What is breast
It is the circumstance in which a baby refuses
to breastfeed from one or both breasts.
If baby has had trouble breastfeeding from birth, the
problem is likely not breast refusal, but other issues connected to a weak
latch, sleepiness or trauma. Read more on latching problems here.
The first assumption that is usually made, when a baby
refuses the breast, is that Mom has a low/ inadequate milk supply. Do not be
pressurised into giving 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
· Flat or inverted nipple on just one breast.
· If Mom puts 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 Mom 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 baby
has been breastfeeding fine, but then suddenly refuses to breastfeed. A nursing
strike will usually last between 2 to 4 days.
What can cause these
· Illness in baby.
· Teething pain.
· Extreme stress in Mom.
Baby may also refuse to drink if Mom shouted at
him/her for biting while breastfeeding.
· If Mom returns to work, baby may not handle Mom
being gone for long stretches of time.
· If the milk tastes different due to any of the
following: Mastitis, during menstruation, new pregnancy, new foods introduced
into Mom’s diet, new medication taken by Mom, new perfumes used by Mom.
Tips for one sided
· Try different breastfeeding positions. For
example: If 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
· Soften the rejected breast by pumping before breastfeeding.
Use breast compressions while trying to
· As a last resort, Mom should know that it is
possible to continue feeding baby from only one breast. Read more on
breastfeeding from only one side.
Tips for when baby
refuses both breasts:
· Try to breastfeed with skin to skin contact. Try
to breastfeed in a calm environment and make time to kiss and cuddle 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 baby when baby is calm or sleepy. It’s
best to try right after baby has woken or just before baby falls asleep. Do not
try to breastfeed when baby is upset or crying. Do not try to force baby onto the breast.
· Breastfeed baby while walking with baby held in
your arms or in a sling.
Short, frequent nursing sessions can help baby
accept the breast again.
· If you suspect that 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.
· If baby is gulping while feeding, it can
indicate a very fast flow of milk.
Read more here on tips for fast and slow let
During a nursing strike, it is important that
Mom still makes sure that baby is getting in enough milk, she can do this by
offering baby the expressed breast milk in a syringe, cup or with the finger.
Avoid the use of artificial nipples before baby is 6 weeks old.
Top of breast refusal page
Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)
Reference: Breastfeeding counsellor course information
through childbirthinternational.com on physiology of breastfeeding /
breastfeeding problems / Latching problems / nursing strike.
Other pages on breastfeeding problems connected with this page
* Alternative feeding methods
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Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr, Studying through Child birth international (CBC, CBD), Author and Mommy of two.