It is the circumstance in which a baby refuses
to breastfeed from one or both breasts.
If the baby has had trouble breastfeeding from birth, the
problem is likely not breast refusal, but other issues connected to a weak
latch, or trauma. Read more about latching problems here.
So, you might have asked yourself whether your baby is weaning himself. Weaning always happens gradually. Abrupt refusal of the breast is due to something that is causing pain or distress in the baby. Common causes include earache and stuffy noses.
Babies are known to refuse the breast, if they have been separated from their mother for more than a day. This is their way of letting us know that they are not happy about it. Most times, this type of breast refusal is temporary. All that is usually needed is some bonding time.
The first assumption that is usually made, when a baby
refuses the breast, is that the mother has a low/ inadequate milk supply. Do not be pressured into giving your baby supplements, but make very sure of what the
problem actually is, before deciding to go that route.
If Baby only Refuses one Breast, it could Indicate the Following...
An ear infection.
Congestion of baby’s nose.
Injury that occurred at birth or any other
If the mother puts the baby on one breast more often than
the other, it can cause one to produce more. This can cause baby to prefer one
breast over the other.
In very rare cases, it has been found that a baby
may refuse a breast that is later found to be cancerous. If the mother is concerned
about this, she can go for ultrasound or mammography, which does not have to
interfere with breastfeeding.
If Baby is Refusing Both Breasts it can Indicate...
Also referred to as a “nursing strike", this is when the baby has been breastfeeding fine, but then suddenly refuses to breastfeed. A nursing strike will usually last between 2 to 4 days.
The baby may also refuse to drink if the mother shouted at
him/her for biting whilst breastfeeding.
If the mother returns to work, the baby may become stressed.
The breast milk might taste different due to: Mastitis, menstruation, new pregnancy, new foods introduced
into the mother's diet, new medication taken by the mother, new perfumes used by her.
Tips for One Sided Breast Refusal
Try different breastfeeding positions. For example: If your baby is refusing to breastfeed from the left side breast, you could breastfeed him/her in a football hold on the left side or in a more upright position.
Soften the rejected breast by pumping before breastfeeding.
Try to breastfeed skin to skin. Try to breastfeed in a calm environment and make time to kiss and cuddle your baby, this will help reduce stress that might have caused or made the nursing strike worse. Try to minimize any distractions and breastfeed in a dim lit room.
Try to feed your baby when he/she is calm or sleepy. It’s best to try right after your baby has woken or just before your baby falls asleep. Do not try to breastfeed when he/she is upset or crying. Do not try to force your baby onto the breast.
Breastfeed your baby whilst walking with him/her held in your arms or in a sling.
Short, frequent nursing sessions can help your baby accept the breast again.
If you suspect that your baby is getting frustrated with the slow flow of milk “let-down", you can pump a few minutes before breastfeeding, to stimulate the flow of milk.
During a nursing strike, it is important that the mother still makes sure that her baby is getting in enough milk, she can do this by offering her baby the expressed breast milk in a syringe, cup or with the finger. Avoid the use of artificial nipples before the age of 6 weeks.