10 Breastfeeding Warning Signs

Are you wondering what signs to look out for or what may be early warning signs to seek more help? Read on for 10 early warning signs to keep in mind.

10 Breastfeeding Warning Signs

Does this sound familiar?

You have just had your sweet babe laid on your chest. You requested immediate skin-to-skin after birthing your baby and now your sweet, squirmy, new baby is laying right there. This moment can feel overwhelming for a million reasons. 

You may feel elated, exhausted, scared, and everything and anything in between. The whole gambit of emotions is normal and 100% valid in this space. If you are birthing in a hospital, the room may go from a whole team of people to one nurse or aide and your partner. It can feel suddenly very quiet after the rush of your birth. The thought "NOW WHAT?" may come up loud and clear. 

The early hours of breastfeeding

You have read all the things, and you have taken a breastfeeding class, but now the reality is upon you. There is that, "now, what?" thought again. Are they just going to let you take care of this baby??? They sure are! Will you have providers there to support your feeding choices and help you on your way? Hopefully, yes, but not always, sadly. If your hospital has your baby rooming in, no nursery, you and your partner or other caregivers will be starting the parenthood journey with 24/7 care and responsibility. You will be expected to keep up and keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule, track pees, and poops, and overall be responsible for your baby who you just met. Check out  my blog on the golden hour after birth, here. That hour after birth can have a huge impact on your feeding journey. 

Click here for my free baby-led latching guide.

When your book knowledge suddenly needs to hit the ground running…

Feeding at this point, no matter what education you received, goes from book learning to real-deal on-the-job training. You and your baby will be learning together, in tandem, while also recovering from birth and navigating this whole new world. Today we are going to dive into the early warning signs you can be on the lookout for to keep your feeding journey on track.

Each baby and parent feeding pair is unique, these signs are meant to be a guide and are not a diagnosis/can't take the place of one-to-one support with a lactation consultant.

10 Early Warning Signs

1) Baby is feeding less than 8 times at the breast for the 24-hour window

  • In order to make milk, we need to be removing milk. If your baby is not latching and not at the breast between 8-12 times in the early days of breastfeeding, it is very hard for your body to get the message that you need to keep producing milk for your baby. In fact, early milk removal has THE BIGGEST IMPACT on your milk production. This is why hand expression is SOOO critical to learn. Click here for my complete guide. 

2) Baby is briefly at the breast (less than 5-10 minutes per breast), comes off the breast frequently

  • You are bringing your baby to your breast and they are latching, unlatching, latching, but it is brief and they are only on the breast for a few minutes at a time. They are very fussy and it just isn’t working. You are trying every two to three hours, but most nursing sessions are less than 5-10 minutes. 
  • This bears repeating, if you do not remove milk, your body will not make more milk. Even though you are bringing your baby to the breast every 2-3 hours, if they are not removing enough milk this will not signal to your body to increase milk production. 

3) Baby is falling asleep at the breast/hard to wake to feed

  • Many babies are sleepy post-birth. Add the flurry of activity in the early hours and days in the hospital and it can be a tough mix with early feeding. Plus feeding is a lot of work for your newborn, they have to pull together all of their reflexes, and regulate breathing, body temperature, and heart rate.  If after latching your baby they immediately fall asleep here are some things you can try. 

3 things Things to Try When Breastfeeding a Super Sleepy Baby

  • Unswaddle and get skin-to-skin! This means only a diaper on for your baby and nothing from the waist up for mom.  This helps your baby to wake up and places them close to their food source when they are ready to eat!
  • Hand express and spoon feed- if your baby is super sleepy this is a great way to feed them a little taste of your milk and get them interested in feeding. Check out our blog on all things hand expression. We love it so much that Boob School even has an entire masterclass devoted to the power of hand expression and how to use this skill to support your baby and your milk supply!
  • Breast Compressions- use your hand to compress the breast while baby is suckling this increases milk flow and keeps baby interested in feeding. This is MUST know for all breastfeeding parents and we go over it in our Breastfeeding Basics modules. 

It's important to remember that there are certain newborn procedures that can increase sleepiness so try and feed BEFORE not after. Examples of things that may cause sleepiness: are newborn exams, baths, immunizations, and circumcision. You can expect a fairly sleepy baby after any of these activities. 

