By Wendy Wisner, IBCLC
Fan Question :
“My baby is three weeks old. I have struggled to get her to latch. She was born three weeks ago by c-section. I have been trying to protect my supply by pumping (as much as I can) but I can’t keep up with her and have to supplement with formula. Is it too late for her to learn how to latch? Will I ever make more milk? I hear about women stock piling in the freezer and I can’t even keep up with my newborn.”
Hi Mama. It sounds like you’ve had a rough start! You are absolutely doing the right thing by pumping to keep up your supply until your baby can latch. If you aren’t using a hospital grade pump, go out and get one. Almost all mothers find that they are able to pump more milk with a hospital grade pump. Even just renting one for a month or two can work wonders. Ameda, Medela, and Hygeia are three companies that make these pumps. You can call the companies to find out about local rentals (they are too expensive to purchase). Also make sure that your pump flange is fitting you correctly (here is a good explanation of how to know this). An ill-fitting flange can decrease the amount of milk that is produced. Finally, make sure that you are emptying your breasts frequently – the more frequently you empty them, the more milk you will make. Aiming for 10 pumps per 24 hours would be ideal, but 8 or 9 pumps per 24 hours is good too. Do your best, take the pumping day by day, and be gentle with yourself. It’s not an easy task to take care of a baby and pump. For more milk supply tips, I highly recommend the book (available in electronic form as well) Making More Milk, by Diana West and Linda Marasco. There is also great info in that book on herbs and foods suitable for increasing milk supply.
In answer to your question about latching, it is never too late! Babies are born with natural reflexes and instincts to breastfeed. It takes many months (and perhaps years) for these instincts to go away. Your baby wants to breastfeed!
This article has some detailed tips on how to tap into these instincts. But in a nutshell, try latching your baby when she is in a calm state, not too hungry, not too full. Strip her down to her diaper, and hold her skin-to-skin and belly-to-belly with you. In this state, where your bodies are touching, and she is smelling you and your milk, she is very likely to begin to look for the breast. She might bob her head around, searching. You can gently guide her, or let her do it herself. Do whatever feels right. And give it time. It could take three minutes or thirty minutes. As long as she is content, let her be there, and help her figure it out.
Even beyond these latching attempts, spend a lot of time skin-to-skin with her. Let her sleep on you, wake up on you. Ditch the pacifiers, if you are using them, and see if she will suckle at your breast for comfort. Comfort sucking is one of the first ways that non-latching babies come back to the breast. If you are using bottles to feed her, make sure you are using the slowest flow nipple, and try to find a wide-base one that requires your baby to open wide while she sucks. Keep the flow slow by holding the bottle horizontally, and give the baby lots of breaks while you bottle feed her. These tips will help make bottle feeding a bit more like breastfeeding so that your baby won’t begin to prefer the bottle.
If you need further help, call a lactation consultant (IBCLC) and set up a meeting! In-person help would be invaluable in a case like this!
Wendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys. In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding. She blogs at www.nursememama.com.