Hearing your newborn gag while you're breastfeeding can be a frightening experience. You're likely to pull her away from the breast and instinctively pat her on the back until the gagging and coughing subsides. You might also be hesitant to nurse her again right away for fear of more gagging. However, keep in mind that gagging is a fairly common in a newborn who is just getting used to latching and your milk flow. Understanding what causes gagging can help you handle -- or avoid -- it.
A quiet room without distractions is the best spot to nurse your breastfeeding newborn as he learns how to latch on and take in your milk. If your newborn is gagging and spitting up when nursing, he might be taking in too much air when pulling on and off the breast. Distractions -- the chatter of older siblings or background noise from the television -- can cause your newborn to latch and unlatch, which can increase the amount of air, not milk, he takes in. If gagging and spitting up, which often go hand in hand, are problems, find a quiet place to nurse free of distractions for a more focused feeding session.
Gagging is common when your little one takes in too much milk too quickly, according the KellyMom website. When your breasts are overfull, the milk flows quickly, which can lead to gagging. Don't wait until you are overfull to nurse; instead, nurse your newborn on demand and encourage nursing before you reach that point of having heavy, full breasts. Doing so can result in a slower milk flow, which is easier to take in for a newborn just learning to nurse.
Watch the Let-Down
If you have a strong let-down, your newborn will receive a fast flow of milk quickly. Some newborns cannot handle a forceful let-down, according to Boston Children's Hospital, and may respond by gagging. To remedy gagging associated with a strong let-down, pull your baby off the breast for a couple of minutes, and then have her latch back on. New mothers can often feel the let-down occurring; it might feel like a pins and needles sensation in your breast. Anticipating let-down allows you to avoid any let-down-associated gagging.
Reposition Your Newborn
If your newborn is dealing with acid reflux, gagging and spitting up might be an ongoing problem. How you position your baby at the breast can help minimize the risk of gagging. Your baby might be most comfortable nursing upright, suggests the La Leche League International website. Position your baby in a sling or carrier, and wear him while you nurse. Sit in a recliner or at an angle in bed, and put your baby upright on the breast to reduce the gagging.