Is Your Formerly Nursing Baby Refusing to Breastfeed?

Strategies for Overcoming a Strike

Keep time at the breast happy. Avoid turning the breast into a battleground. If your baby fights your attempts to breastfeed, feed another way and spend lots of happy cuddle time at the breast. When your baby is near the breast, talk, laugh, play, and look into his eyes. Make time there emotionally rewarding, and make any feeding time away from the breast emotionally neutral. Hold your sleeping baby against your breast during naptimes to help shorten the strike.

Spend time touching and in skin-to-skin contact. When not feeding, hold baby with his bare torso against your skin, and stay that way as much as possible. This is soothing to both of you, and the hormones released make baby more open to breastfeeding. If needed, throw a blanket over both of you. Take a bath with your baby, and use a sling or baby carrier to keep him close.

Offer the breast while baby is drowsy or in a light sleep. Many babies accept the breast again for the first time while asleep or in a relaxed, sleepy state. Try breastfeeding while baby naps. Use feeding positions baby likes best and experiment. To make the most of your baby’s natural feeding reflexes, start in a semi-reclined position with baby tummy down on your body. Lean back, and allow baby to take naps on your breast.

Trigger immediate milk flowPump before offering your breast to give baby milk he doesn’t have to work for. Or first try hand-expressing a little milk onto baby’s lips. If baby goes to the breast but won’t stay there, ask a helper to drip expressed milk on the breast or in the corner of baby’s mouth with a spoon. Swallowing your milk will trigger suckling, which triggers swallowing. If baby comes off the breast, offer more expressed milk and try again.

Try breast shaping and breastfeeding in motion. Shaping the breast so that it’s easier to latch may help baby take the breast deeper and trigger active suckling. Keep in mind that some babies accept the breast only while being walked or rocked, so if baby is not responding to semi-reclined positions, it may be time to get moving.

Try breastfeeding when baby’s not ravenous. To feed well, baby needs to feel calm and relaxed rather than hungry and stressed. If baby’s agitated, calm him first. Some babies will take the breast more easily if they are not very hungry, so try feeding a little milk first, using whatever feeding method is working for you. Start with one-third to one-half of his usual feeding, just to take the edge off his hunger before offering the breast.

Make the most of times that breastfeeding is going well. When baby takes the breast, breastfeed as long as he will suckle. Offer the breast again soon, rather than waiting until he is very hungry.

If your baby takes a bottle but not the breast, try a bait-and-switch. Start by bottle-feeding in a breastfeeding position and, while baby is actively sucking and swallowing, pull out the bottle nipple and insert yours. Some babies will just keep suckling.

Use breastfeeding tools. With the guidance of a lactation professional, the following devices may help you turn the corner:

  • Silicone nipple shield. In some cases, nipple shields can help a baby transition back to the breast, especially if the strike occurred after a period of heavy bottle and pacifier use.
  • At-breast supplementer. These devices provide milk at the breast through a thin tube that attaches to a container. If slow milk flow is an issue, it may help. If not, it may not be a good choice.

If these strategies don’t work, it’s time to get skilled breastfeeding help. Find someone in your area.  Your technique may need a simple tweak or you may need some breastfeeding tools or help with how to use them.

Breastfeeding is the biological norm, so nearly all breastfeeding struggles have a solution. It’s just a matter of finding it. Even if settled breastfeeding seems impossible now, with time, patience, and skilled help you can make breastfeeding work again.


Originally published HERE.

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA lives in Chicago and is a board-certified lactation consultant who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her resources for parents include the books Breastfeeding Made Simple (with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett), Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple, her tiny troubleshooting guide Breastfeeding Solutions, and its companion Breastfeeding Solutions app, which is available in the App Store and Google Play. Her YouTube channel has more than one million views, and make sure to follow Nancy on Facebook too. 

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