Breast Refusal – 13 Tips For A Baby That Refuses The Breast

Breast Refusal - 13 Tips For A Baby That Refuses The Breast

A baby refusing to breastfeed can be very distressing for a mother.

It’s can be hard not to take it personally when your baby doesn’t want your breastmilk.

The good news is that most cases of breast refusal are temporary.

There is usually a good reason why your baby is refusing your breast, and finding out ‘why’ is the key.

Knowing what you can do to encourage and support your baby back to your breast is vital.

Breast Refusal

Here are 13 tips for when your baby refuses the breast.

Breast Refusal Tip #1: Is It Really Breast Refusal?

Sometimes your baby is not refusing to feed but rather is fussy or hard to feed.

All babies have individual feeding habits. Some babies are easy-going, settle easily into feeds, feed well and come off satisfied until the next feed. Other babies take a while to get going but feed well once they start. Other babies fuss from the start to the end of the feed, coming on and off and squirming around throughout the feed.

Most babies feed from both breasts at some feeds and from one breast at others. Others always feed from both breasts and others always from one breast. Some babies start out only wanting to feed from one breast and then later on want to feed from both, or vice versa.

Sometimes after the early months (and sometimes all of a sudden), a baby becomes very efficient at feeding. You may be used to your baby feeding for longer periods and then be shocked when your baby suddenly takes much less time to feed. You may begin to worry if you have enough milk. It is helpful to remember what the reliable signs that your baby is getting enough are.

If your breasts continue to feel comfortable, it is likely that your baby is still getting as much as he usually would. This is because if milk wasn’t being removed as well, your breasts would start to feel very full or engorged.

Breast Refusal Tip #2: Breasts Feel Very Full Or Engorged?

Sometimes, your breasts may start to feel very full or engorged if your baby starts sleeping a longer stretch at night. This is normal and your breasts will adjust as they get used to your baby’s changing feeding habits.

However, if your breasts start becoming very full or engorged combined with your baby refusing or being unusually very fussy with feeds, (and particularly if your breasts continue to feel this way for a few feeds or more in a row), you may consider expressing. Expressing in this situation can help relieve any pain, maintain your supply, and reduce the risk of getting a blocked duct or mastitis. Your expressed breastmilk can then be given to your baby (e.g. with a small cup).

Breast Refusal Tip #3: Feed Your Baby According To Your Baby’s Need

Babies feed best when they are fed when they are ready to feed, when they are showing feeding cues.

If a baby is fed according to a schedule, he may not be ready to feed at the scheduled time. This may cause him to be more likely to be very fussy with or refuse the feed.

Sometimes babies are fussy with feeds during the day but feed like champions overnight. It’s what they get in 24 hours that counts, not what they get at individual feeds.

Feeding your baby when your baby wants to feed, helps ensure he gets what he needs. As long as your baby continues to show reliable signs of getting enough milk, this is what matters most.

Breast Refusal Tip #4: Get More Skin-To-Skin Contact

Keeping feed times positive is important to help your baby keep a positive association with them. This can be hard to do as breast refusal can be very stressful. It’s easy to get quite upset and angry when trying to feed a baby who is refusing.

Spending lots of time in skin-to-skin contact with your baby on your bare chest can help to remind your baby that this is a nurturing place to be. This could be on a bed or in a bath etc.

Skin-to-skin contact can help your baby to use his instincts to find your breasts on his own. In this way, skin-to-skin contact can take the pressure off both of you. It’s like you’re saying to your baby ‘Well, there is your food, go get it if you want it.’

Similarly, placing your baby in a sling and leaving your bra undone so that his face is near your breast could help.

Breast Refusal Tip #5: Is It Your Milk Flow?

Some mothers have a strong flow of milk in the early weeks until their supply settles. Sometimes a baby gets used to the strong flow and getting lots of milk without having to do much sucking in these early weeks. He then might refuse to feed or be fussy with feeds when his mother’s supply settles down and he needs to suck more to get the same amount of milk.

If your baby drinks for a few minutes and then comes off, or tries to suck again but gets upset and fusses, it may be because your flow has slowed down. Switching to the other breast or trying breast compressions can help. Breast compressions are where you gently squeeze a large handful of your breast when your baby’s sucking slows down (taking care not to disrupt his attachment). Moving your hand to different parts of your breast as you squeeze helps to drain different milk ducts.

Breast Refusal Tip #6: Your Baby May Be Distracted

Between 3 and 6 months, some babies start to become quite hard to feed when there are distractions around. If this happens, feeding your baby in a quiet darkened room can help. Offering your baby a feed when he is sleepy or has just woken up can help too. Some babies who are very easily distracted during the day feed more often (and beautifully) at night when you both are more relaxed.

Sometimes, wearing a colourful necklace or giving an older baby a toy to hold might help to keep him feeding.

