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Baby Doesn't Latch on One Side

Baby not latching on one side - maybe this sounds familiar to something you are going through?

We received this email from a customer:

"I have a 4 week old who is a great breastfeeder, however when it comes to feeding on the right breast no matter what I do I cannot get him to latch correctly. I have tried doing the normal latching, a nipple cover, different positions, expressing some milk before feeding etc, nothing works and the pain that goes with it is the worst I have ever felt.  After feeding, the breast continues to throb in pain until the next feed. However when he feeds on my other breast he is able to latch by himself,  there is no pain and is easy. I don't want to stop breastfeeding my son, but I don't know how much more pain I can take."

So we asked our Lactation Consultant Barbara for some advice.

Well done on breastfeeding thus far. There are a lot of questions in my mind as to what could be happening here. Such as

  • is this a new problem or have you had the problem for four weeks?
  • Is there any nipple trauma/damage?
  • Is it nipple pain or breast pain or both?
  • What makes you say it is a latching problem?

Assuming it is a latch on problem, you have been doing the right things to correct this.

Is this nipple a different shape to the other which makes latching more difficult? With more challenging nipple shapes sometimes you need to go right back to the step by step basics of latching that you were originally taught. It maybe helpful would be to see a Lactation Consultant or La Leche League counselor for help. Check with your midwife as to how you can access this help in your area.

If there is trauma to the nipple sometimes bacteria can get in causing shooting pains in the breast. Consider seeing your GP.

Does your nipple look white or a different shape after feeding? This could mean the baby is compressing the nipple against the roof of the mouth and cutting off the blood supply. This causes intense pain when the blood flows back into the nipple. Warm compresses to the nipple after feeding with sooth the pain until the latch can be corrected. If there is nipple damage using purelan or lansinoh ointment will help the healing while also correcting the latch.

Ensure there are no painful lumps in the breast as mastitis, an abscess or a milk filled cyst can cause deep breast pain.

Check your posture when feeding. Back and shoulder pain can send referred pain through the breast. A warm pack between the shoulders can help as well as good support to your back and a pillow on your lap to support baby's weight.

Could you have injured your back or strained a muscle? This would also cause referred breast pain. Again good support as above remembering to lean back into a chair and not lean over baby will help and placing your feet on a footstool to bring your knees up higher than your hips.

Consider a yeast infection. This can cause stabbing or burning pain sometimes in just one breast. If the thrush is on the nipple it will be burning, itching and red. Talk to your midwife or doctor for diagnoses and treatment.

I hope the above will help you decide on the cause and solution of the problem. As a last resort consider expressing from the right breast or weaning from the right breast continuing to feed from the left rather than stopping breastfeeding completely. Hopefully these options won't be necessary.

Barbara Brinsdon, Lactation Consultant. IBCLC.

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