Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Baby Won't Nurse!

Refusal to nurse is a common problem breastfeeding moms will face with their little ones. Babies wail or fuss at the breast. They push away or arch their backs. I've encountered it dozens of times with my little ones, and it's enough to make a mom want to throw in the towel (or burp cloth) on breastfeeding. To date, I have more than 24 months of breastfeeding experience under my belt, but only because I refused to give up. Most often, waiting it out seemed to be the key. I thought I should share some of the reasons why babies may fuss at the breast:
  • Needing to burp: If baby's been nursing just fine for five minutes or so, then suddenly refuses to continue, the most common explanation is the need to burp.
  • Simply not hungry: Young babies will generally need to eat every two to four hours. If you suspect your baby might not be hungry, try again in another 30 to 60 minutes. Don't wait for your baby to become overly-hungry, though.
  • Indigestion: The foods a mother eats change the content and flavor of her milk. Babies may get some indigestion from certain foods or simply not like the flavor of the milk after mom had something spicy.
  • A cold: If your baby has a stuffy nose, she may not be able to breathe very easily when she sucks in milk. Try a little bit of baby nasal saline solution followed by a nasal bulb before nursing.
  • An ear infection or teething: If this is the case, the action of nursing can sometimes be painful for some babies. If you suspect teething, give your baby a teething toy. Wait an hour or so, and keep trying. If you suspect an ear infection, use an otoscope to check your baby's ear for redness, or see your child's pediatrician.
  • Too tired to nurse: Occasionally, babies are just too tired to want to do the work of eating. Sometimes a difficult afternoon or a busy day full of new experiences makes babies overstimulated. Put baby down to nap.
  • Distractions: A room full of other people or sounds can be distracting or overwhelming, especially for babies about six months old or older. Do your best to dim the lights and find someplace quiet for just the two of you.
  • Bowel movement: My children would refuse to nurse if they were trying to poop, no matter how hungry I thought they must be (especially as very young babies). As soon as they were done and in a fresh diaper, everything would be fine.
  • A sore shoulder or neck: There was an instance with my son when simply the act of placing him in a side-lying posture seemed to set him off. I realized I had been repeatedly holding him wrong. If you haven't been diligent about how you position your baby's spine, neck and shoulders, your baby could develop sore muscles. (Baby's ear, shoulder and hip should be aligned). Try making her as comfortable as possible, possibly placing her atop a soft pillow or nursing in a different position than usual. The problem should remedy itself in a day or so.
  • Other explanations can include colic, thrush, a food sensitivity, milk flow (too fast or slow) or hyperlactation syndrome. And sometimes babies go on a nursing strike for reasons we don't understand.

Even if you cannot determine the reason your baby won't eat, there are things you can do.
  • First and foremost, soothe your baby and wait for him to be calm before trying again. You don't want him to associate frustration with the breast.
  • Propping baby's head and torso in a more upright position. I found this to be especially effective if I could hold the baby in such a way to nurse while walking around and gently bouncing.
  • Keep trying. If you've tried a few times and aren't making progress, give it an hour. Keep trying! In the mean time, use a breast pump every two or three hours to relieve engorgement and keep your milk supply.
  • Try giving a bottle, just for one or two feedings. Sometimes babies who are refusing to nurse will take a bottle. Try breastfeeding again later in the day.
  • Call a support person: a lactation consultant, an experienced mom, a pediatrician, or just a friend who will help you relax.
If all else fails, be sure to see your doctor and don't feel guilty or ashamed if you aren't able to continue breastfeeding. You need to what's best for baby AND you.

1 comment:

Chalice Lindgren said...

It is very important that you have your child’s pediatrician’s number on hand. This way, you can call the doctor immediately in case of emergencies. If you are having a hard time pointing out the reason why your child cannot breastfeed, it won’t hurt to call the pediatrician’s clinic to set-up an appointment. If you want the medical attention right away, directly contact the pediatrician for assistance.

Chalice Lindgren