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All breastfed babies will refuse the breast at some point, so try not to worry! 

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What to do if your baby is refusing to feed

In this short video, NHS Infant Feeding Advisor Gina gives her top tips on what you can do.

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What are the symptoms?

Your baby might become cross and frustrated when you try to breastfeed them, moving their head from side to side.

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What are the causes?

There are lots of possible reasons, including:

  • Illness, tiredness, lack of hunger
  • ‘Nipple confusion' after being offered a bottle teat, dummy or a nipple shield.
  • An uncomfortable breastfeeding experience, such as having their head 'pushed on' to encourage feeding.
  • Your baby may be too full already, from formula milk, water, other fluids, or in the case of an older baby, solid foods.
  • Teething or thrush in the mouth, which can both make feeding uncomfortable for babies.
  • Drugs or alcohol in your breast milk may have affected the taste.
  • Your smell and taste: babies may refuse the breast if you smell or taste differently for some reason, for example if you use a cream for sore nipples or a different perfume.
  • Your period: some mums notice that their babies refuse the breast for a day or so before menstruating – it seems to change the taste of breast milk.
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What's the solution?

Often the only solution is patience – your baby will eventually become hungry enough to want to feed. Hold your baby next to you, skin-to-skin, as much as possible so you can respond straight away when they show signs of wanting to feed. If your baby continues to refuse to feed after a few hours, call your midwife, health visitor or doctor and get them checked.

If your baby seems sleepy and is younger than 2 weeks then call your maternity unit at the hospital urgently.

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