Breast Refusal Tip #7: Are Bottles Interfering?

How a baby drinks from a bottle is very different to how he drinks from the breast. Also, when a baby drinks from a bottle he gets milk more immediately upon sucking and gets more of a consistent flow. A baby who has been drinking from a bottle may have gotten used to these things and may refuse to breastfeed as a result.

Skin-to-skin contact and allowing your baby to find your breasts on his own may be enough to help overcome this problem.

Sometimes, a baby might get used to the way he is held when given the bottle. If so, holding him in the same position for breastfeeds can help. This might mean holding him in a cradle hold when he feeds from one breast and then in the football (underarm) hold when feeding from the other breast.

If your baby is used to the immediacy of flow from a bottle, expressing to get your milk flowing before trying to offer your baby a breastfeed can help. Then, once your baby starts sucking, breast compressions can help to keep up a good flow of milk to your baby.

Breast Refusal Tip #8: Try A Different Feeding Position

Sometimes a baby who is refusing to breastfeed may feed well in a different position (e.g. lying down or the underarm hold). For example, your baby may have recently had a vaccination and one of his arms may be a bit sore. So feeding in a different position may help to take pressure of that arm. Some babies that have had a difficult or assisted birth may benefit from a visit to an osteopath who specialises in babies.

Breast Refusal Tip #9: Is It The Weather?

In hot weather some babies might refuse or be extra fussy with feeds. Feeding in a cooler part of the house or in an air conditioned shopping centre might help. Feeding while lying down with your baby next to you could help too as there will be less body contact between you both.

Breast Refusal Tip #10: Too Many Other Foods?

Breastmilk is all a baby needs for around the first 6 months and is your baby’s main source of nutrition for the first 12 months.

Giving your baby formula or too many solids will make him have less of an appetite for breastmilk. If you think this might be happening, you can reduce the amount of other foods your baby is having.

Breast Refusal Tip #11: Your Baby May Be Tired Or Overstimulated

Babies who are tired or overstimulated may refuse a breastfeed. Skin-to-skin contact can help calm him. Sometimes taking your baby outside calms both of you. When he is calmer, he may breastfeed again.

Breast Refusal Tip #12: Teething Pain May Be An Issue

Some babies may refuse to breastfeed due to teething pain. Teething can happen for days or weeks before the tooth actually comes through. You could try offering your baby something cold to chew on (e.g. a cold teething ring) before a feed. Your doctor may have some ideas about how you can help relieve your baby’s teething pain too.

Breast Refusal Tip #13: Could It Be Your Hormones?

Some babies become fussy or refuse feeds in the days leading up to or during their mother’s menstrual period or when she is ovulating. This is because hormonal changes can affect breastmilk. A mother’s supply may drop slightly or the taste of her milk might change (saltier).

The hormonal changes of pregnancy often do the same things. Some babies will refuse to feed and will wean themselves while others happily continue. Some mothers choose to wean their child when becoming pregnant while others keep breastfeeding throughout pregnancy and may even tandem feed.

Sometimes you may never find out exactly why your baby is refusing to feed. The good news is that with several of the tips listed above, you may be able to help manage the refusal even without knowing what caused it. If you are still worried, have your baby checked by your doctor as sometimes a baby will refuse to feed if they are unwell. Seeing a lactation consultant or speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor can help too.

Recommended Reading: Fussing At The Breast – Why Babies Fuss, Cry Or Pull Off The Breast.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. My baby is 5weeks old, due to late milk production for a week and due to mastitis I have gone through minor breast surgery, my baby was fed on lactogen supplement with a bottle. Also I have pumped my milk n provided him with a bottle. After a month I started feeding him breastfeed, but he refuses all the time. Not even he feed for 3mins each breast. I change to next breast when he refuses, but still he refuses.
    Sometimes at night he fed on breast while sleeping, for 15mins, later he spits out the milk.

    Dear lactation experts please suggest me and do needful.

  2. My 8 months old have very short (exclusively breast feeding) feeds, 3 to 4 minutes per feed (at every 2.5 to 3 hours) since birth. She is gaining weight and normal physical development. She used to have quite regular bowel movement from birth until 4th month onwards that her bowel slowed down and she would only poo every 10 to 12 days till now.
    1. Is it normal for a baby to feed this less/ short?
    2. Though she is growing but is she getting enough nutrients for her development?
    3. Is the short feeds means that she doesn’t like my milk? Is there anyway that I can improve in her bf appetite as I am really concern that she is not getting enough and wonder if this might be the cause of her sudden slow down in bowel movement?


  3. My baby is 3 days old and hasn’t fed for 18hours. He was able to latch and feed immediately after birth and fed well the first 2 days, then when we got sent home he didn’t want to latch he only wanted a pacifier, and now I am engorged and super sore. Should I be worried? What should I do?

