Your baby might be refusing your breast because of discomfort (congestion, sore throat, sore gums, illness) or frustration (startled, low milk supply). It can also be because your baby is distracted or something has changed in you (e.g. you’re stressed lately or you smell different because you now use different personal care products).
Most likely everything will be back to normal after a few days. This “nursing strike” will surely end unless there’s a serious issue (your baby refuses to be fed even through a bottle or cup, he/she is losing weight, peeing and pooping are unusual or less frequent). In that case you should call the doctor right away. If this nursing strike is taking too long (more than a week and your baby’s health is being affected drastically), this might affect his/her brain and physical development because of the lack of hydration and nutrients.
Mums worry about this breastfeed refusal because their babies are not receiving enough nutrients needed for their newborns’ rapid development. As a result, during this nursing strike it’s crucial to make sure they’re still being fed through a bottle or cup. This can be stressful but what’s important is that your baby is still being fed somehow.
Sooner or later your baby will be back to the breast. When that time comes it’s good to maintain the breastmilk supply through pumping or hand expressing. This way your body knows that your milk is still needed. If the body recognises that the milk is not needed anymore, the supply will decrease. This can be a problem when your baby finally comes back to the breast. He/she might then get frustrated because of the slow and low milk supply.
Frustration is a common cause in this nursing strike. Aside from the low milk supply which makes it hard to feed, perhaps the baby is also frustrated because the taste of the milk has changed (the milk’s flavour might be affected by hormonal changes, exercise because of lactic acid build-up and sweat, certain medications, smoking and alcohol). Another reason is that the baby was startled when you yelled or reacted negatively. As a result, it’s important to keep calm whether you’re around your baby or not. Your stress affects your baby including how he/she receives your breastmilk.
Even during this nursing strike you should still keep trying to feed your baby. You can just stop first and try again a bit later (especially when your baby is sleepy already). You can also change the position so your baby can feel comfortable. It’s also good to feed your baby in a dim quiet room to minimise the distractions. Having skin-to-skin contact and maintaining a relaxed attitude can also help.
It’s important to make each breastfeeding session a positive experience. This way your baby will always feel relaxed and comfortable. Your baby will then regularly get enough breastmilk which will help his/her proper brain and physical development.