After a good few weeks of battling, you finally seem to have the knack of breastfeeding. It is starting to resemble the natural, relaxing experience you had imagined. No more shallow latch. No more cracked nipples. You appear to have it all under control and then something changes. Your little one goes on a hunger strike. He arches his back, screams and refuses to take the breast. What now?
Here are a few reasons your baby may be refusing the breast:
1. Are your breasts too full? Your baby may be stretching a good 3 to 4 hours between feeds. He may even have dropped a feed. This can mean that your breasts need to adjust the supply to meet his demand. As a result the breasts can become rather full and engorged. This makes it difficult for the baby to latch. Try easing the fullness with a bit of manual expression or a warm compression before feeding.
2. Is your flow too fast? Some moms have a very heavy or fast letdown. This can end up choking or flooding the baby with milk. As a result he will not be impressed. He may try to regulate the flow himself, but if he is unable to do this he may just refuse the breast all together. Try lying back when you feed to slow down the flow.
3. Is your baby distracted? At some point your little one will begin to realise that there is more to the party than just the milk bar. He may want to have a good look around when feeding and covering up with a feeding shawl will just annoy him. If he is very distracted, you may find that taking him into a quiet darkened room to feed will help him focus on the task at hand.
4. Is your baby ill or teething? Both illness and teething can cause a small dip in your little one’s appetite. This is normal, but he does need to keep his milk intake up through these periods. Try offering small, shorter feeds more often so as not to tire him out.
5. Have you been giving your baby any bottle feeds? Bottle feeding can often be easier for your baby as the milk flow is fast and instant. This can mean that he can become lazy and impatient on the breast waiting for the letdown. You will need to offer him the breast as much as possible to remind him that meals are usually served from the breast.
6. Is your baby perhaps full after one side? As he grows and your supply matures, he may be satisfied after feeding on one side only. He may fuss around the second breast, as he is no longer hungry.
7. Have you started menstruating or are you pregnant? Some women will resume their menstrual cycle while breastfeeding. Many report that babies are fussy while feeding during menstruation. This is the result of hormonal changes that can affect the taste of the breast milk. If you fall pregnant while breastfeeding, the same hormonal changes can make the baby dislike the breast milk and refuse the breast.
Breast milk offers the optimal nutrition for your baby. If he appears fussy from time to time, persevere. Get assistance from your local clinic, well baby clinic or lactation consultant. Many women have experienced the same frustrations.
Pippa is a Registered Professional Nurse and trained as a Registered Midwife at Chris Hani Baragwanth Hospital. She has extensive experience in all things baby related with a special interest in preparing couples for the exciting journey of parenthood as well as supporting them in the weeks that follow the birth. She and her husband Richard are the proud parents of Becca age 6 and Tom age 4. Pippa has a comprehensive private clinic service that includes Childbirth Education classes, a Well Baby Clinic including Immunization as well as Post Natal and Lactation support. With over 5 years of running a private clinic facility and raising 2 children Pippa comes with a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience of parenthood.