Breastfeeding: Easing baby back to the breast

My wife just gave birth to a baby boy. We very much wanted to breastfeed, but he was diagnosed with jaundice and was kept in the hospital and given formula. He was having difficulty latching on before using the bottle and now totally refuses the breast. What can we do to encourage him back to the breast?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Until your wife can get your baby to the breast she will need to pump as often as she would be nursing -- at least eight times each day. The best pump to use is a hospital-grade electric breast pump with a double pump kit. She will be able to pump both breasts in about 15 minutes. It is important to keep up this routine when the baby is not nursing, to keep her milk supply from decreasing.

Babies who refuse the breast early on can still be breastfed. It may take up to several weeks. Patience and persistence is important. Find ways to comfort your baby, even if he is not now comfortable in the "nursing position." Give your baby lots of time to "practice" at the breast. Allow him to be in control. He may just nuzzle or lick the nipple. Skin-to-skin contact can be very comforting. Offer the breast regularly. Babies usually feed better when they are not too hungry and when your breasts are softer and more graspable.

I would recommend working with a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), familiar with your particular situation. She can assist your wife in properly positioning your baby at the breast and guide her as she works to build her milk supply to the level your baby needs. She may recommend working with a nursing supplementer to help entice your baby to feed at the breast, while supplementing a (possibly) decreased milk supply. Often one good feed at the breast is enough to turn the situation around! If your baby still refuses the breast, he can be "finger fed" using this supplemental device. The nursing supplementer is designed so that when your baby begins nursing well, less of the supplement will be taken in.

Regular visits with your baby's physician will help to reassure you that your son is gaining weight normally (at least four to eight ounces per week) and is otherwise healthy.

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