Baby Refuses to Nurse

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7-week-old refuses to nurse

May 2003

I'm looking for other mothers who have had similar difficulties breastfeeding. My fourth child is now 7 weeks old, and refuses to nurse. His tongue is short, his chin recedes, and his palate is very high. All this combines to make nursing very challenging. I've been pumping and feeding him expressed milk in bottles. My lactation consultants agree that he will likely figure it out as he gets stronger, hopefully by three months or so. I'd love to hear from mothers who have had similar experiences. AW

I had a very similar experience with my firstborn. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth for the first 8 weeks or so of his life -- the lactation consultant had us using a bottle a couple of times a day, and a nipple shield whenever I tried to nurse, to force his tongue to stay down far enough so that he was actually able to latch on (my nipples were also pretty flat, which didn't help matters). It was very frustrating, and took a long time for us to figure out. I remember that when my son was 6 weeks old, my husband comforted me by telling me that I was 25% of the way to 6 months, and that I could quit then if I wanted. But what do you know, sometime between 2 and 3 months, we were slowly able to lose the nipple shield; by 3 months my son could nurse comfortably without it in any situation, including in public. And by 6 months, there was no way I wanted to quit; nursing was so easy, and so convenient (no bottles and formula to bring), that I couldn't imagine feeding my son without it. It just took a lot of persistence in the beginning. Basically, I was just stubborn enough to keep at it until my son (and I) figured it out. Karen
Dear A,
I had the same problem with my nearly four week old. One of the postpartum nurses recommended using a Medela silicon nipple shield - it elongates the nipple for easier latching. It worked well for us. Good luck and congratulations! Shirley

7-month-old has starting refusing the breast

October 2002

My seven-month old has always been a good nurser. Since the introduction of solids and a three-day a week babysitter, though, his pattern has changed. He sometimes rejects the breast. I thought it was just teething and then an ear infection. Now he is well, though, and while he almost always nurses again, he will only do so when we are stretched out on the bed. Each time I try to sit up to nurse he will pull away. I am hell bent on nursing a year, but clearly this is going to be tough for public nursing, travel, etc. Anybody have a similar experience? I was afraid he already wanted to wean, but he is nursing with gusto if we are laying down. Lynn

My baby was always a good nurser... but only when there were no distractions. Even when he was only a few months old he would whip his head around when he heard Daddy's footsteps coming close. As he got older the problem got worse (rejection!), so we just stopped nursing in public. That didn't always work (i.e. traveling) but most of the time it was fine -- and when he really needed it, like on long plane rides, he could concentrate.

As he started really drinking from a cup better, eating solids, and being with a nanny all day (8 mo.) we switched to nursing only in the morning and at night out of necessity.

Now he's 11 months and we only nurse at night and in the morning. If we are in a public place -- even at a friend's house -- he postpones his nursing time until we go home and sit in the rocking chair by ourselves. He still nurses well during those times, but it is very clear when he is finished and doesn't want more. And no distractions -- or else rejection or biting!

My advice: set up a routine and a quiet place to nurse your baby -- if he insists on the bed, keep it that way. He may be starting the weaning process... but my guess is that he's just starting to know and express what he likes -- nursing lying down in a comfy, quiet place. When you're in public, give him pumped milk in a cup or bottle (if you're lucky enough that he takes one). Good luck. I hope you're able to nurse him as long as you want. Maria

Although I planned to nurse longer, my daughter self-weaned at 7 months. She seemed to be ready to look around and experience what was going on around her, and if she could do so and still eat from a bottle or tippy cup, then that worked for her. She is now 2.5 and perfectly happy and healthy.
My baby did exactly the same thing at the same age! The same thrusting of the head as I tried in vain to shove my breast in his mouth! He, too, only wanted to nurse if we were in bed, where he would fall asleep. So be it. I gave up trying, because he simply did not was to nurse except at night. No advice here, only that my baby also did this, and now only nurses to fall asleep. Marya
A ''nursing strike'' of some sort is very common around 7-9 months and it often is related to teething and/or illness. A cold or ear infection can especially cause the sort of thing you describe, where the baby insists on nursing only in a particular position, because other positions may be uncomfortable with a stuffed up nose or painful ears.

