Slow growth caused by ineffective breastfeeding

Is my baby’s slow growth caused by breastfeeding ineffectively?

Sometimes babies grow slowly because they don’t breastfeed effectively. They may be unable to wake up, latch, stay latched, suck, or obtain milk. Unless their problems can be promptly fixed, they will need to be supplemented with milk. Mothers with a full milk supply may be able to stop the supplements once the baby can breastfeed effectively. If the mother has never had enough milk or the baby never learns to breastfeed effectively, the baby may need long-term supplementing.

A) Causes of ineffective breastfeeding

There are many possible reasons for a baby to not grow well. One cause of poor growth is ineffective breastfeeding. This may be caused by a baby not being able to:

 These problems may arise because the baby is:

Babies who feed ineffectively should be seen by their health-care providers and closely supervised until they are growing well. 

B) Solutions for babies who are ineffective at the breast

Babies will need supplementing with milk until they can breastfeed effectively. How the supplementing is done depends on the babies' abilities and the nature of the problem.

Mothers need to express after every feed or instead of breastfeeding until the baby can breastfeed effectively, if they want to provide milk for the baby’s supplement and maintain their milk supply.

Mothers with a full milk supply would be able to reduce and then stop the supplements once the baby can breastfeed effectively (Kellams 2017). If the milk supply is permanently reduced, the baby will need long-term supplementing with appropriate milk.


Kellams A, Harrel C, Omage S, et al. ABM Clinical Protocol #3: Supplementary Feedings in the Healthy Term Breastfed Neonate, Revised 2017. Breastfeeding Med. 2017 May;12:188-198