    1. My wife had the same issues it could be your nipple swells and makes it hard for baby to latch. Try getting a breast shield can be found at baby’s r us, wal mart etcetera.

  4. My baby is 3 months old and I haven’t had an issue with breastfeeding until now. He refuses to eat on one side. On that side he will attach for a second then pull off he will do this a couple times until he starts to scream. On the other side he can be fussy but generally eats. He has started to eat less even if I try to supplement he is fussy with a bottle. How can I get him to eat on the other side again? Is there something wrong since he isn’t eating? Or is it just a growth spurt?

  5. Hi my baby is 6 days old. Since last 2 days he is not sucking milk from her mother. Dear experts pls suggest. I am too worried.

  6. Hi my baby is 11 months old and she has been refusing to breastfeed for 3 days now. Im heartbroken and it scares me to think that she will never breastfeed again. By the looks of it a top tooth is coming and im hoping that, that is the case and that we pull through this. I plan to breatfeed her as much as she’ll let me. Is this commen does this happen? I still brest lfeed my son which is almost 3 and i never experienced this. Is she weaning herself or is the weaning process uncommon at this age or is she just on a nursing strike? I know its hard to answer that but maybe by your experience you will be able to calm me a little. Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much Nelly

  7. My baby is one month old and ever since birth ive attemtped to breastfeed him but he won’t latch on and become fussy and cried. My breasts don’t feel full of milk like they did a couple weeks ago and im not sure if its an issue with my nipples as well. He’s my first and I’d really want to attempt to breastfeed him.

    1. I also have the same problem my baby after a week of birth refused to support k from the breast but will drink when expressed. .. she’s now use to feeding bottle and now I’m worried I will have to stop feeding her at 6 months since I don’t get the right pump t pump the breast milk

  8. My baby is 6 days old. For the first 2 days he could take milk from both breasts, later he started refusing my right breast. It’s now hard, really hard and just a lil swollen. The nipple is ok. I really don’t know what went wrong. Please any advice

  9. My baby is 6 months old. He is comfortable in lying down and breastfeeding him. He drinks 8 times a day. Longer during nite time and shorter during day time. Is it ok for him?

  10. My baby is 45 days old. These days he suddenly doesn’t like breast milk(pump and feed with bottle). However he can drink formula at the same time. I don’t know what’s wrong with my breast milk. I drink honey water a lot every day. Is it possible because my breast milk too sweet?

    1. Honey wont make your breastmilk sweet. The tips in this article are the best things to try to get him back on the breast. Unfortunately sometimes when a bottle is introduced, they can prefer it, but with some support and patience you might be able to get him back on the breast.

  11. My baby is 22 days nd she does”nt want to breastfeed i tried so much but she refuse. She drink milk frim bottle. I give her formula nd pump milk from bottle. Please help me what to do. My nipple is also short so i use nipple shield

  12. Great post 😀 Thanks a million. My 5 months kid use to cry a lot when her mother used to feed him, Tip no.6 helped us to feed him calmly. now her mother is happily 😀 feeding him in dark room without any distraction. Thanks again for such a savior post

  13. My baby is 3months old some times he will drink breast milk nicely but some time when he keeps the nipple in the mouth he feels like vomit. Am expressing my milk because of this issue plz advice me

  14. My 4 month old got to a point that she completely refused to breastfeed during the day and if she woke up enough at night didn’t want to breastfeed then either. She was gradually trending towards this in the weeks before, as she was difficult to feed and fussed. I have been expressing and formula feeding when I can’t keep up. But just recently I have discovered womb music when I turn it on within a few minutes she doesn’t hesitate and will breastfeed with no fuss, no on and off, nothing!!! Also having no shirt on, just skin to skin is a great as you are ready, no fussing around when their ready!! Hope this helps!

  15. Hi , I have a 4 week old and she’s got a white tongue and a couple white dots on the top her mouth I think she might have thrush but not quite certain but like99.9 % sure but she seems to be pulling away and fussing like she doesn’t want the boob then she opens her mouth like she does and it’s just really frustrating because I don’t know what she wants or if it hurts to suck or not.. she got so tired and frustrated because she all of sudden couldn’t latch she fell asleep?.. I hope mom poor baby girl isn’t in pain and that’s why she can’t suck?:( some please help

  16. My sisters new baby is refusing to feed after three days of good latching and feeding ,health nurses told her the baby was loosing weight and to supplement. He was given a bottle in hospital and then we fed him by syringes and cup ( pumped breastmilk) the next day he still didn’t gain weight so they wanted 30ml per feeding in a bottle after 15min per breast. We did that but now he is refusing the breast. They are now suggesting she take a night off and exclusively bottle feed and also wear a breast shield to get him to suck at the breast. They believe she is just tired and needs a break. This is so upsetting for her she really wants to exclusively breastfeed and I feel she is being undermined. He is six days old and now won’t feed at the breast. He did put on a few oz yesterday . I’ve successfully breast fed 3 children and I don’t know what to tell her? Any help would be much appreciated. I feel so much outrage for her but maybe I’m wrong should I tell her to just rest and give up? Can she ever get back to nursing her baby? Help Please

    1. Okay…this is sad. I am a guy, but my wife is breast feeding our son. It sounds like the pediatrician isn’t baby first. When we chose a pediatrician, we wanted to make sure they were pro breast feeding.