The good news is that since your baby does still nurse, and has taken well to eating solid foods, you don't have too much of a problem. The laying-down-only thing will probably resolve itself with a little time and patience, and if he is hungry when you are out in public you can simply offer water and solid food snacks if he won't ''nurse nicely''. The ''nurse nicely'' is something you need to start teaching anyway; he is old enough to learn that he only gets the good stuff if he refrains from pulling on your shirt, gymnastics, or any other behavior you might find acceptable at home but not in public. (Do be aware of it if he doesn't seem to be nursing enough, though -- the total amount of breastmilk he gets shouldn't be too much affected by his increasing solids intake for at least another couple months. If that happens you may need to stay at home a little more for a while.)

If you'd like more advice and support on this or any nursing question, subscribe to the Usenet group I cannot recommend it highly enough. Holly (still successfully nursing her 21-month-old)

8-month-old's nursing strike

April 2002

My 8 month old son has always nursed and never taken a bottle. He also eats soft foods at meal times. A week ago, we went out of town and after the first day, he refused to nurse. I rented a pump and he has been drinking my milk from a spouted a cup. We're back home now, but he still adamantly refuses nursing. I'm hoping that this is not a permanent change and am interested in ideas to help bring him back to nursing. I've tried quiet room, warm bath, sleepy. My older son nursed for 18 months & then was difficult to wean so this would be a big change from that situation. Our pediatrician thinks he is just ready to be finished nursing. Perhaps I need to honor this and not keep pushing? Thanks for any input. Lianne

Could your body be getting ready to resume menstruation? My baby went on a nursing strike when she was 11 months old during an out of town visit. It turned out the problem was that my periods were starting again. She seems to be sensitive to a change in my smell or a change in breastmilk taste right before my periods start. She went right back to nursing after my period started. Now she still nurses when I am pre-menstrual, but she is not as enthusiastic. jeanne
My daughter went on a nursing strike at 7 mos. I finally discovered that she would nurse in bed, lying down. For at least a month that was the only way she would nurse. I consulted Sears The Baby Book for ideas (try different nursing positions). This advice is available online at

Here are a few things you can do to get through and encourage baby to begin nursing again:
* Try ''sneaking'' the breast in during the night, or during the day when baby is half asleep.
* Spend a lot a skin-to-skin time with baby without specifically trying to offer the breast.
* Try to nurse baby in an unusual situation, such as walking around or other moving situation.
* Try a variety of positions.

Good luck getting through this hard time. susan

I would disagree with your pediatrician; babies do not wean before a year.

If you want to continue the nursing relationship, try going topless at home, if she is mobile, try lying down topless (I did this with #3 - she'd ''cruise by nurse'') or spending a lazy day in bed with lots of water and constant breast access (by your baby). My #3 started walking at 8mo, so she was MUCH more interested in walking than nursing. :)

THis is a time when night nursing is so important - she'll make up at night for her lack of day nursing (at least that has been my experience). Kathy

Eight months is a really common age for a nursing strike, and it sounds like you are doing all the right things.

As for your peds advice - if you WANT to wean, this would obviously be an easy time to do so. If you DONT' want to wean, I don't think you should let your ped or anyone else try to make you feel guilty for persisting. After all, when your little one is 18 months old and running around at the park, and doesn't want to stop and have a much-needed snack, everyone would think you are a great mom for insisting that he or she take some time out for a nutritious break, right? I fail to see how this is any different.

