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Breastfeeding - what to do when your baby refuses to breastfeed

Few things can be as frustrating and challenging as when you want to breastfeed, but your baby refuses the breast. But don't despair; help is available. Read on for tips on how to facilitate breastfeeding, and download the LEIA Health app to establish a good breastfeeding routine with the assistance of our feeding log.

Why does the baby refuse the breast?

Babies may refuse the breast for various reasons. Some infants, for example, may struggle to switch between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding due to different sucking techniques and often varying milk flow strengths.

In such cases, the baby may express frustration at the breast. They might also have a stuffy nose, making breastfeeding difficult. Alternatively, your baby might be too distracted by their surroundings to nurse.

Here are some practical tips you can try:

  • Try skin-to-skin contact in a reclined position to allow the baby to reconnect with their breastfeeding technique.

  • If the baby has a stuffy nose, breastfeed them in an upright position.

  • Breastfeed in a quiet environment to minimize sensory distractions.

  • Hand-express a few drops of milk before breastfeeding to stimulate the baby's interest.

  • If you use a nipple shield, express a few drops of milk at the front of the shield for immediate encouragement.

  • If your baby has become accustomed to bottle flow, consider avoiding the bottle for a period and using a cup or a supplemental nursing system to encourage a return to the breast. Be mindful of the bottle's pace when bottle-feeding.

  • Use breast compressions during breastfeeding if the milk flow is slow.

  • If the issue is fast milk flow, consider adjusting the latch and try different breastfeeding positions. Allow excess milk to flow into a towel or a cup.

" I wish Leia had existed when I had my first child, as I constantly felt the pressure for breastfeeding to work when, in reality, it wasn't."

When breastfeeding doesn't work

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, breastfeeding doesn't work as expected. Despite all the advice and techniques, some mothers may still find it too challenging to continue breastfeeding.

Feeling sadness when you want to breastfeed but can't is quite common. In such moments, it's crucial to seek support, both from healthcare professionals and your support network. Your effectiveness as a parent is not determined by whether you breastfeed or not. What matters most is that you and your child are healthy and well together.


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