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My Baby Isn't Nursing Well

You’re thrilled to be a new mother and engage in so many new experiences. You want to nurse your baby to ensure that she receives the best nutrition possible — your breast milk. However, something seems amiss, because nursing isn’t going smoothly. 

Signs of nursing problems

When nursing your baby, you’re realizing that something isn’t quite right. Your baby may: 

All of these are signs of possible oral-motor or other health issues. Whatever the cause, you want to get to the bottom of it quickly. 

Our pediatric speech pathologist and occupational therapists at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy, with two locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, are trained to help you and your baby when you experience problems with nursing. The sooner you make an appointment for your baby, the sooner both you and she can experience relief. 

Nursing problems can engender physical and emotional pain for both you and your baby. You’re distressed at your baby’s distress, and it becomes a troubling cycle. Early intervention can prevent problems in your child’s speech development down the road.  

Which infants are at risk of nursing problems? 

A relatively high number of babies have feeding problems. You’re not alone. Following are some of the common reasons babies have feeding issues. 


If your baby is premature, she has an increased risk of feeding problems. Her digestive system hasn’t had time to mature as a full-term baby’s has. 

Developmental disabilities and genetic disorders

About 70 to almost 90 percent of babies with developmental disabilities have a feeding disorder. If your baby has autism, she’s more likely to have a feeding issue. If your infant has Down syndrome or another neurological issue like cerebral palsy, she likely has poor muscle control, making it difficult to latch onto the nipple and suck.  A baby with cleft lip and/or palate needs special help. 

A tongue tie

Your baby’s tongue may be blocking her airway, causing milk to enter the lungs. Her tongue needs to stay over the lower gum when sucking. If she can’t move the tongue well enough, she may try to chew instead of suck on your nipple, and she won’t be getting enough milk. She may have a tongue tie. If it wasn’t corrected at the hospital, your therapist recommends the medical procedure to do so. 

Other health issues

If your baby has a heart problem, she may tire quickly when breastfeeding. You may need to supplement her nutrition. 

If your baby has torticollis, it may make nursing more difficult on one side. This can be addressed with hands-on therapy in the clinic and through exercises at home. 

Even if your baby doesn’t have developmental disabilities, she may be one of a minority of healthy babies with a feeding problem. Your baby may have weak facial muscles, hindering the ability to suck. She may be unable to coordinate sucking and swallowing. 

Treatment by a speech or occupational therapist for nursing problems  

If your baby is diagnosed with oral-motor issues that impact nursing, the good news is that oral-motor therapy can help her improve. Our speech pathologist therapist will conduct an oral-motor exam, studying your baby’s facial structure, muscles, range of motion, and reactions to sensory stimuli. She observes how your baby nurses and sees what the problems are. 

She starts treatment immediately. It involves strengthening muscles in all parts of the face: lips, tongue, cheeks and jaws, and improving the coordination of the suck and swallow function.  

Contact Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy today if you have a nursing issue. Call either of our offices or send a message online. We’re here to help your baby thrive. 

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