Why Is My Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly? + Tips From Certified Lactation Counselor

Majority of breastfeeding mothers don’t know what to do about their newborn baby latching and unlatching repeatedly while breastfeeding and the latching problems can feel really overwhelming. Sounds familiar? You need to remember that breastfeeding is a skill that you have to practice to get better at.

Why Is My Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly

Article By Shelby Jawer – postpartum doula & Certified Lactation Counselor

Babies need to be fed frequently and efficiently in order to gain weight and stay healthy, which leaves a lot of moms desperate for answers about correct latching without time to spare.

You’re not alone in feeling helpless, many new moms have been there.

It can be frustrating to feed your baby if they have problem with poor latching, and you may even feel scared that your little one is not getting enough food and nutrients.

In this article I’m going to share my best tips for getting proper latch, and what are the best breastfeeding positions.

Keep on reading to learn how to breastfeed your baby like a pro.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Reasons Why Baby Keeps Pulling Off Breast And Relatching

Your baby is latching and unlatching repeatedly, and the question is why? There are a whole host of reasons a baby may not stay latched during a nursing session1.

Depending on the reason there may be a various solutions to help your baby get a good latch.

1. Reflexes

Breastfeeding is a skill – for you and for baby! If your newborn is latching and unlatching repeatedly, they might just be practicing their brand new reflexes.

Babies have a rooting reflex that causes them to open their mouth, a suck reflex when something touches the roof of their mouth, and a swallow reflex to swallow the milk in their mouth. Newborns have to practice these to get the hang of them. Babies latch and unlatch while they are learning.

The best solution in this case is… patience and practice!

SOLUTION: To Deal With Reflexes Let Baby Latch To Practice

If your newborn is content while working on these skills, especially in the first few weeks of life, allow them the space to practice. They may need to latch and unlatch a few times to get your nipple in the right place in their mouth to trigger their suck and swallow reflexes.

Latching and nursing will soon become second nature, but at first might take some practice. This means that especially at the beginning your baby may have a shallow latch (and take only your nipple into their mouth). Let baby latch and unlatch as needed to get a deep latch in the early days.

If you are concerned, experiencing pain, or your baby seems to be upset while trying to nurse, reach out to your doctor or search for lactation consultants for support.

2. Gassiness

Gassiness, acid reflux and stomach discomfort are common problems among newborn babies whose bodies are learning how to eat and process food for the first time. Gas makes a baby uncomfortable and usually causes fussiness, and baby latching and unlatching repeatedly.

Nursing can sometimes contribute to gassiness, not because of the milk but due to swallowed air. If you suspect your baby is unlatching repeatedly due to discomfort from gas, there are many things you can do to help them pass it.

SOLUTION: Ways To Help Gassy Baby

Doing some gentle bicycle kicks or belly massage before a feeding session can help baby release any gas that might be in their system and causing them pain.

You also want to be sure that you’re taking regular breaks to burp your baby during a feeding. Switch sides from the nursing breast to the other one – this is a good opportunity to burp them, as is any other time they unlatch.

Try out different burping positions to see what is most comfortable for you and your baby.

If you’re still noticing gassiness making your baby squirming, trying some infant gas drops might help break up those air bubbles in their tummy.

3. Breastfeeding Position

Your baby may be in a position that feels uncomfortable or unstable to them, causing them to unlatch from the breast.

They may not be close enough to your body, have full use of their hands, or may just have a positional preference due to their in-utero positioning.

SOLUTION: Get Into A Comfortable Position

Make sure your baby has their hands free and near their face as babies use their hands as they feed.

You also want to check that your baby’s ears, shoulders, and hips are lined up straight (their head isn’t turned sharply in one direction) which allows baby’s mouth to fully open and them to successfully latch. There should be no gaps between you and your baby.

Bring the baby to your breast and make sure they feel secure and stable with baby’s head and all parts of their body supported.

I also recommend you to try different breastfeeding positions – different babies prefer different holds!

4. Fast Let Down

If your milk flow is quick and forceful, especially at the beginning of a nursing session, you might have a fast letdown. The quick flow of milk can overwhelm your newborn and cause them to unlatch in order to take a break.

