Wondering why your baby keeps unlatching but is still hungry and crying? Learn 5 reasons why and how to address each issue.
Unlatching after breastfeeding would be fine, if only your baby wasn’t doing it dozens of times in a typical feeding session. She’s constantly coming off the breast every few seconds, but then slurps right back on each time. To make it worse, she acts like she’s still hungry, even though she’s unlatching herself.
She also fusses and seems unsettled when she unlatches, even gulping and gasping for air. In fact, she cries when she pulls off, frustrated before trying to latch back on.
The constant latching and unlatching is wreaking havoc on your nipples. Having to re-latch her is testing your patience, and you’re getting pretty frustrated with breastfeeding.
You don’t want to give up, but you find yourself in tears every time you feed her.
When baby keeps unlatching but is still hungry
Many of us can get thrown off by all the constant unlatching. Perhaps your breastfed baby always seems hungry when she unlatches. She tugs at your nipples, or seems to cry repeatedly in frustration.
In an ideal world, you’d latch her once and relax into a comfortable position for a good stretch of time. What you don’t want is to feel on edge anticipating when or how many times she’ll unlatch during a feed.
I hear you, mama.
As always, the best place to look for solutions is always with your doctor or lactation consultant. Not only will she be able to observe how your baby nurses, she also knows your specific needs and circumstances.
Once you’ve done that, let’s take a look at a few reasons your baby is unlatching so often, and solutions you can try to turn things around:
1. Fast letdown
Does your milk seem to gush out all at once, especially in the beginning? This is pretty common for many moms, especially if you haven’t nursed or pumped in several hours.
You can imagine how an excess of milk can make for an uncomfortable and even frustrating feeding for your baby. She likely unlatches so she doesn’t have to drink all the milk that’s coming out at once.
If you suspect that a fast letdown could be culprit, try pumping a few minutes before feeding. This helps express the fore milk, which might not be filling her up as much as the hind milk would.
You can also try nursing on a recline and your baby on top of you. Work against gravity to prevent the milk from just gushing out. Let any excess milk she doesn’t swallow simply spill out the sides of her mouth. This way, she doesn’t feel like she’s gulping down too much milk.
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2. Slow flow
If a fast letdown isn’t the problem with your baby unlatching, perhaps a slow milk flow could be the issue. She could be tugging at your nipples in the hopes of getting more milk, especially if she’s particularly hungry.
One simple remedy is to switch sides. If she was fine nursing on one side but suddenly starts unlatching, see if she’ll stay put if you put her on the other side. Another option is to compress the top of your breast, as if you’re pushing the milk down toward the nipple.
Many parents point to gas as one of the biggest issue with unlatching. Your baby might need to burp, expel gas, or even poop, making for an uncomfortable nursing session.
Try burping her frequently throughout the feeding, not just toward the end. In fact, if she unlatches, use that as an opportunity to see if she’ll burp. Repeat when you switch sides, and of course after she’s done feeding.
Experiment with different burping positions, and do bicycle kicks and other leg exercises throughout the day to get her to fart as well. I also used gas drops and gripe water to help with gas issues, which seemed to help.
4. Stuffy nose
Try drinking a glass of water with your nose plugged and you can see how difficult it can be to breastfeed with a stuffy nose. If your baby is sick and can’t breathe easily through her nose, this could be making her want to unlatch to catch her breath.
To make breastfeeding easier:
- Feed her at an incline or somewhat upright so that any congestion and mucus she has moves downward.
- Use saline drops or a suction tool like the NoseFrida to clear her nose.
- Run a humidifier or vaporizer in the room.
5. Silent reflux
Consult with your baby’s pediatrician, especially if her behavior doesn’t seem to improve. Silent reflux can often affect the way babies nurse, including unlatching. Your pediatrician will be able to diagnose medical issues, including silent reflux, and offer medicine that can help.
If anything, reaching out will reassure you and give you peace of mind that you’re doing all that you can.
As if breastfeeding weren’t challenging enough, your baby keeps unlatching (even though she looks hungry for more). Knowing potential reasons can help you pinpoint solutions to turn things around.
For instance, gas and digestion issues can be making her unlatch over and over. A fast letdown might mean more milk gushing out than she can take, while a slow flow could be frustrating her. Congestion could make it hard for her to swallow, as can medical issues like silent reflux.
You can nurse her for a long stretch of time, and with only having to unlatch once—at the end of the session, of course.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When Your Baby Pulls Back to a Shallow Latch
- When Breastfeeding Hurts (Even with a Good Latch)
- Breastfeeding Secrets Every Mom Should Know
- When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier? Top Tips to Ease the Pain
- How to Breastfeed Twins: A Step-by-Step Guide
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