  17. My 7 day old baby refuse to feed she latches for 3,4 Times and start crying. She has lost wait and needed hospitalization. But even she don’t Fed through my breast nor through bottle nipple. My breast feel engorged and for feeding her am expressing every hour. My milk flow rate has slowed down even though I feel engorged breast what should I do please provide a suggestion. Do these nature of my child normally happens or is it unusual.

  18. My baby is 2 month 11 days old.
    Initially he loved drinking milk from my breast.
    Whenever he used to be hungry he used to see me and used to show extra movements in order i to take him and feed.
    But since 7 days he is refusing my milk.. whenever i try to give my nipple in his mouth he turns his head and start crying… he normally play… sleep only at night for few hours but cries alot when i try to feed him and turn his face…
    I m so tensed and doesnt understand why suddenly his behaviour for feeding has changed and i m worried as he is not drinking milk please suggest..

  19. Hello
    My baby is 16 week was breast feeding nicely until.3 weeks ago (when our hear wave started) during the day he wouldn’t feed from me at all but would when he wake in night or in the morning.
    I was having to express and give him the bottle and he took it instantly.
    Last Saturday he refused the breast all together amd I have been purely pumping. It’s getting to much I now have a blocked duct and a possible infection.
    This morning he randomly took a 14 min feed and I was so happy. Then the next feed he just cried.
    When I came back from doctors again he had a 5 min feed but then pulled away amd cried. So again after he drank a 5 Oz bm feed.
    I feel my milk supply is slowing down today
    Some other posts are saying pump every 2 hours! That would mean permanent staying in doors as the pump in so noisy (medela swing)
    I just want my bond back with my little man
    I love feeding him a nd am.hopeing to do.until.he is a year old.
    Please help

  20. My baby is 4 months old…she is on hunger , where she is refusing my milk and keeping her hands in her mouth. I always clean my breast and give her milk. During nights , she is OK in drinking whereas in morning she is not ready to drink and crying throughout for milk..I’m not Able to find out what’s wrong with my baby…

  21. Our baby is also refusing breastfeeding. He is fine. Being cup fed and bottle fed, but fights the breast with all his might. I see a lot of people with similar problems, but nobody is really giving any helpful solutions…. any success stories out there? We’re just trying constant skin-to-skin at the moment…

  22. My baby is four months old and has been a good eater up tell now … she will latch on my right side still sometimes… but not on my left I have tried lots of different positions… and I am starting to worry I feel like she isn’t getting enough… she doesn’t get bottles and she only gets one table spoon of baby food a day …I have started to pump to keep from getting engorged and have tried bottles but they are a no … I go her to sip about 1/4 of an oz out of a little cup … she just always seems like she is in pain .. and I don’t know what to do I took her to the doctor and they put her on meds for acid reflux … and said if that didn’t help maybe I should just put her on formula… I really want to breastfeed but I am feeling like I have no choice… is it me ?

  23. Hi
    My baby is 4 months old and when she was 20 days old she was diagnosed with galactosemia and I was advised to stop my breastfeeding and give lactose free formula milk. We did an blood test when she was 25 days and after that until 60 days she was on lactose free milk. Invetween I used to feedback her little . But revelry my milk flow has got reduced and the saddest part is she starts crying when I try to feed. When I ask doctor she asks me to make the baby suck the milk then only the milk will get increased but my baby doesn’t want to do ….. to that now she is not ready to drink the formula … earlier it was 8 bottles not it got reduced to 4 bottles… I am so worried and upset.i am eating fenugreek cPsules twice daily. Still the milk flow is not increasing … please advise

  24. My baby is 16 days but can not suke directly from me ,i extract milk for her because my nipples is big, Pls what do I do for her to start taking milk directly from me, thank.

  25. Why isn’t My baby not liking my breast milk he won’t drink from it he always cry when he doesn’t like nothing i need help

  26. Hi there. My son is 3 weeks, he was breastfed for the first 5 days from birth until i got mastitis and then i switched to formula. I tried drying my milk up and it didn’t. Then i decided to start breastfeeding again since Last Tuesday. He latches, drinks the milk, i express aswell but i give him formula in between. Is it “safe” to give formula and breastmilk because at times i dont have enough milk and at times he doesn’t want it, instead he would drink formula.

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