When the Baby Refuses the Breast: Navigating Causes and Remedies

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential bonding experience between a mother and her baby. However, when a baby refuses the breast, it can be a source of concern and frustration for parents. In this blog, we explore the possible signs, causes, and remedies for when a baby exhibits resistance to breastfeeding.

Signs of Breast Refusal

  • Fussiness or Crying: If your baby becomes fussy or cries when brought to the breast, it may indicate reluctance.
  • Turning Away: Turning the head away or arching the back during attempts to latch.
  • Short Nursing Sessions: Suddenly, nursing sessions become shorter than usual.

Identifying Causes

  • Latch Issues: Painful latch experiences may lead to breast refusal. Ensure the baby is latching correctly to prevent discomfort.
  • Flow Preference: Some babies develop a preference for a faster flow, such as from a bottle, making them reluctant to nurse.
  • Teething Discomfort: Teething can cause gum sensitivity, making breastfeeding uncomfortable for the baby.
  • Ear Infections or Illness: Pain or discomfort from ear infections or illness can discourage breastfeeding.
  • Changes in Routine: A shift in routine or environment may affect the baby’s willingness to nurse.

Remedies and Strategies

  • Addressing Latch Issues: Seek guidance from a lactation consultant to ensure a proper latch, reducing discomfort for both mother and baby.
  • Paced Bottle Feeding: If introducing a bottle, use paced bottle feeding techniques to mimic the breastfeeding experience.
  • Teething Relief: Offer a chilled teething toy or use a clean finger to gently massage the baby’s gums before nursing.
  • Comfortable Environment: Create a calm and comfortable environment for breastfeeding, minimizing disruptions.
  • Expressing Milk: If breast refusal persists, express milk and feed through an alternative method, such as a cup or syringe, to ensure the baby continues receiving breast milk.

Seeking Professional Support

If breast refusal persists or is accompanied by weight loss or other concerning symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional. They can assess the baby’s overall health, identify any underlying issues, and provide tailored guidance.


Breast refusal can be a challenging phase for both parents and babies, but with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, it can often be addressed successfully. Identifying the signs, exploring potential causes, and implementing appropriate remedies contribute to a positive breastfeeding experience. Remember, every baby is unique, and seeking professional support ensures that both you and your little one receive the guidance needed to navigate this aspect of your breastfeeding journey with confidence.


  1. Newman J, Wilmott B. Breast rejection: a little-appreciated cause of lactation failure. Can Fam Physician. 1990;36:449-453.
  2. Jalali F, Kamiab Z, Khademalhosseini M, Daeizadeh F, Bazmandegan G. Nursing strikes among infants and its affecting factors in Rafsanjan city. J Med Life. 2021;14(1):56-60. doi:10.25122/jml-2020-0118

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