refusing breast

A baby refusing the breast is a common breastfeeding problem. Discover how you can positively encourage your baby to feed again

If your baby is very sleepy and doesn’t seem interested in breastfeeding, then do seek help. It could be that the after-effects of the birth or pain relief used during labour are affecting his responses and causing your baby to refuse your breast. Other babies fight and struggle at the breast, and seem to resist it.

What can you do when a baby is refusing the breast?

Breast refusal is quite a common breastfeeding problem and is almost always temporary. While it lasts, keep your baby close to you, so you can respond to every little feeding cue quickly, before they nod off again or before your baby is alert enough to fight.

"Gentle holding and cuddling, skin-to-skin as much as you can, is helpful."

Avoid pushing or shoving, or head holding (which can make things worse if your baby is refusing to breastfeed) – and don’t let anyone else do this either.

Hand expressing of colostrum (or a pump after your milk has come in), is important, to keep you comfortable, to establish a milk supply, and crucially, to ensure your baby gets nourished. You can give this to your baby in different ways using a spoon, cup or bottle. Your midwife or breastfeeding counsellor can discuss this with you. 

For more information about problems you might encounter in the early days click here.

Further information

NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.

National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.

NHS information on mastitis.

Best Beginnings - Bump to Breastfeeding DVD Chapter 7 'Overcoming Challenges'. Managing Breastfeeding – dealing with difficult times.

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