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Ineffective Latch-On or Sucking

A baby must be able to effectively remove milk from the breast during breastfeeding if he/she is to obtain enough milk to gain weight and "tell" the breasts to increase or maintain milk production. Therefore, ineffective milk removal can result in poor weight gain due to inadequate intake of milk by the baby, which is then followed by a drop in the amount of milk being produced for the baby.

A baby's ability to suck and remove milk may be affected in different ways. Prematurity, labor and delivery medication, and conditions such as Down syndrome, may initially make it difficult for a baby's central nervous system to remain alert or coordinate suck-swallow-breathe actions. Acute health conditions, such as jaundice or infection and chronic conditions, such as cardiac defects may also influence a baby's level of alertness or the ability to suck. A "mechanical" issue, such as tongue-tie or a cleft lip or palate might directly interfere with a baby's ability to use the structures in the mouth for effective sucking.

Sometimes, the cause is obvious, but often it is not. However, it is important to recognize the signs that a baby is unable to effectively remove milk during breastfeeding so that steps can be taken to remedy any problem. Signs of ineffective sucking may include the following:

The baby who consistently:

The mother who:

How you can help with the breastfeeding process:

When a difficulty with latch-on or sucking persists beyond the first several days after birth, it can be discouraging. Although most babies will learn to breastfeed effectively if given time, it is important to work with the baby's physician and a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) if a baby has difficulty sucking. Until the issue resolves there are several things you can do to help breastfeeding progress while you make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. Always consult your baby's physician for more information.

Illustration of breastfeeding, massage technique
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Other ways to help the baby with ineffective sucking:

Other hints for the baby include the following:

Illustration demonstrating the use of a breast pump
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