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Breast refusal and baby biting breast
Breast refusal and baby biting breast

Breast refusal: causes

Now and then a baby will refuse the breast. Breast refusal is often just a passing phase, which can be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Your baby has a cold.
  • Your baby is uncomfortable or in pain.
  • Your baby is having trouble attaching.
  • Your baby is overstimulated, overtired or distracted, which is normal in older babies.
  • Your milk tastes different, possibly because you are taking medication, are experiencing hormonal changes (you might be about to have a period again), or have eaten something unusual.
  • Your milk flow is faster or slower to let down than usual.
  • Your baby might have a strong preference for one breast.
  • Your baby’s feeding pattern is changing.
  • Your baby is full after having other foods or drinks.

Most of these causes of breast refusal will either go away on their own or can be sorted out with a few simple changes to your routine. None of them means you have to give up breastfeeding.

Breast refusal: options

You might want to try the following to get your baby on the breast:

  • Relax and be as patient as you can.
  • Have some skin-to-skin contact with your baby to trigger your baby’s feeding instincts.
  • Try baby-led attachment.
  • Try a new feeding position – see our illustrated guide to breastfeeding positions.
  • Hand-express some milk into your baby’s mouth. This might encourage your baby to feed.
  • Give your baby a breastfeed after their bath, when they’re warm and relaxed.
  • Try breastfeeding in a quiet place.
  • Play some relaxing background music, or feed in a rocking chair.
  • Offer a feed when your baby is first stirring from sleep or just going to sleep.
  • Try again later when your baby is more settled. Forcing the issue can make breast refusal worse.
  • If your baby seems unwell, treat your baby’s symptoms or take your baby to see your GP.

Baby biting breast: causes

As babies get older, they get more playful – and they get teeth.

It’s almost physically impossible for babies to bite while sucking, but they might find it fun to bite your nipple once they’re finished – particularly if they think you’re not paying them enough attention!

Some babies might bite because they can’t wait to start feeding and your let-down is slow. In this case, it might help to express a small amount of breastmilk to trigger your let-down before you offer the breast.

Luckily, biting breasts is usually a passing phase.

Baby biting breast: options

If your baby does bite, say ‘No’ calmly and firmly, and take your baby off your breast. But try not to get too cross, because some babies might think you’re playing a game – or it might frighten them.

You can also try offering your baby something else to chew on, like a teething ring.

If your nipples are very sore, you might need to express your breastmilk for a few days, until your nipples feel better. You can express your milk gently by hand or with a good-quality breast pump on a gentle setting. You can use a feeding cup, spoon or bottle to feed the expressed breastmilk to your baby.


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