about it with my first, I would have thought the same of him. I'm in a Facebook group for parents of lip- and tongue-tied babies, and I know firsthand the pain that an improper latch can cause. Many scabs and permanent scars later, I exclusively pumped for a good year and a half.
But what do experts say about lip ties?
Many deny that lip ties are even a "thing."
I was told by multiple medical professionals, including doctors, that my son was just fine- despite the bleeding and scabbing I experienced. Fortunately, some doctors, like Dr. Bobby Ghaheri, a knowledgeable MD from my ties group, know what's up.
Dr. Ghaheri uses lasers to correct lip and tongue ties for breastfeeding families. He also provides lots of online resources to help moms figure out if ties are the cause of their breastfeeding problems. Most babies who have their lip ties released go on to latch better at the breast, eat more effectively, and continue nursing longer!
Other signs of lip tie include a “milk blister,” which happens because of baby’s awkward latch. It may not keep babies from eating, but it can keep them from drinking enough milk that they stay full and keep growing!
10 Taming The Tongue
Lip ties aren't the only cause of nursing problems. While lip ties can cause babies' lips to curl under, making it hard to get milk from the breast, tongue ties cause even more problems.
A tongue tie happens when the tissue under the tongue is "overly" connected to the mouth. A severe tongue tie can make a baby's tongue lie almost flat in his mouth, to where he can't touch the tip of his tongue to the roof. Tongue ties can also keep babies and children from sticking their tongues out past their lips.
But as nursing moms know, the tongue is a vital part of the breastfeeding picture. Still, there are "health care professionals" who "do not even acknowledge that it exists or affects breastfeeding." It shouldn't be that controversial, right- fix the ties so baby can eat the way nature intended! But still, "professionals" will deny there's an issue and push formula or exclusive pumping on harried moms.
In the end, though, tongue and lip ties can also lead to other issues later. Many "tied" babies experience speech delays and difficulty eating solid food, yet doctors still don't recognize the cause. Unfortunately, since those delays may not show up for a year or two after birth, it’s hard to pinpoint tongue ties as the problem.
9 A Few Minor Adjustments
If you've tried everything and your baby won't latch, chiropractic is one technique many moms swear by. The idea is that babies who are out of alignment struggle to latch properly. They might also be in pain, making it hard to get in a comfy position to nurse.
Many "natural" parents swear by chiropractic care. For the whole family, chiropractic care can help with all kinds of internal problems. Even babies can be out of alignment, chiropractors say, so regular adjustments help keep things in line.
But the Australian Medical Association (along with other professionals) says not to take the baby to the chiropractor. The Huffington Post reported that one doctor, in particular, said parents should always take their kids to the doctor. Although technically a chiropractor is a "doctor," we'll let that slide.
The doctor in question reportedly said, "The AMA doesn't support babies going to the chiropractor at all." That was in response to a mom asking for chiro recommendations. Other doctors have echoed those sentiments. One called chiropractic care “complementary therapies” and said he doesn’t recommend it unless there’s serious scientific evidence that says it works.
If you’re considering asking your pediatrician about chiropractic care for your baby, be prepared to be shot down. Especially if you’re hoping it will help with his latch, be cautious about approaching the topic with your ped.
8 Coming Up Crawling
Biologically, babies are amazing. They have an instinct that keeps them close to mom, and their suckling influences her milk supply. Almost everything about newborn babies is designed for maximum bonding and maximum mealtime with mom.
That's why it's hard to understand that there are some doctors who don't believe that the "breast crawl" is a thing. But it is- every newborn baby has the ability to get him or herself over to the milk makers and latch on- all on their own. That's according to Breastcrawl.org, where researchers document the how and the why of the breast crawl. Plus, they offer info on the advantages of the breast crawl for fresh babies.
For moms who really want baby to latch correctly and efficiently from the beginning, letting nature take over might be the best way! But that doesn't mean your OB will be on board. There's a disappointing thread on What to Expect where moms talk about how their docs wouldn't "let" them attempt the breast crawl. One doctor even told a mama that babies "can't do it."
Thankfully, most mamas are told to nurse within the first hour of birth, so there’s time to get baby to the breast on his own if he chooses.
7 Birthing Do-Over
Among the somewhat confusing tricks to get babies to latch is the concept of "rebirthing." Although the technical term is connected to an attachment disorder treatment that wound up killing a little girl, that's not what we're talking about here!
Rather, "rebirthing" in the breastfeeding world has to do with mom and baby re-attaching to one another. Moms who have breastfed but had to stop, or those who are struggling with latch problems, often try this as a relaxing technique for them and the baby.
Moms essentially relax in a warm bath with baby, Kelly Mom explains. The baby should lie on mom's belly, and mom should talk to her and touch her. The baby might start to work her way up to the breast and latch, all on her own!
This process doesn't work with every baby, but some moms have found that it helps. It also takes the pressure off of breastfeeding attempts. However, doctors are likely not too keen on the idea since it's more about connection than technical "science."
That said, as long as mom has someone nearby to keep an eye on her and baby’s safety, there’s no harm in taking a warm mama-baby bath!
6 Positional Potential
If you've ever experienced a clogged milk duct while breastfeeding, you'll recognize this approach. Sometimes babies aren't able to completely clear every milk duct. The ducts or "tubes" then become clogged. It can hurt for mom, and it can lead to an infection that can impact milk supply.
Most of the time, moms can massage and pump the clog out. Baby nursing can help to break it up too, but sometimes unconventional positioning is needed. The same techniques moms use to relieve clogged ducts may also help babies get their latch right.
