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4 Reasons Babies Refuse To Nurse

Breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both mom and baby. But when a happily breastfed baby starts putting up a fight at every feeding, it brings anxiety and drama into an otherwise peaceful relationship.

Most babies go through a phase of resisting or refusing breastfeeding, says obstetrician Susan Rothenberg, MD. Four common, treatable conditions are often involved.

1  Hyperlactation results from an overly strong reflex that causes milk to flow too quickly and forcibly for a baby to comfortably swallow.

How to help: Lactation consultant Laura Burnett, RN, suggests nursing in reclined position to relax both mom and baby. If an oversupply of milk is contributing to the problem, she recommends nursing on one breast per feeding. After a few days, the body will reduce its milk production.

If Your Baby Resists

Pump or hand-express to stay comfortable if your baby refuses to nurse. At least five to six wet diapers per day mean your baby is probably taking in enough fluid. And remember, nursing resistance is usually short-lived.

A slow flow or letdown reflex can frustrate babies, particularly those who receive bottles.

How to help: Tactics like gentle massage, heat or pumping can help get milk flowing, but they won’t resolve an underlying issue such as returning to work, changing a nursing routine or starting new medication. “Relax, ignore the chores piling up and focus on your special bond,” advises Dr. Rothenberg.

3  Pain and suffering can take away an adult’s appetite, and your baby is no different. Teething, earache, nasal congestion or mouth pain can make nursing difficult. Occasionally a baby’s sensitivity to milk proteins in Mom’s diet can lead to uncomfortable gas and fussiness.

How to help: If you’ve ruled out other causes, ask your pediatrician to check for pain or illness. If you suspect dairy protein sensitivity, eliminate dairy from your diet. An improvement could take several weeks.

For More Info

See our article Breastfeeding Help Can Be Crucial for breastfeeding benefits and support, and a link to World Breastfeeding Week information.

Breastmilk’s taste varies. If you consume a varied diet, your breastfed baby probably does too. Hormonal changes from birth control, a resumed menstrual cycle or a new pregnancy can also affect milk’s taste.

How to help: If a baby has a strong reaction to a particular taste, eliminating the offending food should resolve the problem. Feeding while baby is sleepy, feeding in a warm bath and skin-to-skin contact during nursing can help minimize resistance.

Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer.

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