13 answers

4 Month Old Refusing Breast

Last week I had to go back to work for a few days. This meant leaving my 4 month old son for about 6-7 hours. I expressed milk, and he was bottle fed (which he has had before). The last 2 days he has started refusing my breast. If I get out the bottle, he will latch right onto that, then if I switch him to the breast he will latch on. I've tried feeding him sooner, to make sure he isn't over hunrgy, I've also tried waiting, to make sure he is actually hungry. No matter what I try, he needs the bottle first. Then once he does latch onto the breast, it isn't a good feeding like it used to be, he just pops on and off, and I eventually end up giving him most of the bottle in the end, so that I know he is getting enough.

When I try to give him the breast, he crys, arches his back, and doesn't even want to get his head close to it!

I am really beside myself, is he weaning himself this early? Does the bottle just make it easier for him? I have a slow flow bottle that is supposed to support breast feeding. Any help or advice is very appreticated!

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for your helpful comments and ideas. After I got done with my week and a half of work, I decided to put the bottle away, and try to get him back to the breast. (I now don't have to return to work for 2 more months) This was a painful 8 hours for me! He finally got hungry enough and latched on. We breast fed successfully for about 4 days . By "successfully" I mean he would still cry for a few minutes before latching on, but at least he would latch on! After the 4th day I weighed him because I noticed he wasn't peeing as much as normal, and when he did it was more yellow than I have ever seen before. He had lost 7 ounces in those 4 days. This made me feel like he wasn't getting enough from my breast. So, I decided it would be best for him to just stick with the bottle. He wasn't enjoying breast feeding (he would cry and fight it each time) and I was trying to hold onto it because I loved it so much. I am now pumping and feeding him expressed milk from the bottle. It was tough for me to accept giving up breast feeding, but I want him to be happy, and to be getting the food he needs to grow!

Once again thank you for all of your knowledge and helpful comments. This site is so great, and has helped me so much being a first time mom!

Featured Answers

If you want him to breast feed you need to not offer the breast at all. When he is screaming out of hunger, offer the breast. Never the bottle. If you give in, he will know that eventually you will give in if he screams long enough.

If you can's stand doing this you'll have to make a choice, you need to breast feed or his need to be fed. It is an emotional choice. I have been there. It is hard to make but after the first couple of days you will feel better.

Good luck.

More Answers

I am a lactation consultant in seattle. you can google me if you want. He is NOT weaning. he is too young. He may be a little hurt that you were gone. babies sometimes go on "strike." be gentle with him, lots of skin to skin, lots of soft, cuddling with your breasts bared. let him take the lead. bottles AREN't easier. That's a myth. babies were designed to breastfeed! Also, he's not clever enough to know if he holds out, he'll get a bottle later. He doesn't have that cognitive ability yet. Call me if you want. I do phone consultations. best of luck,

R. Beebe


2 moms found this helpful

Keep at it, I would agree not to offer the bottle to make sure he gets enough. My daughters used a breast sheild when their babies had difficulty latching on. That may help him transition back to the breast. With the breast sheild nipple, he may think it is a bottle, but he will still have to suck harder to get the flow. So are you going to continue to work, so that he will continue to need a bottle? That can be hard for them to switch back and forth. Maybe someone needs to invent a bottle that requires more sucking pressure.... maybe a smaller hole in the nipple?? Anyway I encourage you to keep it up. Kudos to you for all the hard work it is.

1 mom found this helpful

Try not giving a bottle right away when he refuses the breast...just keep at offering the breast first. After several attempts with the breast if he will just not latch wait 10 minutes before offering the bottle. This way he is not associating refusal of the breast with the instant gratification of receiving the bottle. You can also try pumping for a minute or two, just until let down occurs, before offering the breast. This way your son wont' have to work quite so hard before he is getting some milk. Keep at it. Babies often will go on "nursing strikes". They are not weaning themselves...just keep at it! Also, make sure you are as relaxed as possible when offering the breast. Babies can sense tension and will react to it.

1 mom found this helpful

An aspect of breastfeeding that I seldom see mentioned is that the flow will be better, and both mom and baby will enjoy the time more, if the focus remains quiet, relaxed, and baby-focused. A baby who perceives "distraction" or "rush" or "anxiety" will simply not settle into nursing as well. If other loud or visually engaging entertainments are happening nearby, a curious baby will be drawn to those.

In fact, I was just listening to a radio interview on the topic of "multitasking." The social scientist who was interviewed noted that lots of moms watch TV or have other distractions happening during breastfeeding. The babies are also learning to focus early on those distractions. I've watched moms chatting on the phone, texting or working away on the computer with one hand while nursing or pumping, a situation that is not conducive to optimal milk flow.

