Mum’s Journey: Help! My 3.5-Month-Old is Refusing to Breastfeed
A phone call from Lisa came through and I could tell all was not well. Lisa explained that Sophie had not been feeding at the breast very well for the last two days. In addition, she had started to refuse bottles of expressed breast milk too...
Sophie was out of sorts and cried as soon as Lisa tried to breastfeed her. When Lisa tried to give Sophie the bottle instead she pushed that away too. Lisa was worried… I could hear it in her voice.
This had been going on for 2 days, so it clearly wasn’t just the odd feed that Sophie was refusing. I thought that Sophie probably had an infection – an ear or urine infection was my suspicion.
Babies seem to either feed ferociously when they are unwell or go the complete opposite and start to refuse to feed.
Lisa told me she had booked an appointment with her GP to have Sophie checked over. I told her that I thought it was a good idea and explained that it was likely an infection or virus, which was making Sophie not want to feed.
I tried to reassure Lisa that Sophie would likely go back to breastfeeding very soon, once she felt better. I encouraged her not to give up and think that Sophie was weaning herself; this was just temporary.
I further advised Lisa to keep trying to put Sophie on the breast, but not to force her. Being gentle and calm would help Sophie to go back to the breast when she was ready. But, in the meantime, I encouraged her to maintain her milk supply until Sophie is feeding well again by regularly expressing to replace Sophie’s normal breastfeeds.
I suggested trying lying down or upright feeding styles and to keep Sophie close to keep her and the breast, so that it makes the transition back to breast smoother.
I asked Lisa to call me later as she needed.
The Next Day: It Really Was a Viral Infection
I phone Lisa to see how the GP appointment went. Lisa had ended up in the emergency room with Sophie due to her not feeding at all. They had diagnosed a viral infection.
With persuasion, Sophie had had some breastfeeds and they were then allowed to go home, after a very long visit to the hospital!
At home, Sophie was taking some breastfeeds and some bottle feeds of expressed breast milk, but she was not yet fully calm and content back at the breast.
I reassured Lisa that I was sure Sophie would eventually go back to breastfeeding.
Poor Lisa! What a rollercoaster ride! Just when we all thought things had settled down, this happens.
Lisa and I discussed how difficult this breastfeeding experience had been compared to her first child. Lisa has done so well. With all these adversities she is still breastfeeding.
The Day After: Sophie is Back to Breastfeeding!
At last, Sophie is back breastfeeding again! Her virus is subsiding and Sophie is clearly feeling better. Now, she has returned to breastfeeding happily once more!
Occasionally, for some babies, a virus or infection can lead to them feeling really out of sorts and not hungry. This is most likely why we saw Sophie stop wanting to feed.
Try not to worry too much that your baby has weaned themselves. This will nearly always be untrue. It is simply a temporary break from breastfeeding.
Taking the gentle approach to offering feeds and ensuring you maintain your milk supply until your baby is ready to breastfeed again is all you need to do. It is important to always have a medical (GP/Paediatrician) check-up if your baby stops feeding.
Other babies may want to breastfeed much more frequently, when they are sick, as this helps them to feel better. This is perfectly normal too and is important to let them cluster feed as they want.
Breastfeeding is more than just nutrition; it is calming, relieves pain and even boosts feel-good hormones for baby and mum. So, this is why it is so important to keep breastfeeding your baby as long as you are able.
Your milk and the act of breastfeeding comes with numerous benefits, some of which you only learn along the way.
For more information and support with breastfeeding please contact your local supports:
Australian Breastfeeding Association – ABA helpline
1800 686 2 686 (1800 mum 2 mum)
The Maternal & Child Health Line
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - 13 22 29
Maternal and Child Health Nurse local centers
Contact your local council
Lactation consultants at local hospital
Some hospitals have their own breastfeeding clinics. Phone your local hospital for an appointment
Private Lactation consultants
How would you describe your own breastfeeding journey? How does your baby react when he or she is not feeling well? Let’s have a chat and support each other!