4 m/o refusing breast — The Bump

4 m/o refusing breast

For the last week or two, and progressively getting worse, my 19 week old EBF daughter has become fussier and fussier on the boob. She'll start out fine, and then a minute or two in, she starts pulling off and whining. I try to get her back on but she pulls away. I feel like we're fighting each other as I try to muscle her back on, but she protests. This morning she started protesting at the start. I'm at my wits end. She now does this every time I try to nurse her, with exception to her middle of the night feeding (when she's too tired to protest...?) 
Things of note: she gets fed BM via bottle about 3-4 days a week, usually for 3 feedings at a time (most of the day). She does not protest the bottle!! 
Also, she most certainly is teething. Drooling like crazy and shoving everything into her mouth. I for sure thought/think that the nursing issue is due to teething, but it's getting out of control. This morning she barely ate at all and I had to go to work with full boobs. I'm really afraid that if this continues, my supply will drop. 
I tried giving her a pacifier to try to "reset" her and then try to get her back on the boob, but I only get so-so results. And she definitely won't take my finger to chew on (which is what my ped recommended). It seems to make her angrier. 
Can this really be due to teething? Can it be so bad that it keeps a baby from eating?? What do I do? My mother, who is staying with us for a while, had three kids and never saw anything like this. 

PS: she's also sleeping worse (waking up more at night). And she has become a distracted feeder, so that if she's not whining, then she's pulling off and staring at things and making weird dramatic sweeps with her arms. What a weirdo. 

Re: 4 m/o refusing breast

  • Do the bottles have a fast flow?  I've heard that using faster flow bottles can make the baby frustrated by the slower flow of the boob.  Sleep regression is normal at 4 months even without teething, because they are learning to deal with sleep cycles and often wake up during the lighter stages of sleep.  Google 4 month sleep regression- understanding it helped me feel more confident that I wasn't doing something wrong at that phase.  
  • We are using the stage 2 nipple that comes with the life factory bottles. Do I go back to using the stage 1, which is for newborns?
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  • Some people recommend sticking with the newborn ones, which I've done so far (my 5 month old takes bottles at daycare).  But now I'm having the opposite problem.  She is not that interested in drinking bottles and only drinks an ounce or so at a time, only 2 bottles sometimes over 9 hours workday.  So I am planning to try medium flow to keep her eating more when we are apart.  I think I have a "fast letdown" so it should be ok, but if you have a slow flow of milk when you breastfeed, it might be that your baby is frustrated after having a faster flow from the bottles.  I'm a first time mom so I don't have much experience, but I've just heard the recommendation of BF babies sticking with slow flow so they don't prefer the bottle too much. 
  • I agree with what the pp's have said. I'd definitely switch back to a level 1 nipple. Level 2 is really fast for a breastfed baby. When they get used to the fast flow from the bottle, they get frustrated at the breast since it takes more work. There's a big developmental leap at 4 months that can effect a lot of things. If you google The Wonder Weeks, you can read up on it. If she's easily distracted when nursing, try going in a dimly lit, quiet room. You could also try wearing a nursing necklace that she can play with while she's nursing. If she's bothered by teething pain, you could try offering her a cold teether for 10 min or so before nursing. These tips from Kellymom about dealing with a nursing strike might be helpful as well: https://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/nb-challenges/back-to-breast/ If baby gets fussy a few minutes into nursing, it could be because the flow of milk has slowed down, or they need to burp. If burping doesn't work, you could try massaging your breast in a downward motion a minute or two into nursing to help increase the flow of milk.
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  • I didn’t face this issue with my baby so no useful suggestion to offer. But, I do get the frustration at baby getting up frequently at night.  And, yes, the little ones tend to be more fussy and cranky when they are teething. Hugs to you and your baby.<3


  • I experienced the same with my LO when she started taking bottles. She preferred the bottle is to the faster flow, so I downgraded the nipple size. Also, I would try feeding her a bottle with her positioned against the breast as if she were nursing, and then after allowing the bottle for 1-2 minutes I would remove the bottle and offer the breast. That way she's already eaten a little to take off the edge. This trick definitely worked well for us. 

    Good luck! I know the feeling is pretty irritating.
  • So looks like the general consensus here is that it sounds more like bottle/breast frustration than teething? I downgraded the nipple and lately I've been adjusting her feeding times and actually pushing her feeds later. She tends to not fuss as much when she's quite hungry. 
  • This definitely sounds like leap behavior to me. See the book, Wonder Weeks, for more info. There is also an app that you can put your due date into and it will tell you what cognitive leap your baby is going through at the time. Signs of a cognitive leap include eating less, fussiness, sleeping less, and sleeping worse. I also experienced similar behavior with my baby around 4 months. It sucks! There is the 4 month sleep regression happening, a major cognitive leap, and add teething and fussiness to that- it's going to throw a wrench in your BFing efforts for sure. I definitely went through this with my DD around the same time. There were actually times when I had to trick her by offering the paci and then sneakily replacing it with my nipple to get her to nurse. My suggestion would be to keep on trucking and it will get better. It's possible that this is just a temporary mood/ adjustment period for your LO. Additionally, as a PP suggested, kellymom has some great suggestions on what to do during a nursing strike. Question- how often are you feeding your LO? It may be time to stretch out the feedings a little so that she is hungrier and more motivated to nurse at each feeding. I know this is anecdotal, but we went through the same thing at the same time and it eventually just resolved itself. Just keep offering feedings at the regular times (or stretch them if appropriate) and try to keep your stress about nursing to a minimum so that your LO doesn't pick up on it. Sorry that you are going through this. I remember having similar worries and it's hard. It's going to get better and you are doing a great job!

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  • Thanks so much, @Beverly0628
    It really does seem like a perfect storm situation. I definitely do the paci trick, and am (gently) trying to space out her feedings, and telling my mom (who is watching her while I am at work for the next week) to do the same. She's so regimented, so I have to insist that it's ok when she doesn't eat exactly every 3 hours :)
    Baby is indeed starting to fuss less when feeding, so hopefully it continues to improve. 
    I downloaded the Wonder Weeks app a while back, which has been super helpful, though I'm surprised that this leap doesn't mention the sleep regression or the nursing strikes...Although I'm sure all babies will have different symptoms and they can't cover them all. 
  • We did formula feed for a few weeks at 2 months. When I switched back, she would begin to thrash her head and cry. As it turns out, we have figured that the breast flow is too slow for her therefore i am now exclusively pumping. Infact i recently tried to breast feed her as we were out it waa between feeds, she tried a couple of times but just got frustrated and refused!


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