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  • Post last modified:September 6, 2020
  • Post comments:5 Comments

baby refuses to breastfeed

Mom’s Question:

My 3-month-old baby refuses to breastfeed (nurse) on and off since over a week. She also brings up the little bit she does take.

She may nurse for 8 minutes on one side and refuse the other. She cries when I but her to the breast.

HELP !!!! What is wrong with her??? And what do I do about this nursing strike!??


Eaasy Baby Life:

Reasons Why A Baby May Refuse The Breast (Nursing strike)

Many babies go through periods of some sort of breast refusal or nursing strikes as it is sometimes called. There can be many reasons for this – both baby related and those related to milk supply or mom’s distress.

Your daughter isn’t refusing to breastfeed completely, which is of course good, but I understand that the situation is worrying.

Let’s look at some possible reasons why your baby refuses to breastfeed.

Baby-related reasons for nursing strikes

Too used to the bottle

First of all, is your daughter also bottle-fed? In such case, it could be that she has figured out that it takes much less effort to eat from the bottle. It is quite common that babies start refusing the breast once they get access to and start to like the bottle.

Simply full

If she is only breastfed, it could actually be so simple that she is full! At some point, different for all babies, they become stronger and more efficient with nursing and if you have plenty of milk, it is quite likely that 8 minutes on one breast is enough for her to be satisfied.

At 3 months of age, her growth rate is also finally slowing down somewhat and the suckling reflex is also getting weaker, so her needs to eat and suckle will not be as strong as before.

Is she gaining weight as she should? If she is, then let her have it her way. Once you let go of the worrying, you’ll notice that it is great to have an efficient eater. I know it is so easy to become frustrated and worried, but trying to “strongly convince” a child to eat, no matter what age, is never a successful strategy in my experience.

Pain from swallowing air

Another reason may be – especially if she eats quite rapidly – that she swallows so much air that after a while it becomes painful. This could explain both the spitting and the fussiness if it starts only after a while.

In such a case, try nursing her is a more upright position, letting her bottom rest in your lap. You can also press gently with your fingers above the nipple of the breast she is eating from. That can slow down the milk flow a little bit. Also, help her burp after one breast.

Mouth pain from thrush or a sore throat

Have you checked her mouth for thrush or a sore throat? Oral thrush is usually not painful, but it can be if the thrush is severe. You can learn about baby thrush and how to get rid of it here.

A sore throat is of course painful and can certainly be a reason why a baby refuses to breastfeed. If you are worried that she is sick, take her to a doctor.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

If you feel that she is really not getting enough food and hence you suspect she is not gaining weight as she should, I recommend that you take her to a doctor.

For example, babies that have Gastroesophageal Reflux might have the symptoms you describe – crying while nursing and spitting up, especially if combined with poor weight gain.

Reflux is less common among breastfed babies, but it does exist and can be medicated effectively.

You can read more about Infant Reflux in this article by Mayo Clinic. (Opens in new window)

Overtired or overstimulated

Has her routines or her environment changed recently? A baby that is too tired or overstimulated when trying to feed can very well be very hard to settle and get to suckle even if they are hungry.

Supply-related reasons

A common reason why babies get frustrated at the breast is a too-fast flow that makes them gag. If your breasts are very full or you know that the flow is very fast in the beginning, then try to squeeze out a bit before offering the breast.

Very full breasts can also be difficult to latch-on for the baby, so that’s also a reason to squeeze out some milk.

I can imagine if she is not breastfeeding less frequently than before, that your breasts are quite full!

Do any of these explanations seem reasonable to you?

What to do when baby refuses to breastfeed

Of course, an important question is what to do about the nursing strike!

1) Well, most of all, stay calm! Your baby will notice your stress and frustration and that will only make things worse. So take a deep breath and do all you can to shake off any anxiety when you have your baby in your arms!

2) You can try feeding your daughter in an entirely different position than you use to. Walk and feed, feed her while in a sling, lay down or even feed her while you are both in the bathtub (in a safe way)!

3) You can also do it skin to skin if that’s not what you usually do.

4) Make sure you don’t use any new or strong perfumes that can distract her.

5) Try feeding before you think she is really tired or very hungry – and overall try other times of the day.

6) You can also try some dream feeding, although of course, she needs to eat when she is awake too.

7) Try feeding right after playing with your 3-month-old.

I’d be happy to try to help you more if you provide me with some more information. (Bottle-fed or not, fussy all the time or just on the second breast; gaining weight or not, etc.)

I really hope you get it sorted out soon!


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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Rachel

    My 3 month old boy has been refusing breast since a week. I don’t know how it all started. He has been having 2 bottles (pumped breast milk) a day when I am off to work and the rest of the feedings directly from my breast. But from the last week he fails to nurse directly. He has a little and then starts screaming and crying. No thrush and not reflux too. Just plain irritation. I don’t know how to get him to my breast again. Should I start exclusively pumping and feeding from bottle? Please help.

    1. Mommy

      For 3 month old refusing breast, it’s probably bc bottle release milk faster than breast. The baby is expecting milk to come out at a fast pace. Have a bottle ready during breastfeeding, when the baby becomes to upset and screams give he/she the bottle for a second or to as if to tease and switch back to breast. It takes a lot of patience but eventually ur baby will learn the difference between being breastfed and bottle. I had to do the same with my baby.

  2. Clara

    Check the baby’s mouth for thrush (white patches that don’t wipe off).

  3. Same problem

    My 3 month old baby girl is also doing this, screaming hysterically when the breast is offered. she is not bottle fed at all and hasn’t gained proper weight over the last week (just 2 oz). She may feed intermittently but screams sometimes when feeding. I feel very distressed and don’t know how to get food down her as she wont take a bottle.

  4. My baby too

    3 month old baby cries and fusses when put to the breast and is now starting to refuse breast. She is gaining weight but will cry if put to breast and will feed a little & often and then will feed for a long time. is now refusing breast.

    What should I do and what is wrong?