4) Baby is sucking, but you don't hear or see swallowing, and/or you do not feel any breast changes following a feeding. 

  • Some babies are what you might call, “great pretenders.” The latch looks good, but they are not actually swallowing or efficiently moving milk. This can be one of the trickiest ones to decode. A swallow should sound like a kah-kah-kah and you should see the baby's jaw drop slightly and pause as they swallow the milk. If you are unsure if you are hearing swallows it's time to call an IBCLC to observe a feeding and possibly do a weighted feeding. This is when we weigh the baby BEFORE a feeding and AFTER and can tell exactly how much the baby took at the breast. 

5) Baby has a shallow latch/baby comes off the breast repeatedly

  • Your baby is latching, but they are repeatedly slipping off the breast. Latch, unlatch, repeat. Check out my blog on shallow latching, here
  • You may notice lip blisters and notice they are not pulling in any of your areolae when latching. Pain can also go hand in hand with a shallow latch and sign number

6) You are experiencing a lot of pain with latching,

  • With a shallow latch, the nipple is compressed and may look like a tube of lipstick, or the nipple can appear creased and/or cracked.
  • These are signs that your baby is not latching correctly. Nipple damage can be very difficult to work through, click here for taking a 24-hour break from breastfeeding.
  • If your baby is not latching correctly, they are likely not removing milk efficiently and may not be taking in enough to adequately gain weight.

7) Your baby also struggles to effectively eat from a bottle/syringe/cup.

  • Babies who have a lot of tension in their bodies, have tongue/lip ties and/or oral-motor dysfunction, may not only have difficulty breastfeeding but also struggle to use bottles, syringes, and/or cups.
  • If you find your baby is struggling, it is vital to get support providers to address the underlying concerns. IBCLCs, craniosacral therapists, chiropractors, OTs, and SLPs all can play a role in helping your baby eat effectively. Below are always priorities
  1. Feed the baby–always number one, baby needs to feed adequately whether it is from the breast, a bottle, cup, syringe, or SNS. 
  2. Protect your milk supply–remove milk with a pump if the baby is not able to nurse effectively.
  3. Work on the latch by addressing underlying causes here are some of our favorite latching tips.

8) You do not experience breast changes with feeding (engorgement doesn't improve with feedings, and breast pain continues or gets worse)

  • If your breasts are not feeling ANY softer after this could be a sign baby is struggling to remove milk.  HOWEVER in some cases, if mom is extremely engorged the breasts may not soften much after feeding. So again we want to be zooming out and looking at the entire picture and seeing if there are other warning signs.

9) You did not experience breast changes during pregnancy or in early postpartum days. 

  • Lack of breast size changes is indicative of an underlying issue that may impact your breastfeeding journey.  If you did experience any breast growth or changes during pregnancy I recommend reaching out to an IBCLC who can help you navigate your unique situation.
  • One of the causes of lack of breast growth during pregnancy is Insufficient glandular tissue (IGT): Some women have a lower amount of glandular tissue in their breasts, which can make it difficult for them to produce enough milk. For more of low supply check out our blog on 9 possible signs of low milk supply, here.

10) Your baby is not having enough pee/poop diapers 

What comes in must go out and keeping track of your newborn's diaper output is super important in the early days of breastfeeding.  In Boob School we walk you through exactly how much to expect and when to contact your pediatrician. 

  • Day 1 of life you can expect on average, 1 pee and 1 poop.
  • Day 2 of life…3 pees and 2 poops.
  • Day 3 of life…4 pees and 2 poops.
  • Day 4 of life…5 pees and 3 poops.
  • Day 5 of life…6 pees and 4 poops.

Don't forget to check out my freebie all about baby-led latching, here. It has my go-to tips on rocking your latch.

While this post can help you know 10  signs to look out for, I can do you one better with my breastfeeding education course…Boob School

With 12+ self-paced modules, 10+ bonus pdf guides, and a private Facebook group for questions and weekly support calls to ask your one-on-one questions to an experienced lactation expert. In Boob School you will get the support, knowledge, and empowerment you deserve today! 



Boob School Founder and CEO

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