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How to Stimulate a Baby to Suckle

By Melissa King ; Updated September 26, 2017
A slow milk flow can cause a child to stop suckling.

Breastfeeding offers your baby benefits such as lowered risk of infection, respiratory illness, heart disease and cancer, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Babies instinctively know how to nurse when they're born, but some infants don't have a well-developed suckling reflex. Palo Alto Medical Foundation states that some babies have trouble suckling when their mother has a slow milk flow. Other possible reasons include a premature or traumatic birth, trouble breathing, unpleasant surroundings or even a reaction to the mother's anxiety. Often, if your baby has trouble suckling, all he needs is some stimulation and encouragement.

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Feed your baby when you notice early signs of hunger, such as sucking a thumb, putting his hands near his face, moving his lips and turning his head back and forth. According to La Leche League International, babies are more cooperative at feedings when they're not extremely hungry.

Gaze at your baby and stroke his skin during nursing. You may also want to undress the baby and rest him against your bare chest when he feeds. AskDrSears.com states that skin-to-skin contact will improve your milk ejection reflex and increase your flow, causing your baby to suckle more eagerly.

Determine whether you have slow milk flow. According to Palo Alto Medical Foundation, you might have slow flow if the baby jerks his head away from the breast while feeding, stops suckling after a few minutes of nursing or seems to want to eat constantly. To speed up milk flow, massage your breast with a downward motion during nursing.

Apply gentle pressure to the palm of the baby's hand during feeding. Dr. Melodie de Jager suggests that this will stimulate suckling because of the neurological connection between the mouth and the hands.

Limit access to artificial nipples, such as pacifiers. According to La Leche League, babies who get used to artificial nipples may get confused when offered the breast. Once the artificial nipples are taken away, the baby will gradually get used to nursing, and his suckling should improve.

Let your baby finish nursing on one breast, then switch him to the other breast when his suckling slows down. AskDrSears.com says that this method, called switch nursing, will encourage your baby to suckle more vigorously.

Massage your baby's chin with two fingers while simultaneously rubbing his belly with your other hand. According to Dr. Melodie de Jager, this exercise stimulates a baby to suckle when performed just before a feeding.


If your baby is sick with a cold or an infection, he may not nurse as eagerly as usual. His desire to eat should return when he feels better.

If you continue to have trouble nursing your baby, consider meeting with a certified lactation consultant. The consultant will observe your breastfeeding technique and offer you helpful advice.

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About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

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