Breast refusal is one of the most emotionally challenging obstacles a breastfeeding mother can face. If your baby is currently refusing one or both breasts, it is important to know that this may be temporary. Young babies under 18 months old VERY RARELY self-wean. So, if your baby is just a few weeks or even a few months old, weaning likely isn’t the issue. Rather, your baby needs and wants to nurse, but something may be preventing them from enjoying nursing.
Often times, newborns who are very fussy at the breast, scream and cry while held in a nursing position, or who push away the breast simply need help learning to nurse well. Sometimes, babies experience birth trauma during labor or delivery and may have sore muscles or even a headache. Other times, babies may have received a lot of bottles within their first few days of life and are simply having difficulty learning how to breastfeed. In most cases, a qualified lactation professional can help you and your baby overcome these issues!
Older babies who were previously nursing well and SUDDENLY begin refusing the breast may be suffering from other issues such as teething, an ear infection, congestion or other illnesses. If congestion, teething or other illnesses are causing breast refusal, a lactation consultant may be able to help you vary your nursing position to relive pressure off of sore areas or help your baby to breathe easily while nursing.
Another common reason for breast refusal and nursing strikes in older babies is biting, or more specifically the mother’s reaction to biting. OUCH! When your baby bites your nipple, your first reaction might be to let out a loud yelp! Sometimes, the mother’s reaction to biting is frightening to the baby and they begin to associate nursing with something scary. Then, the baby may begin seeming unsettled or anxious at the breast – pulling on and off or refusing to even be held in a breastfeeding position. For these mothers, they are also holding onto fears – fears that their baby might bite again! Just as with newborns who are refusing to breastfeed due to nipple confusion or aches and pains, older babies can also be helped. Lactation consultants can work with mothers and babies to alleviate fears in both mother and baby and help the nursing couple return to breastfeeding.
Older babies can also simply be “too busy to breastfeed.” Babies who are distracted while nursing may not put up a fight or push away the breast like babies who are experiencing a nursing strike or breast refusal do, but the problem can be pesky just the same! Here is more information about distracted nursing and tips for helping your baby nurse well during the day.
Lactation Consultants of Central FL specializes in breast refusal and nursing strikes. We understand the emotional heartache mothers feel when their baby will not breastfeed. Breast refusal and nursing strikes DO NOT have to mean the end of the road for you and your baby’s breastfeeding journey. In fact, Lactation Consultants of Central FL has helped hundreds of mothers in this situation get their babies back to the breast! Our current success rate for helping mothers and babies overcome breast refusal and nursing strikes is 100%!