A baby’s refusal to suck at the breast is a most distressing problem to a breastfeeding mother. She cannot help feeling upset when her baby screams and turns away from her breast. She may feel that her baby is rejecting her as a mother and doesn’t want her, need her, or even like her very much.
Is it normal for a baby to prefer one breast over the other?
Yes. Infants, especially newborns, may have periods of preferring one breast to the other. You may notice your baby fussing, pulling away, or simply refusing to suck from one of your breasts.
Milk Supply reasons
- Fast flow
- Low supply
- Slow let-down
There are many, many reasons for babies to refuse the breast, whatever their age. Below are some of the main reasons that mothers have found for their babies’ refusal – but sometimes no reason can be found. Just as suddenly as the baby started refusing, the whole episode is over and he is happily breastfeeding again as if nothing had happened.
What causes it?
A newborn may reject one breast because it’s harder to latch on to for some reason. The rejected breast may be more engorged or have a difference in the nipple, for example.
An older baby may reject one breast because it has a low milk supply or a slower flow or letdown than the other breast. Your baby’s breast preference can make the milk supply situation worse: You can end up with a low milk supply in one breast if your baby nurses more often from the other breast.
Sometimes a baby will be more comfortable being held on one side than the other. If your baby seems to suddenly prefer one side, it may be because something hurts him. Maybe he has an ear infection in one ear, or maybe the side that he was just immunized on is tender, for example.
If you’ve had surgery (or have another physical difference) in one breast, you may have a lower flow of milk in that breast. It’s not common, but having cancer in a breast can also result in low milk flow. If you think that one of your breasts isn’t producing as much milk as the other, talk with your healthcare provider.
How many wet nappies does your baby have in 24 hours?
Regardless of the number of feeds she has, signs that your baby is getting enough breastmilk include if she has, over 24 hours, regular soft bowel motions, at least six to eight pale, very wet cloth nappies, or at least five heavy wet disposable nappies with pale, odourless urine. Check with your medical adviser if your baby’s urine is dark and has a strong smell. She is being adequately nourished if she is reasonably contented, looks alert, has bright eyes and good skin colour and muscle tone and has some weight gains.
What can I do if my baby won’t nurse from one of my breasts?
Try to gently and persistently encourage your baby to nurse at the less-preferred breast by always offering that breast first, when he’s hungriest. You can also try offering it when he’s just waking up and perhaps still sleepy enough to take it. Experiment with different positions, and perhaps rock or sway your baby while nursing him.
If you’re consistently nursing from one breast, you’ll want to pump orhand express milk from the other side to keep up production. You may need to use the expressed milk to supplement your baby’s feedings. (Pumping will also help if you’re concerned about looking lopsided.)If your child is getting enough milk and his breast preference poses no real adversity for you, there’s no harm in letting your baby have his preference. There are plenty of women who have nursed successfully from one breast only.