What should I do if my baby’s latch feels like a wrathful snapping turtle, and how do I know if they’re getting enough milk?

According to Melissa Cole, M.S., I.B.C.L.C., R.L.C., and founder of Portland’s Luna Lactation & Wellness, “Feeding a snapping turtle, and a wrathful, hangry one at that, is no joke — while there may be a little tenderness in the early days of breast/chest feeding, true pain is a sign that something is not right.

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“If your human baby feels more like a snapping turtle, barracuda, or chompy Pac-Man baby, then please contact an experienced IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) ASAP. Your baby should not be biting the nipple that feeds them, and when they are, it is a sign that something needs more support. Pain can be caused by suboptimal latch and positioning, oral anatomical or functional issues, or other parent/infant issues,” Cole says.

So, how can you be assured your baby is actually taking in milk and not just taking up residence on your boob like a 10-pound barnacle?

“By watching for input, output and growth,” Cole explains. “Input means feeds are frequent and active; usually about eight or more feeds in 24 hours for newborns, where baby is active and not just sleepily latched. Output means pees and poops; usually we look for at least five to eight wet diapers and one to three [or more] bowel movements for newborns within 24 hours. Growth means that your baby continues to gain weight appropriately. While there may be some initial weight loss, we look for back to birth weight around day seven to 10 of life, and from there about 1/2 to 1 ounce (per) day gain for the first several months. There are variables when it comes to input, output, and growth, so make sure to contact your care provider and IBCLC if you have any concerns about whether your baby is getting enough milk.” For more IBCLC resources, contact the Mother & Child Education Center.

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Kat Merck
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