Why won’t my baby breastfeed?

 Many women have experienced the same frustrations when breastfeeding their babies.

Just when you thought you had mastered the art of breastfeeding, your baby throws a spanner in the works. Why is your baby refusing the breast?

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?

Reasons your baby may be refusing the breast:

Your breasts might be 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.

Your flow might be 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.

Your baby may be 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.

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.

You have been supplementing your baby with the bottle

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.

Your baby is full after half a feed

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.

You have started menstruating or are 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 breast milk. If you fall pregnant while breastfeeding, the same hormonal changes can make the baby dislike the breast milk and refuse the breast.

Expert tip

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.