Help! My Baby Won’t Nurse

One of the most frustrating situations for a new mother is dealing with a newborn baby who does not seem to want to breastfeed, or does not appear to know what to do when offered the breast. For various reasons, the baby seems unable latch on or is resistant to latching on and nursing, or falls asleep without nursing.

As a new mother, you may feel that your baby doesn’t like breastfeeding, or that because of how your baby is acting, perhaps breastfeeding is not right for the two of you. Don’t despair! There are several practical solutions to help resolve the situation.

Sometimes these issues resolve on their own with patience and time, while other times it may be best to intervene on your baby’s behalf. If, after the first 12-24 hours your baby is still not feeding, it’s time to step in. Hand-express or pump as much colostrum as possible and offer it to your baby with a small spoon, eyedropper or clean fingertip to get used to the taste.

Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most successful ways to encourage suckling. Dress your baby in just a diaper and hold her against your bare breasts. Make sure to cover you and your baby with a blanket to allow cuddling without getting chilled. Becoming comfortable and intimate with each other will encourage baby to begin feeding when she wakes.

Being born is hard work! If your baby falls asleep after birth, he may just be tired, and often will sleep for several hours, especially if you were exposed to medications during childbirth. Often these medications make it difficult for your baby to latch on or stay latched on. Let him take a nap, and take this time to get some rest for yourself as well. Waiting until your baby wakes up naturally may make the difference between a successful feeding and a stressful one.

Deter nipple confusion by not offering your baby anything other than your breast to eliminate future nursing problems. Babies can develop a preference for bottles and pacifiers — so avoid their use to help your baby develop a preference for your nipples instead. Getting used to the size and shape of your nipples will also help your baby develop a good latching technique and make reluctant feeders more likely to suckle.

While it can be stressful, remember that you need a lot of rest, good nutrition and plenty of fluids to be able to care for your baby. When your baby begins to nurse well, it will be rewarding for both of you.


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