Side-lying to nurse the baby, or flipping him or her over, can put the breast in a different position so baby is more likely to get it right. However, we don't know of any doctors who recommend positioning tricks to get babies to latch. In general, lactation consultants and other hospital staff will recommend the "football" hold or a variation of that.
The problem is, some babies are just really picky about how they nurse. Moms of picky babies know that sometimes it takes precise positioning and even rituals before the baby will relax and begin to eat. Then again, if your doc has never breastfed, they may not recognize this as a true latch tactic.
5 Driven By Desperation
Like Kelly Mom advises, do not try to starve your baby so she'll be so desperate that she'll nurse. Babies- especially newborns- don't choose not to nurse. If baby is refusing to latch, there is likely an underlying problem you haven't discovered yet. That's why Kelly Mom recommends a calm and non-stressful approach to getting babies to latch. The first step is coaxing them to nurse when they're not so hungry that they think they're starving.
In general, they explain, a baby who "won't" nurse is a baby that actually "can't" nurse. Therefore, keeping baby full and happy is the best way to approach the latch.
And it's not just lactation consultants who will tell you this- no doctor will recommend waiting the baby out.
It's not true that "he'll nurse when he gets hungry enough," Kelly Mom notes, and anyone who says that needs a breastfeeding education.
Thankfully, there are a ton of legitimate ways to get baby [back] to the breast- ones that don't involve starving the poor children. And while I may disagree with physicians' approaches to many breastfeeding-related practices, I'm on their side with this one.
A hungry baby is not a happy baby, and an unhappy baby won’t want anything to do with your mean milk makers.
4 Manual Milk Methods
Plenty of moms have used this strategy to convince babies that breastfeeding is worth the work. The idea is that because nursing takes effort from the moment a baby latches, some babies will give up before the milk really starts flowing. Babies who don't nurse long enough don't get enough milk and might get frustrated. They may think there's nothing to eat, so move on to a bottle- which is way easier!
Therefore, many moms either pump or hand-express milk to get everything going beforehand. Hopefully, babies get a taste of the milk when they open their mouths to latch. Then, they'll latch more eagerly and keep the flow going. Plus, if mom has been pumping regularly, she may be able to keep pumping on one side and "trigger" subsequent letdowns. If your body responds to the pump's cycles, you can also gauge how much milk baby might be getting on the opposite breast.
However, doctors probably won't recommend this method because it's a whole lot of work. Also, most lactation consultants and pediatricians will tell you that a pump isn't as effective as a nursing baby. While it may be true in some cases, an inexperienced nurser may not be as efficient as a pump when mom's been plugged in for months already.
3 Supplemental Sips
There is no shortage of breastfeeding helps for moms with both latch and supply issues. One top trick lactation consultants like is the SNS.
A Supplemental Nursing System lets babies receive nutrition at the breast even if mom isn't making any milk.
Like the adoptive mama above, who is nursing her baby with the help of an SNS and bottled milk (no word on whether it's breast milk or formula), any mom can nurse.
In some cases, moms use an SNS to get babies to the breast and stimulate their own milk supply. In other cases, moms use an SNS at the breast to help bond with their babies. With how popular adoption, surrogacy, and same sex partnerships are, there are tons of reasons why moms will use an SNS.
However, some lactation consultants and doctors caution against using an SNS. The idea is that babies will recognize the small tube that "hides" right by mom's nipple. Then babies will use the tube as a straw to eat, rather than performing the work of latching and stimulating the breast. It's kind of a toss-up on this one, since every baby is different. Some babies will notice the tube and hate it, some won't notice and don't care, and still others recognize the straw for what it is.
2 Stage A Nurse-In
Although most ethical doctors support breastfeeding as much as possible, you might meet a few who don't really care. It seems more common with men and women who have never personally breastfed, but some doctors are judgy about nursing.
In the eyes of many medical professionals, "fed is best." But instead of the phrase meaning "feed the baby whatever you can so it doesn't starve," some doctors think it means "don't bother nursing, it doesn't matter."
If you are emotional and invested in breastfeeding, you're probably willing to do practically anything to be successful. Doctors sometimes see moms in the midst of the stress and absolute terror of new motherhood and try to calm them. Your doctor might take you aside and say, why not give up? Of course, there's nothing wrong with stopping breastfeeding if that's what you want. But for a doctor to ignore the importance of nursing for moms who really want to do it? That's messed up.
So if you plan to spend weeks working on your baby's latch, trying every technique out there, ignore any naysayers. Even if they happen to be your doctor. In the end, what matters most is that you feel good about your mothering, and if that means pulling out all the stops to be able to nurse, you do you!
1 Wet Nurse Nuances
Although times are changing, it wasn't that long ago when I searched for donor milk for my baby and was met with "only newborns need breast milk." And to this hospital, "newborn" meant "freshly delivered and not yet discharged from the hospital." It seems like medical professionals recognize the benefits of breast milk for vulnerable newborns. They just don't get that moms want breast milk for babies of all ages, and sometimes into toddlerhood.
So you might get the side-eye if you pursue donor milk for your baby. Worse, you'll probably face judgment if you find a fresher source of milk for your baby.
What I mean is wet nursing- where another lactating mama nurses your baby when you can't or when you're away.
Most doctors probably look at moms who share nursing duties like they have a third eye. But it's a very real occurrence for many moms- and it can even help with baby's latching problems.
An experienced nursing mom whose own baby has created a healthy milk supply can nurse your baby, too. And for a baby whose latch isn't that great, a full milk supply can be enough encouragement to get him to work harder at it. Although this concept makes the most sense when mom doesn't have enough milk, nursing at a different breast might help baby figure out the basics.