Keeping Baby On (Part 1): Breastfeeding Troubleshooting

Baby is a few months old now, and you’ve (finally) managed to establish a decent breast milk supply. You and baby are now more or less comfortable with each other on…and off the breast. Congrats, you’ve gotten through that first stage of breastfeeding and parenting! It may not have been easy. But perhaps, like me, you’ve also discovered that the road of breastfeeding is still quite bumpy. Some breastfeeding sessions just don’t go very well and you know it’s not a supply issue. So what could be the reason(s)?

From experience, here are 5 simple reasons why baby might pull off the breast suddenly during a breastfeeding session, and some quick solutions to help you keep baby on the breast:

Check the latch.BFingMomBabypic2shorthair
Make sure baby has a good ‘mouthful’ of breast tissue so that the nipple is far back in baby’s throat, and baby’s lips are turned out (think of fish lips). Otherwise baby may be sucking on just the areola and not getting much and so pulls off. Baby is very smart! Why work for milk when there doesn’t seem to be any there? A bad latch would also not be very comfortable for you. If you think the latch is not good, then gently detach baby from the breast (by inserting your pinky finger into baby’s mouth to break the suction) and then try putting baby on the breast again.

Baby needs a mini-break.
Let’s not forget—sucking can be tiring! Baby may simply need a little break. Stand up, turn around or go briefly to another room. Sometimes just a minute’s break or change of scenery is enough. Also a tiny break may give the breast a chance to fill up a little more in the interim. Some other ‘mini-break’ ideas: change the baby’s diaper or change the clothes, and then offer the breast again.

Change the position.

Sometimes a change in the breastfeeding position is all that’s needed to get baby to suck a few more minutes, and this may allow more milk to be pulled out of the different milk gland areas on the breast. Baby may also latch on better in a different position. Often when breastfeeding, I would use two different breastfeeding positions per side.

Another idea is to try a completely new position that you have not tried before…who knows, this could turn out to be your baby’s favorite! If you’ve tried all the conventional positions (e.g., Cross-Cradle Hold, Cradle Hold, Football Hold and Side-Lying Hold), invent one yourself or try this new position that I’ve used regularly with my own little one during the breastfeeding phase (see A New Breastfeeding Position: the “Bear Hug”).

Got gas?
Try to sit baby up and burp baby. Once a burp is out, a baby is usually happy to get back on the breast. This is especially the case for younger babies. When my little one was between 4-6 months, she would often have at least one burp when she finished one side (and multiple burps when she was younger!).

Check the temperature.
Check the temperature of the room. Is it too hot? What about baby? Know that often breastfeeding and holding baby can increase both your body temperatures (and may cause you and/or baby to sweat), so check baby’s clothes to make sure she’s not wearing too much. Baby could be feeling a bit hot and bothered!

If you’ve done this bit of troubleshooting, and these are not the reasons why baby is pulling off the breast, try not to worry too much. Baby may have really had enough breast milk to drink! As babies mature and grow, the length of time on the breast and of breastfeeding sessions in general usually decrease. Often this is because babies become much more efficient at sucking and may also need less once solids are introduced into the diet.

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