Breast refusal (also called a "nursing
strike") is a normal thing that can happen to any baby, but it
is particularly heartbreaking for the working mother. She
worries that her baby is rejecting her because she is
working. She thinks that it is her fault that the baby won't
take the breast.
Have heart - breast refusal happens to
all babies, even the ones who are with their mothers all the
time. The good news is that with proper intervention, it usually
only lasts a couple of days, and your baby is none the worse for
a couple of days of not nursing. The challenge is that your baby
is probably getting bottles all day, which makes the treatment
for breast refusal a little harder, and it may take a little
longer, but have no fear - it can be done, and before you know
it, your baby will be back to nursing happily once again.
Nobody's been able to ask one of the
babies yet, but there are a lot of theories about why breast
refusal happens. So-called "nipple confusion" is the primary
culprit - the baby gets used to the fast flow of milk from a
bottle, and loses patience waiting for milk from mom, or doesn't
want to do the extra work to get it. Other theories are that at
around 4 months, your baby just starts paying a lot more
attention to the world around her, and is more distractible
during feedings. It may be that she's bottle-fed facing out
where she can see what's going on, and doesn't want to miss out
on anything at the breast. She may just be busier and not want
to sit still when you're ready for feeding time.
No matter the cause of breast refusal,
the treatment is basically the same - make the breast available
all the time, in a non-pressuring way. How can you do this? Here
are a few ideas:
- Take a lot of baths with your
baby. Hold her close while you are both naked in the
relaxing warm water of the tub.
- Offer your breast when your baby
is sleepy and relaxed. She may be less distractible and more
willing to feed at these times.
- Stay in bed for a morning with
your baby - lie around with your shirt open or off, just
have your breast there for whenever your baby shows
- Do NOT hold your baby against your
breast when she is not interested in feeding. This can make
things much worse, and can be traumatic for her.
- Do NOT give bottles when she
refuses the breast. Unless your baby has a medical problem,
she will drink from your breast when she gets hungry. Giving
a bottle reinforces that if your baby holds out, she'll get
the easier meal.
think "oh, I'll just keep pumping and bottle-feed her my milk". Think twice.
Think about getting up in the middle of the night to pump and
make bottles. Think about not being able to go anywhere without
your pump. Some mothers do this, and I really admire their
dedication - personally, I just can't see it. I think
it's so much easier in the long run to suffer through the strike
for a few days, and then return to the ease of nursing.