Help! Baby Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly While Nursing

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How frustrating is it when you have plenty of milk supply, but your baby won’t stay latched on and cries? Learn the reasons why your baby is latching and unlatching while nursing and what you can do to help keep your baby focused while nursing.

When you see a baby latching, unlatching, and crying while nursing even though she is hungry, it breaks your heart.

The baby, who has always happily come to your breast for food and comfort, now won’t stay latched on and cries!

Baby Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly While Nursing - baby feeding at the breast

When your baby does this, you start worrying about your milk supply and the health of your baby. Also, when a baby suddenly pulls their head off while nursing, you may feel the painful bite on the nipple.

There are several reasons your baby is latching and unlatching or popping on and off while breastfeeding. Your baby may be sick/congested, gassy, teething, distracted, or have a tongue tie or lip tie. Also, a fast or slow letdown can cause a baby to latch and unlatch repeatedly. While there is no universal solution to this problem, if you figure out the reason, it will be easy for you to correct.

You will be happy to know that this behavior of a baby is normal and short-lived; almost all babies go through it once in their breastfeeding journey.

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Reasons Why your Baby Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly While Nursing

Before we go into details, latching and unlatching while nursing has nothing to do with your baby learning to latch in the first few days of breastfeeding or babies who won’t latch at all.

Now that’s clear, here are the reasons why your baby won’t stay latched on while nursing.

Too Much Milk

The most common reason for baby latching, unlatching, and getting frustrated while nursing is either too fast or too slow milk supply.

Baby Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly While Nursing

To find out the reason for your baby’s behavior at the breast, you need to pay attention to when your baby won’t stay latched on and cries.

If your baby is latching and unlatching in the morning, it could be that your engorged breast releases too much milk so quickly that your baby cannot handle it.

If your baby latching and unlatching while nursing for this reason, you may find your baby starting with a deep latch and then slipping back to a shallow latch.

The Solution for Fast Milk Flow         

If you have a fast milk supply or over-active letdown, it may make your baby drink milk too fast and choke. They latch and unlatch repeatedly while nursing as they can’t keep up with the flow.

Here is what you can do to make your milk supply more manageable for your baby.

  • Pump some of the milk before feeding or express milk by hand and once the first let-down passes, put your baby back to the breast.
  • Feed your baby in a laid-back position.  Gravity will do its trick to slow down your milk supply.
  • Take your baby off the breast when you have a letdown. Catch the excess milk leak onto a towel. Once let-down slows, offer the breast again.

In addition, if you are producing more milk and your breasts are engorged, you may want to pump out some breast milk before you offer the breast to your baby. This will help the baby to latch onto your breast properly.

Also, if you are making more milk and your breast feels heavier and engored, you want to support your breast with the good quality nursing bra to avoid strain on your back.

Here are a few great nursing camis and nursing bras that will help you take pressure off your chest and make it easy to nurse your baby.

Too Slow Milk

If you find your baby latching, unlatching, and crying in the evenings, it could be that your milk flow is too slow that the baby is getting frustrated at the breast.

If your baby is doing this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not making enough milk. It is just that your baby is not getting the amount of milk she wants at that moment.

There are several reasons why you have a slow milk supply

  • Most babies fuss while nursing during the evening as your milk supply is low in volume but higher in fat at night. Frequent nursing and switching from breast to breast may satisfy your baby.
  • If you pump too close to your baby’s next meal, your baby may not have enough. So, if you are pumping to boost your milk supply, make sure you pump after you finish feeding your baby.
  • If you are a working mom and your baby is bottle-fed, your baby may find your milk supply too slow compared to the bottle and start latching and unlatching in the hope of adjusting milk flow.
  • You truly have a low milk supply.

The Solution for Slow Milk Flow

Baby latching, unlatching, and getting frustrated because of slow milk flow or delayed let-down can be tackled using the following tips.  

  • Hand expresses or pump your breast before feeding to stimulate the let-down. Once you see the flow, put your baby to your breast.
  • Massaging your breast while your baby is nursing to stimulate your milk flow.
  • Use a warm towel or compress for a few minutes before feeding to stimulate letdown.
  • If you see your baby about to unlatch, try breast compressions. It will help your milk slow and keep your baby interested in feeding.
  • If you think your milk supply is truly low, you may want to start taking supplements or postnatal vitamins specifically formulated to increase your milk supply.

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Growth Spurts

You may find your baby latching and unlatching reputedly during a growth spurt. They go through growth spurts during the first year of their life.

And during growth spurts, you will change behavior like the baby wanting to feed more, to fuss, crying, to bite your nipple, latching and unlatching repeatedly while nursing, and may not sleep.

You can expect growth spurts in babies around 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3, 6, and 9 months. My both boys were super fussy at the breast during their growth spurts.