So, if slower flow from the breast than the bottle is part of the reason your son prefers the bottle, a reasonable guess, you might look at the nursing environment and be sure it's focused on you and baby to the greatest degree possible. Soft lighting, soft music, soft touch, soft talk.

Alternately, some babies need a loud sound – like a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner – to get focused. They heard a continual, loud "whoosh" before birth, and most babies still find that soothing in their early months.

If your nursing times are filled up with any modern forms of busyness or distraction, I'm guessing it will enhance your enjoyment of your little guy's first year to arrange for a calmer time for the two of you to deepen your bond. His babyhood will go by so fast, and you'll never get it back again.

And if your nursing times are already very quiet, try the "white noise" approach and see if that helps. Blessings to you both.

1 mom found this helpful

i would contact a lactation consultant for advice. He may be acting out because you are gone sometimes and when you were gone he found confort in the bottle. Don't give up yet. Talk to a professional and see what they have to say. You can find one through your hospital.

My first son was on breast and bottle from birth. He always went back and forth fine, until just before 4 months. The bottle is easier, so he self weened. I was still able to have that same closeness by cuddling him against my skin while giving him the bottle, so do not despair. The important thing is that he is happy, healthy, and gaining weight, however he gets the food. :)

If you want him to breast feed you need to not offer the breast at all. When he is screaming out of hunger, offer the breast. Never the bottle. If you give in, he will know that eventually you will give in if he screams long enough.

If you can's stand doing this you'll have to make a choice, you need to breast feed or his need to be fed. It is an emotional choice. I have been there. It is hard to make but after the first couple of days you will feel better.

Good luck.

I don't know, actually, this is just a stab in the dark, but, i think kids tend to do what they need to do - the bottle may be easier for him to drink from (kids don't have to suck as hard), so he may be preferring that.
I'd say the right approach might be to eliminate the bottle completely until he is back to nursing well - perhaps only giving him the breast option will take a few feedings to take, but, i imagine it will if he has no other option.

Good luck!

ps. a LLL meeting may help, if you can find a convenient one.

First count your blessing that is taking a bottle - I've had lots of friends who struggle with that.

I've also heard of several moms who have their kid prefer a bottle over the breast - what they have done is express their milk then allow them to drink from a bottle - so the babe is able to get the breast milk.

Now it is sad - so you can work on trying to get him to take the breast again. You didn't mention how long it has been.

Your son found out that it is much easier to eat from a bottle than doing all the hard work to get his lunch from your brest. Yes, they have to work much harder when they have to get it from the brest. So, now he prefers the easier way around. Do you blame him? Good luck!

Hi J.,
How frustrating! He's not weaning himself, though; don't worry! My daughter has done this off and on since I went back to work when she was 3 months old. I think they just realize that the bottle is easier. He will get over it and want the breast again. Just keep up with it. You mentioned that he's not getting great feedings when he nurses now. My suggestion would be to leave it at whatever he eats and not give him the bottle to make sure he has enough. If he is still hungry and wants to eat in 20 minutes, let him nurse again. Unfortunately, this throws off any kind of schedule you might have, but it will get him wanting the breast again.
Good luck and rest assured, he will come around. Then, he'll do it again in a couple of months and so on and so on. My daughter is almost 15 months now and I'm still nursing. It does get better!

Hi J.,

No, 4 month olds don't wean themselves this early. He is probably just a smart little guy and realizes he doesn't have to work as hard for the bottle, and is showing his preference by drawing his head back and pulling away. Try to be patient and if the bottle is not an option he will welcome the breast again in no time. IF you are eating a new food, or introducing something new to your body he may not like that, but barring that he is likely just gotten a little lazy as all babies do. They would prefer their food easier than having to work for it. They and relax, and be patient and persistent. Offer the breast frequently as that will increase your milk supply and make him more likely to again prefer the breast.

Please let us know how the advice worked for you.

Best wishes,
T. Nelson CD (DONA)

Yes, the bottle is easier for him. One way to make it a little harder is to hold it (and him) more vertical so he has to work at it a little. Not so upright that he's sucking air, but enough that the milk isn't just pouring into his mouth and down his throat. He almost certainly isn't weaning yet but even the slow flow nipples are easier than the breast. Just keep with it! Another idea (if you're up for it) is to just put the bottles away for now or get them out of your house. Then you're not tempted to offer one as readily.

Good luck and hang in there! Breastmilk is what's best for him and it's worth the effort to help him get back to the breast! :)

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