When baby refuses breastfeeding


For many moms it can be devastating when their baby refuses to nurse. This problem can occur from the very beginning, or it can be detected during the learning period, or even later on after baby has been nursing successfully for months.

Here are some much needed explanations and tips on how to combat this painful experience.

Possible reasons why babies refuse to breast from the onset:

Birth injuries can include injuries like bruising, misaligned neck vertebrae, broken clavicle and a pinched nerve. The presence of pain will be evident when the baby is picked up and cries at the very onset of nursing. Coordination between swallowing, sucking and breathing may cause nursing problems. The trauma of being deeply suctioned could cause baby to reject anything that enters their oral cavity.

Refusal during the learning period

Being born too early can cause baby’s strengths not to be what it should – making even suckling a difficult task. Baby may choose bottle-feeding over nipple feeding, this could possibly be because he is not getting enough milk or nutrition from breastfeeding, or that he simply prefers the texture of a bottle. Illness such as ear-infections can also be an issue.

A baby can have reflux when he eats. When he associates pain with eating, he will refuse the breast. Colic is also sometimes related to reflux. Baby can be detect some allergenic foods that mother has ingested, and can reject the resultant milk. Cleft palate, Tongue tie and Clamp-down reflex are examples of physical complications that can interfere with breastfeeding.

Refusal later on

Some factors that can cause rejection of breastfeeding after several months of nursing without problem, can be the taste of the milk, a sore mouth, milk flow and again illness.

Keeping baby well-fed

Syringe feeding can be used, but hold the devise close to the breast so baby can get used to the area and associates it with comfort.  Cup feeding uses a small, shallow cup that baby can sip from (use a cup specially designed for babies). Finger feeding uses a tube or syringe that can be taped to the finger, letting the baby suck on the finger.

Then there is the nipple shield: According to Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant Beverly Morgan “A nipple shield can help control milk flow for a baby who is getting too much milk. If the baby is struggling with too much milk, a nipple shield and changing the baby’s breastfeeding position may be the only tools you need. The positions commonly taught may not be the ones that work for your baby.” Morgan continues, “Choose a bottle and nipple that seem to help a baby have a relaxed feeding without causing him to get the milk so fast he can hardly breathe or so slow he uses all his energy getting his food. A lactation consultant can help parents find the right balance of breastfeeding and supplementing if needed. Each child and situation is different.”

How to keep your milk supplies up

Use a breast pump and stay hydrated. Find out what foods and herbs increase or decrease your milk supply and become aware of those foods providing reflux and allergies. You can visit your doctor to find out more about medicines that could increase your milk supply, but note the side effects of these medications. And lastly, you can try relaxation techniques to fight off the adverse effects of stress.

Enticing baby to nurse

Try adjusting your baby’s position. Morgan explains,  -If she has trouble catching her breath when she is nursing, she will not want to have her head pushed on the breast and held there with the breast deep in her mouth, when the milk is spurting out at a fast pace. A baby with reflux will do better if his bottom is down and his head is up. So holding him parallel will likely make him uncomfortable and resistant to feeding.”

Comfort nursing is also a way to draw more positive associations baby has with the breast, so go with it. Don’t forget about making skin contact, as this can be a very powerful method to bond with baby.

Co-sleeping and co-bathing can also familiarise baby with your body and strengthen his association with your body and comfort.

Therapies and procedures

Some therapies and procedures are used on babies diagnosed with certain oral-motor problems.  For tongue-tied babies, clipping the fraenulum can be the solution. A speech and language pathologist or other similar specialists can offer oral-motor therapies and exercises. Gentle therapeutic massage can also be beneficial. It is defined by Dr John Upledger as a “gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of … the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.”

Bonding without breastfeeding

Lastly, never let a feeding method – be it breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, etc – stand in the way of you bonding with your baby. Yes, breastfeeding does strengthen the bond between mother and child, but that is not the only way of bonding. Baby refusing to nurse is also no reflection whatsoever on you as a mother. Bond by holding your baby closely, gently massaging baby, skin-to-skin contact, soothing and comforting, just to mention a few. Just go with your gut and express the love that you feel in a gentle way.

Source: MOBI Motherhood International


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