Breast refusal is one of the most distressing problems for a breastfeeding mother. Never has the adage 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink' been more true. Not only is it upsetting when your baby screams and turns away from your breast, but as time passes you feel more physically uncomfortable and more desperate to coax her back onto the breast to relieve your discomfort.
Some babies go through periods of breast refusal and can eventually be persuaded back on, but others refuse once and never go back to the breast. For them, breastfeeding is a thing of the past-even if you don't want to admit it.
There are many, many reasons why your baby may refuse the breast. These can include:
- Difficulties with attachment
- Nipple confusion as a result of mixing breast and bottle feeds, or overuse of a dummy
- Low supply of milk
- Milk flow is too fast
- Let-down is slow
- Sickness - sore ears, mouth or throat that makes feeding uncomfortable
- Changing routine
- Introduction of solid food
- Too distracted to feed
- Hot weather
Other reasons for breast refusal may be a result of your body:
- You're taking a medicine
- You've eaten something unusual
- Your body odour is different, possibly from a change in perfume, deodorant, hair products
- Your body is experiencing hormonal changes, including menstruation, ovulation and pregnancy
- You're taking an oral contraceptive
How can I get her back on the breast?
- Forcing you baby onto the breast will not only not work, it will only make you and her tense and upset.
- If she has just been refusing the breast and is upset, distract her by doing something completely different-a walk outdoors, looking at toys, singing a nursery rhyme. When she has settled down she might be more interested in the breast.
- Try to walk and feed simultaneously, holding your baby in an upright position against your body with her head level with your nipple.
- Try to offer your baby a feed in a different position.
- Offer her the breast as she wakes from a sleep - if she's still sleepy you may be able to easily slip your breast into her mouth.
- If she's very hungry and getting upset, you may need to offer her a small amount of expressed milk in a bottle and then swap to the breast when she's calmer.
- If your let-down is slow and she's getting frustrated, try to get a let-down before you being feeding so that she will immediately get results for her sucking.
- Try expressing a little breast milk directly into her mouth to get her started.
Most breast refusal is temporary so do continue to offer the breast at each feed. However, there are some babies who will never return to the breast, and in this case, it's important to remember that your baby isn't rejecting you, just your breast.
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