To a hungry baby, milk needs to start flowing, and fast. But unlike with bottle feeding, it can take a few moments for that tell-tale tingling of the letdown response to get started and the breastmilk to start flowing. To make matters even more confusing, the variability of milk flow can differ between breasts. For babies that are combination fed with breast and bottle (whether with breastmilk or formula), the change in flow between the two can cause a baby to become impatient at the breast if he is used to the immediate flow from a bottle. Here are some tips to help:
1. Don't wait until baby is exceedingly hungry. A very hungry baby is a very fussy baby and it can make latching more difficult, and can exacerbate the baby's frustration if milk flow isn't immediate.
2. Massage the breast being nursed to help initiate the milk ejection.
3. Feed and/or pump on both breasts, even if one is favored over the other by baby. My firstborn son only wanted to latch on my left breast at first, and in turn, it made my milk supply uneven and made him favor one over the other even more. By continuing to pump on the breast not fed from, it helps maintain equal milk supply which may make BOTH breasts appealing to baby. Breast variability is often only temporary. Sometimes there are underlying physical issues that cause side preference, which can be addressed with an IBCLC.
4. Fast flow can be difficult for baby too. If you can hear audible swallowing and you notice baby is pulling away a bit, the flow may be too fast and may even spray without sucking. This is sometimes the case when the breasts are highly engorged. If this is a common issue for you, try pumping for a minute or two before feeding to release some of the pressure.
5. For babies with weak sucks or for milk flow that consistently remains low and slow, a supplemental feeding system may help baby feel less impatient and stay at the breast until the issue at hand is resolved. A Lactation Consultant can help you get set up with a supplemental feeding system and can address any other feeding concerns you may have with milk flow to make sure there are no other underlying issues that may be affecting milk supply and flow.