The Solution for Growth Spurt

During growth spurts, all you need to do is feed them whenever they want. Even if it is 15 minutes after your last feeding session, feed them.

Initially, you may not have enough milk supply for this sudden increase in demand, but your breast will keep up with demand in a day or so.

I know, it gets tiring for mom (been there!). So, don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet.

Related Reading: How much Water should Breastfeeding Mom Drink?

Developmental Milestone

Just like growth spurts in babies, developmental milestones can also affect how a baby feeds at the breast.

Some babies get more distracted while feeding, while others want to nurse more than usual. You can also find your baby fusing and crying more than usual while breastfeeding.

Once your baby starts recognizing the surroundings around her, she will get distracted easily by a little bit of noise from dad or siblings or dog.

The solution

If you find your baby curious and too distracted by her surrounding, feed the baby in a quiet and dark room.

Another solution that worked for me was wearing a nursing necklace for mom. A nursing necklace is a necklace made from food-grade silicone or wood and worn by the mom to give the baby something to fiddle and twiddle while breastfeeding.

It comes in different colors and shapes of beads to keep your baby occupied while nursing.

A nursing necklace for a distracted baby not only keeps her occupied while nursing but also can be a great sensory activity for your baby.

Teething Baby

A teething baby is in pain because of their sore gum. The teething baby may want to feed more or latch and unlatch in an attempt to relieve pain in their gum.

During teething, you may find your baby fussy and clingy than usual, and it can affect their behavior at the breast.

The Solution for a teething baby

If you think your baby is teething, give them a teether or something cold to chew on before feeding. I will help numb their gum, and that may stop them from latching and unlatching while nursing.

Another solution is offering them a non-toxic teething necklace worn by mom to chew on while they are cuddling you.

When babies are in pain, they naturally come to you more than usual. While they are cuddling, you can offer a teething necklace to chew on and relieve the pain in their tender gum.

You can also offer them a teething necklace to chew on when they unlatch while nursing to save yourself from baby chewing on your nipple (ouch!).

 You can also make breastmilk popsicles for teething relief. It will serve two purposes: first, it will help numb their aching gum, and breast milk popsicle is nutritious.

Rather than chewing on teething toys, they will use breast milk to satisfy their hunger a bit if they are not latching on.

Sick Baby

The sick baby also behaves differently at the breast. Especially when your baby has a stuffy nose, she is more likely to latch and unlatch while nursing.

Nasal congestion in babies makes it hard for them to breathe while nursing. They unlatch to breathe from their mouth.

The Solution

If you find your baby latching and unlatching repeatedly because of nasal congestion, put 1-2 drops of nasal saline in her nose right before feeding.

It will help clear up the stuffy nose so they can breathe while feeding. You can also keep your cold mist humidifier on when you are feeding your baby.

Gassiness in Baby

Baby Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly While Nursing
Photo by Aikomo Opeyemi on Unsplash

Sometimes, burping is all it takes to stop the baby from latching and unlatching repeatedly while nursing. If you have a fast let-down or too much milk, your baby will gulp lots of air while nursing.

A gassy baby is a fussy baby. Trapped air can cause stomachache and make the baby uncomfortable while nursing.

The Solution for gassiness

Burp them in between and after feeding. Frequent burping during feeding will ease their gas pain and keep them comfortable at the breast.

Tummy exercise or gas drops will help relieve gas pain in infants. I have written an article about a baby screaming in pain from gas. Check it out to find out effective remedies to relieve gas pain in babies.

Check out this video to learn different massaging techniques to relieve gas pain in infants.

Related read: Why Baby’s Gas Smells like Rotten Egg or Sulfur?

Baby has Reflux

Reflux in babies can also make babies uncomfortable at the breast and cause popping on and off while nursing.

Babies with silent reflux usually won’t stay latched on and cry because of the pain associated with feeding. If your baby spits up clear liquid after nursing, it is usually a sign of acid reflux.

The Solution for Baby Reflux

You need to see your pediatrician if you think your child has reflux. But you can start with the following suggestion during feeding to see if it helps.

  • Feed your baby in an upright position – Try a breastfeeding position that keeps your baby fairly upright during feeding.
  • Offer them small frequent feeding
  • Keep your baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding
lose weight while breastfeeding
Lose Weight NOT Milk Supply While Breastfeeding

One Breast making less Milk than Other

Sometimes, babies prefer one breast over another because of the difference in milk flow between the two.

Every mother has one slacker boob, and it may make the baby impatient, leading to popping on and off while nursing.

The Solution for Slacker boob

You may want to try adding a pumping session after feeding your baby from your slacker boob to build up the milk supply of the affected breast.

Also, massaging your breast while your baby is feeding will help keep the milk flowing.

