How To: Combat Breast Refusal

Breastfeeding is such a wild journey. There are so many unique experiences that breastfeeding moms deal with. While some babies refuse bottles, others will refuse the breast. If you are reading this right now and are dealing with breast refusal, I promise that I thoroughly feel your pain. When all you want is the bond of breastfeeding, being refused absolutely SUCKS. I dealt with breast refusal with both of my babies at one point or another. What is important to know, is that there is always a reason for breast refusal. I never found out the exact reason for why my kids refused me but, I was able to kind of guess. Who knows though, maybe I just smell like shit and my kid is like “damn mom I can’t deal with this.” Anyways, I was able to combat breast refusal with my son (here he is below!)

I thought I would write a guide on exactly how I did this.

First, let’s start with the common causes of breast refusal

Pain or Discomfort: if your baby is in pain or overly gassy they might arch away and or act like they want to eat and get mad after a few sucks. Try to find out the problem and treat it! More often than not a gassy baby will cue as if they are hungry but they actually just have gas. If they won’t latch, try burping them and keeping them upright. Remember, a baby with hiccups is likely not hungry, they might just be uncomfortable! Wait till the hiccups are gone to try and feed again. Check out my guide below on how to ease them back into breastfeeding if the continue to refuse your boob after multiple tries.

Illness: sometimes babies don’t feel well and don’t want to eat, this is usually temporary. Just keep trying!

Low milk supply: if your baby is sucking constantly and getting really mad without changing to slow rhythmic sucks, they may be frustrated because your body needs to make more milk and they are impatient. Just keep trying and follow my guide below! With constant stimulation, your boobs will typically learn to make more milk (unless you have something health wise that is causing your low supply- in this case always talk to your doctor before using any kind of herb supplements)

Oversupply: if your baby is constantly choking at your breast they may start refusing because you either have a forceful letdown or too much milk. In this case, what worked for me was pumping a tiny bit out before a feed and then letting them go for the boob again. Eventually your boobs will adjust and make less milk (in most cases)

Stressed baby- always try to calm your baby before trying to latch. A binky or clean finger often works for me. Then follow up with a little bait and switch to the boob. This works for me when I wait too long to feed and they are too mad to latch properly.

Unusual scents- maybe shower off whatever stank you have. Idk like I said this one is hard to tell.

Baby prefers bottle/nipple confusion: this is what I believe I dealt with for both of my kids. Check out my guide below on how I got my baby back to boob!

So here is my experience with both babies!

In the beginning, I supplemented both of my babies with bottles for different reasons. My first born was not transferring milk well and was extremely fussy. I didn’t catch on to this until my two week checkup when she lost 15% of her weight. At that time, I started supplementing with pumped milk and bottles. Lily was then full and happy. I was also naive and used medela regular flow bottles instead of slow flow and she grew to prefer those big time. I was also in nursing school at the time and had no clue she would refuse my boob or what to do so I thought I would just exclusively pump. When I switched to exclusive pumping, I wasn’t able to bond with her as much and I absolutely HATED pumping so often. While I pumped chris got to do all of the feeds. I knew I didn’t want that with again with my second child!

The difference with my second child is that I had the time to fix the problem. I was back to school after two weeks with my first baby and now I am home 24/7 with my babies with an actual maternity leave. This was so helpful because my one and only focus was my new baby, not both my baby and finishing nursing school. Anyways, my son also refused my boob and preferred the bottle at one point. In the beginning, I offered him top offs of pumped milk because I was afraid he would have the same issue as my daughter and not gain enough weight. Turns out that it was good that I did this! because of my top offs he was back to his birth weight at 2 weeks (barely). Around 6 weeks old, my son decided that he liked bottles better and would not breastfeed. It was so frustrating for me! I couldn’t find any information on how to fix the problem so I thought I would put together a guide for how I got him back on my boob! This is just what worked for me so I can’t guarantee it will work for everyone but, here it is.....

Step One

Offer the boob first always! The best time to feed is before the baby is crying. Some of the cues baby is hungry are rooting, hands to mouth, and fussing. The key is to try to latch baby when the baby is active and happy. If you try this and your baby gets really fussy then calm down the baby and move to step 2.

Step Two

Try a nipple shield: A nipple shield can help if the baby has a hard time latching on the breast and makes breastfeeding easier. The nipple shield worked well for me 75% of the time. I would feed my baby with the nipple shield until he came off on his own and then sometimes I would offer the other breast without the shield and he would take it. My baby really liked the medela brand shield. I bought a 24 mm shield which was the same size as the flange I used on my breast pump and it worked great. Sometimes, I would try this and my baby was already super hungry, mad, and unwilling to work for the milk so I would have to calm him down and move on to step three.

Step Three

Offer a half an ounce of pumped milk of formula with a syringe while holding your baby close to your breast. After doing this, I would try to latch my baby again once he was less frustrated with some milk in his belly. If he latched fine with the breast shield (or without the shield), I would let him finish eating and then pump out the amount of milk that I fed him with the syringe to keep up my supply. If he refused to latch and got extremely fussy, I would move on to step 4.

Step Four

Just give a bottle. At this point I would feed my baby a bottle because he was already frustrated and starving. I always use a slow flow como tomo bottle, but any slow flow bottle would work. I would highly recommend paced feeding as opposed to feeding the baby by gravity. Paced feeding is where you hold your baby upright during feeds so that they have to work harder for their milk. I would recommend watching a tutorial on paced feeding on youtube. It is important to realize that if you hit this step, you did not fail! Keep trying with each feed until your baby loves your boob again.

Once your baby loves your boob again......

when your baby is happy to be breastfeeding again, try to offer as few bottles as possible. I know some moms work and this is hard to do, so if you absolutely need to feed bottles make sure to train the person who is feeding your baby on how to do paced feeding and provide them with a slow flow breast like nipple. This step by step cycle has worked for me whenever my baby has refused my boob. I have been able to narrow down that my baby simply likes the feeling of silicone, he loves his binky and his bottles and there is not much I can do about it. I refuse to exclusively pump again because it is so much work and it honestly sucks to sit attached to a pump while my husband gets to feed the baby. This was how I got my baby back to my boob and I hope it can help someone else!!

My baby is 4 months old and has been happy and easy to latch since 9 weeks. I haven’t had any new issues :)

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