How quickly your milk lets down is not something you can change. You can’t control having high milk flow.

A fast letdown is a common problem and can occur more often if you have a high supply, too much milk, or if the breast is very full because you haven’t nursed or pumped in a while.

SOLUTION: What To Do About Fast Milk Flow

One way to help your baby deal with your fast letdown is to express milk for a minute or two before your baby latches onto the breast.

You can hand express it, use a manual breast pump, or just allow your excess milk to collect into a cup or bottle until the flow slows down. Your baby will be better able to handle your milk once the initial let down reflex has passed.

You can also try nursing in a laid back position to allow gravity to slow down the flow of your milk. Your baby will be less overwhelmed, gulp less, and be able to stay latched better in this position.

5. Slow Milk Flow

Sometimes the opposite can be true and your milk can actually be flowing too slowly, causing your baby to become frustrated and unlatch. This can even be the case if the issue is only happening on one breast but not the other.

If baby seems to be frustrated by low milk flow on one side, you can always try switching to the other breast and then coming back to the first side to see if that helps.

Slow milk flow isn’t something you can control and doesn’t mean that your supply is insufficient.

SOLUTION: Get Milk Flowing Faster

Breast compressions can help get more milk to your baby faster. Gently compress from the top of your breast down toward the nipple while the baby is sucking and then pause while your baby stops to swallow.

These compressions should not hurt and should feel similar to hand expressing milk. This can help with slow letdown and make the milk flow more quickly through the breast – to keep baby from becoming frustrated.

If you’re dealing with slow flow, it’s a good idea to look for a breastfeeding consultation to learn how to do it properly.

Best Nursing Positions To Fix Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly

6. Teething

Teething can cause your baby’s mouth and gums to feel sore. The pain from teething can cause their latch to change while baby feeds and for some babies it might feel too painful to stay latched2.

Some teething babies want to nurse more, while others nurse less. You can usually tell if your baby is teething by looking for raised red bumps on their gums with the new white teeth nearly visible through.

SOLUTION: How To Get Through Teething

Thankfully, teething pain is usually short-lived, only lasting a few days per tooth.

Giving your baby a cold breast milk washcloth or teether toy to chew on prior to nursing can help soothe sore gum tissues before attempting to latch them.

You can also talk with your pediatrician about over-the-counter infant pain relievers if your baby is having a very difficult time eating or you struggle to get baby latching.

7. Low Milk Supply

If your baby seems hungry soon after a feeding session, is frustrated at the breast, and isn’t gaining weight as they should be, you may have a low supply of milk.

Just because your milk supply is low doesn’t mean it can’t be increased, but you do need to make sure you’re following your baby’s cues and guidance from your pediatrician to make sure baby is getting enough to eat.

SOLUTION: Increase Your Milk Supply

The best way to increase your milk supply is frequent nursing or pumping (find out what’s the best breast pump for low breastmilk supply).

Stimulation and milk removal is a signal to your body that more milk is needed. This kicks your hormones into gear producing more milk to meet the demand of your baby.

Breast compressions, frequent nursing, staying hydrated, eating enough calories, and skin to skin contact with your baby can all help build your milk supply up if you’re not producing enough.

You may also want to try some of the lactation teas – the best ones can boost your milk production and also help you to relax (stress is one of the causes of lower breastmilk supply).

8. Distractions

As your baby grows and becomes increasingly aware of the world around them, they are more likely to become distracted at the breast.

This can be frustrating as they repeatedly latch and unlatch, but it’s also a sign that your baby is growing and developing mentally.

If your baby is popping off the breast at every sound, movement, or passerby, you might be dealing with a distracted nurser.

SOLUTION: Nursing Without Distractions

Your easily distracted baby might need a quieter and less stimulating environment to nurse once they reach this stage. Try nursing in a quiet room without TV, siblings, or bright lights.

You can also try attaching a stroller toy or teether to your shirt for baby to play with while they eat. This might hold their attention toward the breast for long enough that they can finish their feed without unlatching and turning around.

9. Growth Spurts

Another common reason for latching and unlatching repeatedly is period of growth spurts – your baby may be more fussy, cranky and cry more than usual. It’s normal that the way your little one feeds at the breast can be affected by the developmental milestones. During this time your baby’s sleep may be disturbed and they may want to nurse more (even though they may be latching and unlatching repeatedly and even bite your nipples!).

