Why Won’t My Baby Latch? Cracking the Code

As a new mother, one of the most crucial things you will have to figure out is how to breastfeed your baby. Unfortunately, not all babies can latch on to the breast properly. This can be frustrating and even painful for both mother and baby. Rest assured that you are not alone, and many mothers face this issue. Before you panic, it’s essential to understand why your baby won’t latch and how to solve the problem.

What Does It Mean When A Baby Can’t Latch?

At its most basic, latch refers to how the baby’s mouth fits onto the mother’s nipple. A proper latch ensures that the baby is feeding well and getting enough milk to grow and thrive. When a baby can’t latch on correctly, it means that he or she cannot feed well, leading to inadequate milk intake and poor growth. This can lead to weight loss and developmental problems for the baby.

Reasons Why Your Baby Won’t Latch

1. Premature Birth

Babies born prematurely often have weak sucking reflexes, which can make it challenging for them to latch onto the breast properly. In addition, they may tire quickly during feeding as they have to work harder to feed. It’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure that your premature baby is getting the care and attention needed to feed adequately.

2. Tongue Tie

A tongue tie is a condition where the strip of tissue connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is too short or tight, making it challenging for the baby to latch. Without proper treatment, tongue tie can lead to weight loss, feeding problems, and delays in developmental milestones. Tongue tie can be corrected through a surgical or nonsurgical procedure, depending on the severity of the condition.

3. Nipple Confusion

Newborns may have difficulty understanding the difference between sucking on a breast and sucking on a bottle. If a baby has received a bottle before breastfeeding, they may find it difficult to latch onto the breast. This can cause the baby to become frustrated and refuse the breast. To avoid nipple confusion, you should wait at least four weeks after birth before offering a bottle to your baby.

4. Breast Engorgement

When your milk comes in, your breasts can become engorged, making it difficult for your baby to latch on. Engorgement can cause pain and discomfort, making it an uncomfortable experience for both mother and baby. The best way to manage breast engorgement is to use warm compresses and ice packs to reduce swelling, and pump some milk before feeding your baby.

5. Cleft Palate

A cleft palate is a congenital defect that occurs when the roof of the mouth does not form correctly. This can create a gap between the mouth and nose, making it challenging for a baby to form a seal and latch onto the breast. Cleft palate requires treatment, and a healthcare provider may recommend a specialized bottle or nipple that can help the baby feed more effectively.

Solutions for Helping Your Baby Latch

1. Positioning

One of the most important things to get right when breastfeeding is your position. You need to find a comfortable position that allows your baby to latch on correctly. There are several positions you can try, including the cradle hold, the football hold, and the cross-cradle hold. Experiment with different positions until you find the most comfortable one for you and your baby.

2. Skin-to-Skin Contact

Another way to encourage your baby to latch is through skin-to-skin contact. When the newborn touches your bare skin, it triggers important physiological and hormonal changes that help the baby feel calmer and more relaxed. Skin-to-skin contact also helps your baby to feel more comfortable and more likely to latch on to your breast.

3. Seek Help

If you are having difficulty getting your baby to latch, seek help from a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can provide you with the necessary guidance to get your baby latching correctly. They can also teach you how to position your baby for optimal feeding and help you deal with any other breastfeeding problems that may arise.

4. Use A Breast Pump

If your baby still can’t latch, you can pump your milk instead. A breast pump can help relieve engorgement and ensure that your baby gets the necessary nutrients through bottle-feeding.

5. Be Patient

Remember that breastfeeding takes practice, and it is a learning experience for both mother and baby. Be patient with the process and take the time to relax and enjoy the bonding experience.


In summary, there are several reasons why your baby won’t latch, but with proper positioning, patience, and seeking help when necessary, you can overcome the challenge. Remember that breastfeeding is a natural process and with the right support and guidance, you can enjoy a successful breastfeeding journey with your baby.

Most Common Questions on Why Babies Won’t Latch

  • What is a proper latch?
  • What is nipple confusion?
  • How can I help my premature baby latch on correctly?
  • What is tongue-tie, and how does it affect breastfeeding?
  • How can I manage breast engorgement?
  • What is a cleft palate, and how does it affect breastfeeding?


  • NHS. (2021). Breastfeeding: Positioning and attachment. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-positioning-attachment/
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-3552
  • La Leche League International. (2021). Engorgement. Retrieved from https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/engorgement/

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