When my son would occassionally get too busy to nurse very often (he has yet to stage a full-blown strike) I found it helpful to keep myself in very close proximity (on the floor, playing together) and offer really frequently. REALLY frequently, like every 20 minutes. And super, super low-key. He would take me up on it for maybe 2 minutes at a time, and then at the end of a few days figure out that he could be a big guy with a bright, new, shiny skill (walking, or a new word, or whatever) and STILL nurse! Whoopee!

Best, Debbi

i'd keep up with the different things you're trying, at least for a while. i'd also contact a la leche league leader for help--they may have more ideas. it sounds like you want him to nurse as long as your first, and i say keep pushing! not to lambaste your pediatrician, but i don't think there are eight month olds who 'wean' themselves--i think pediatricians (and other people) who are afraid of extended nursing and don't know enough about breastfeeding (extended for many being beyond six months!) often say stuff like that without thinking more creatively about how to get over this strike period and extend your valuable nursing relationship. jessica
My daughter went on strike at about 6 months. It seemed to happen after she bit me and I reacted by suddely stopping nursing and saying ouch loudly, I know I startled her a lot (as she had me). It was also around the time we were in flux with nannies. I called all over and none of the regular advice worked. Finally what I found was that she would nurse when she was really sleepy after just having woken from a nap or the night. I would go to her, the minute I would hear her stir and nurse her. This went on for a week or so and gradually she would nurse at other times but it always had to be in a quiet spot, otherwise she would just want to look around. We happily continued the nursing relationship another 10 months until just last weekend when we finished a long slow weaning process. I remember however how emotionally distressing the strike was for me, I felt so sad and rejected. Good luck! Lissa Biddle
I am so sympathetic to what you must be going through. When my son was nine months old he abruptly stopped nursing for what turned out to be exactly seven days (to the feeding!) I was frantic and tried EVERYTHING, he had never taken a bottle but I kept pumping, put breast milk in a bottle one day and he took that thing like a pro. I never did determine what happened, and we continued to breastfeed til just after his first birthday when he slowly weaned himself. I do seem to remember that my period started around the time he was ten months, so there may have been some changes in the milk...I just don't know. The advantage after that episode was that he was willing to take a bottle, which was helpful. Hang in there! Carolyn
When my daughter was 7mths. old, we went to england and the same thing happened. No matter how hard i tried she simply would not nurse. I now think that a change in the water/food changed the taste of my milk. Even though you are feeding your son your milk now that you are back home, he may associate the breast with the different taste he experienced while you were away. maybe there's something in this, i don't know. Anon.
My situation wasn't entirely the same a yours, but maybe this will help or inspire you anyway. When I returned to work my 4 month old was taking bottled breast milk 3 times a day and I was finding she much preferred the bottle, as it was a faster and more consistent flow. She was getting very frustrated with the breast waiting for the let down and would cry and cry and not continue to suck such that the let down would never come. It was very upsetting for me, but it was important for me to continue to nurse so I persisted. Sometimes I would pump a little before nursing her so the let down was already there when I put her to the breast or I would try to feed her before she was starved so she had more patience waiting for the let down. For the most part we have worked through it and she is nursing (she is 8 months now), although I think she still would prefer the bottle, at least during the day. Good luck. Karyn
I didn't see the whole post, but a mom had posted apparently about a young baby rejecting the breast earlier than a year. My two younger sons both rejected just shy of a year, but I found out later that the youngest rejected because I had gotten ''serious'' about losing some baby weight, and had unwittingly changed the formulation of my breast milk--apparently it didn't taste very good. Pediatrician, Nurse Practitioner, friends--all missed this because I didn't ''talk'' about having started losing weight. There are also some toxicity issues, apparently--but the best person to ask about this would be a breastfeeding professional which you can find at a place like ''Birth & Bonding''. Hope this helps! Karin
Nursing Strike OVER!!!

After three weeks of drinking pumped breast milk from a spouted cup, my son is back to nursing three times per day. Thanks so much for all of the suggestions and support. It kept me pumping & trying to nurse even when I felt like giving up. Very Appreciatively, Lianne