Breast refusal can be a distressing occurrence for both mother and baby. Often the baby has previously fed happily, then for some unknown reason, begins to refuse to feed. Causes may be apparent, but often there does not seem to be a cause. Known factors are: an alert baby being easily distracted, over-feeding or force-feeding, gastric reflux, illness in the infant or mother, oral or nipple thrush, mastitis, medications and hormonal changes (e.g. ovulation, menstruation), There may also be issues relating to mother’s milk supply, such as: low supply, or slow let-down reflex (thus baby becomes frustrated), or the milk flowing too quickly and baby needs a breather.
The mother needs much support and encouragement during these occasions, and usually, after a few days the baby begins feeding again as though there had never been a problem.
If the cause can be located it can be treated, e.g. thrush, gastric reflux.
I find putting a baby to the breast as soon as she begins to stir from sleep enables her to attach well and begin feeding. If you persist in trying to make a baby breast feed when she adamantly refuses to do so, the infant just becomes more upset. Try distracting them for five to ten minutes with a bit of tummy time and try again. If she continues to refuse, it is most likely she has had sufficient.
It is also important not to feed baby too soon after the last feed as she will not feed well and you will only be setting up a bad habit of snack feeding and cat napping. Another possible solution is for mother and baby to get into a warm bath together and after baby has relaxed, she is slowly brought up to the breast. Usually such a baby enjoys the skin-to-skin contact and will begin to suck well.
If mother’s milk supply is suspected to be low in comparison to the demands of her growing baby, measures to increase production can be put into action and after a couple of weeks the infant is often contentedly sucking away as before. If you feel baby is not getting enough and are giving her a supplementary or top up feed from a bottle, this may eventually cause your milk supply to dwindle unless you are expressing to stimulate your breast after every day-time feed. If you are expressing, do not over-express. Five to seven minutes is sufficient but should be done regularly to have any effect. Remember you are not expressing to store milk. If your supply is low you may not express any milk. Expressing is to stimulate the breast to make more.
Also be aware that if you introduce a bottle on a regular basis your baby may refuse the breast totally as drinking from a bottle requires less on a regular basis your baby may refuse the breast totally as drinking from a bottle requires less effort than the breast.
Article by Wendy Back. Lactation Consultant.
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