SOLUTION: How To Deal With Growth Spurts

Be prepared and know what to expect when your little one is reaching another developmental milestone. Because their attention may be diverted during nursing, try breastfeeding in a place that is free from distractors. A good solution may to try breastfeeding in dark room.

10. Sick Baby

In many cases the reasons for baby latching and unlatching repeatedly is sickness. If your little one has nasal congestion, it may be difficult for them to breathe during nursing and when they try to swallow.

When baby has stuffy nose, they can latch on and off and cry, even when they are hungry.

SOLUTION: How To Nurse A Sick Baby

Consult with your pediatrician who will most likely recommend putting 2-3 nasal saline drops drops in baby’s nose right before breastfeeding. It will help to clear your little one’s stuffy nose and allow them to breathe more easily while feeding.

Why Baby Keeps Pulling Off Breast And Relatching

Best Nursing Positions To Fix Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly

If your baby is fussing at the breast or keeps unlatching and crying, there are a few things you can check about their position to make sure they’re comfortable and able to freely latch and nurse.

Stabilize your baby’s feet against your body or use a nursing pillow so they feel steady and secure and can achieve a deep latch.

Make sure that your baby’s ears, shoulders, and hips are lined up so they can fully open their mouth and latch evenly onto the breast.

And finally, check to be sure there are no gaps between your body and your baby’s body. You want your baby to be fully flush with your body so that they can latch deeply and efficiently.

Here are some different nursing positions that you may want to try:

  • Cradle hold
  • Cross cradle hold
  • Football hold
  • More upright position (especially is your little one is experiencing gas pain)

Other Things You Can Do To Help Your Baby Stay Latched On

Here are a few more tips to make your breastfeeding journey easier:

  • Have a professional check the baby for a tongue tie or lip tie
  • Manage your low supply or oversupply
  • Burp your baby often
  • If you have a flat or inverted nipple, you can use a nipple shield or get help from a lactation consultant
  • Consult a doctor or lactation consultant/specialist

Baby Latching And Unlatching Repeatedly – FAQ

Here are some quick answers to some common questions many mothers have while trying to nurse their newborn babies.

Why Is My Baby Not Latching For Colostrum?

Brand new babies are still learning how to latch and nurse. You can express a small amount of colostrum onto the nipple in order to entice your baby to latch.

Be patient, they will learn and improve quickly over the first few weeks.

Baby Acts Hungry But Won’t Latch On – What To Do?

If it hasn’t been long since their last feeding, baby may just be wanting comfort. Try giving a pacifier or holding them skin to skin.

A sick baby may also have trouble nursing due to congestion. Try to keep baby upright while feeding to help if they have a stuffy nose.

My Newborn Baby Won’t Stay Latched On And Cries – What Can I Do?

Newborns who unlatch and cry may be experiencing gas pain. Tummy massage, bicycle legs, and infant gas drops may help resolve their gas issues.

Why Does My Baby Get Frantic While Breastfeeding?

A fast milk flow may make baby get frantic and overwhelmed because there is too much milk for them to swallow.

Unlatch your baby and catch your letdown in a cup or burp cloth before attempting to latch them once the flow slows down.

Time At The Breast – What Is Normal?

In general, an exclusively breastfed baby should nurse between 8-12 times in a 24-hour period3. This comes out to be about every 2-3 hours.

There is no set “best” amount of time to nurse in one session. Some babies may stay on a breast for 10 minutes while others may stay for 25 minutes or more.

The best way to gauge whether your baby is nursing long enough is if they seem content after feedings and are gaining weight on their curve, they’re getting enough milk.

If your baby does not seem content after feeds, is nursing fewer than 8 or more than 14 times in a 24-hour period, is not gaining weight, or you have any other concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Article By Shelby Jawer

Shelby Jawer is a mom, postpartum doula and Certified Lactation Counselor (certified by the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice). She also spent the past decade teaching in public schools. Her work as doula and lactation counselor has allowed her to connect with new parents and provide them evidence-based knowledge combined with the wisdom only experience can offer.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.





About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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