To learn more about fixing milk supply in your slacker boob, read this article, Is it Possible for one breast to dry up while breastfeeding?

Comfort Nursing

Sometimes, the baby comes to the breast for comfort rather than nutrition. If your baby comes to your breast for comfort nursing, she wants to suck but doesn’t want milk.

So, whenever she gets milk in her mouth, she unlatches it. And when you offer nipple again, she will take it and suck at it again.

A baby who is latching and unlatching repeatedly in this situation wants to suck at the breast for comfort only, and getting milk in the mouth frustrates her.

The moms with an oversupply of milk see their babies popping on and off while nursing. With oversupply, every time a baby sucks at the breast for comfort or gets milk in their mouth, it makes them frustrated.

The Solution

If you think you have an oversupply of milk, try feeding your baby in the laid-back position and let gravity help your milk supply.

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What can you do to Prevent the baby from popping on and off the breast or Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly?

Usually, once you find out the reason for your baby’s behavior, it is easy to fix the issue with the suggestion above.

If you have attempted all the possibilities and your baby is still popping on and off the breast while nursing or popping off the breast and cries,  you might want to check your breastfeeding position.

Sometimes, trying a new breastfeeding position will stop them from latching and unlatching at the breast. Here are several positions to try

Cradle Hold

The cradle hold is the most popular breastfeeding potion. In this position, you support the baby with the arm on the same side as the nursing breast.

Sit up straight in a nursing chair, cradle your baby in an arm, with your baby’s head resting comfortably on your elbow while the baby faces your breast.

Use a nursing pillow for extra support.

Cross-Cradle Hold

If you are breastfeeding a newborn, this is the best position. Sit up straight in a nursing chair.

Bring baby tummy to tummy and hold the baby in the left arm for feeding them on the right breast.

Support the back of the baby’s head with your hand. And support your breast with your other hand.

Football hold

This is my most comfortable position for breastfeeding. Hold your baby by tucking her legs under your arm, so your hand supports the baby’s body and head like your nursing breast.

Support your breast with another open hand.

Side Laying

Lie on your side with the baby facing toward your breast. Support the baby with one and use the other hand to hold the breast and help the baby latch.

This position is excellent for nighttime feeding. However, it is important to place the baby back in their crib or bassinet once they are done feeding.

This position is a suffocation hazard for the baby.

Here is a video of different breastfeeding positions.

Another reason your baby latching and unlatching could be the anatomy of your nipple.

Sometimes, a flat nipple or inverted nipple makes it hard to get a good latch. If your newborn is having a latching issue, get your nipple checked.


Why Newborn baby won’t stay Latched on and Cry?

There could be several reasons your newborn baby won’t stay latched on and cry.

  • You have a fast letdown or fast milk flow that the baby cannot handle. In this situation, pump first before you latch on to your baby. This will help manage your breast milk flow.
  • A flat nipple can make the baby frustrated with the breast. So, pump your breast first before you latch on to your baby. Suction from the pump will help protrude your nipple. Check out the tips and tricks to breastfeed your baby with a flat nipple.
  • Your baby is gassy. The gassy baby usually squirms and cries when they are feeding. Too much air gulping while breastfeeding makes them uncomfortable at the breast and causes them to unlatch. In this case, burn them frequently while feeding and give them tummy massage regularly to relives gas. Check out the tips to relieve gas pain in a baby here.

Why is the baby not latching for Colostrum?

The possible reason why your baby is not latching for Colostrum could be that she is still learning to latch on.

Several babies take a few weeks to learn. So be patient and offer your breast and help her learn.

Also, express your Colostrum on your breast to lure your baby when they first latch on.

And then keep your breast massaging to help flow the Colostrum and keep them sucking and swallowing.

Why is my baby push away while latching?

The baby may push away while latching if you have a fast letdown. When babies cannot handle the milk flow, they will push away or pull away.

The baby also pushes the beast away if you try to latch them by pushing their heads. They don’t feel good if you are holding back their head.

Hold their neck and shoulder rather than the back of their head to make them feel secure and supported.

Baby Latching and Unlatching Repeatedly While Nursing: Conclusion

Here you go, mamas! You have all the possible reasons why your baby latching and unlatching repeatedly while nursing.  

Finding out the reason is the biggest step in resolving this issue. I hope the tips highlighted in this article help you go back to your normal breastfeeding routine.

If you find your baby’s behavior at the breast affecting him in any way, take help from a lactation consultant or your doctor.

Lactation consultants are a great help in resolving any issue associated with breastfeeding.

On a side note, if you are looking to lose your mommy pooch with an evidence-based exercise program, check out my review on MUTU System and how it helped me heal my diastasis recti.

Good Luck Mama!

Pin this Infographic to your baby board!

how to stop baby from latching and unlatching infographics

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