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Why Is My Baby Pulling On & Off the Nipple During Breastfeeding?

author image Kathryn Walsh
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Why Is My Baby Pulling On & Off the Nipple During Breastfeeding?
Woman breastfeeding her baby outside. Photo Credit: DNF-Style/iStock/Getty Images

Learning to understand your baby’s cues can take anywhere from days to months. When your baby pulls away from your nipple during breastfeeding, it can mean a variety of things. Don’t get worried or discouraged when this happens. As long as he’s steadily gaining weight and seems to be satisfied at the end of each feeding, he’s probably getting enough milk.

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Milk Flow Too Slow

If your milk is flowing too slowly, your baby may get frustrated by the lack of milk and pull off the nipple in the hopes that there will be more milk when she latches back on. Massage your breasts to try to get more milk flowing. A newborn will generally fall asleep rather than pull away when the milk is coming in too slowly, so if the baby is a few weeks old this is probably not the cause for her pulling away.

Milk Flow Too Fast

If your milk is coming too fast, the baby may be overwhelmed and will pull away to try to take a break. You’ll be able to tell this is the case if milk seems to spray or squirt whenever the baby moves away from the nipple. Hold the baby upright rather than lying down, and lean your body back so his throat is higher than your breast. He’ll be able to control the flow much better this way. You may also try switching him to your other breast to see if the flow if slower there.

Bad Latch

Your baby’s mouth must be positioned correctly on your nipple in order to draw milk into her mouth. If this attachment, or latch, isn’t correct, she may pull away and try again. Help your baby latch correctly by opening her mouth with one finger and putting your nipple into her mouth while you pull her close to you. Her lips should be in a pout rather than pulled back over her gums. She may also have her nose pressed too tightly against your breast to breathe comfortably. Push down on your breast near her nose to give her more air.

Baby's Full

As your baby starts to get full, he may pull away only to decide that he would like a bit more milk after all. If this is the case, it should only happen toward the end of a feeding, after he’s been eating for at least 15 minutes. In this case, let the baby show you when he’s truly through eating. Help him latch back onto the breast to see if he continues eating. If he pulls away again and seems content and calm, consider the feeding done and move on to burping him.

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