I thought I would compile a few tips I have gathered from my daughter’s reluctance to nurse for one reason or another-mostly from reflux which was at its worst in her earlier months.Recently, teething has caused her to be reluctant at times, so the same tips apply to teething nursers. Friends who had already had a baby with reflux who wouldn’t nurse due to feelings of pain and trauma from associating pain with nursing/bottle-feeding told me some of these tips. I found it helpful to join online support groups to see what tips were given there as well, and the same problems and questions kept popping up regarding babies reluctant to nurse or bottle-feed so I hope this helps mommies who have been struggling to get their babies to nurse.
I’ll also include a section at the end about what helped us/doctor realize Katelynn had silent reflux and what symptoms to look for.
1)Bouncing the baby while nursing-This was the most helpful thing I was told to do, as Katelynn continued to refuse nursing fairly often even up to the age of 6 months when on two reflux medications. (or bottle-feeding, if the mother doesn’t think this causes too many gas bubbles.) It helped to be a distractor and often, it helped her fall asleep, which was often the only way she was comfortable enough to nurse (while asleep.) I have found in talking to other parents that requiring “dream-feeding” to nurse/bottle-feed is a very common thing for the little ones who have reflux.
2) Dream-feeding/falling asleep to start nursing-I know a lot of people have hang-ups about sleep associations like nursing to sleep and while I wish that wasn’t (almost) always the case with her up until just recently, it is absolutely the only way my baby would nurse for awhile. She was just too uncomfortable other times to want to nurse while totally awake and even if it had been hours or an entire night even-she wouldn’t nurse. You have to just get your baby eating and you can worry about all those habits later in my opinion. Babies will all have different degrees of sensitivity, so try what you like but just know that SO many parents rely on dream-feeding to get their reluctant (usually reflux) babies to nurse/bottle-feed.
3) White noise-again, the distractor
4) dark (sometimes important, sometimes not as much)
5) You want to keep tabs on a breast pump if you’re nursing and your baby is having days of not nursing well.
That’s all I recall using that was helpful-but helpful it was (after getting a good medication regimen!) I have to bounce her still sometimes if she is distracted away from home, if big brother is around, or she is teething.
Here are some of the things that I found are part of silent reflux that I either noticed before the doctor suggested Katelynn had it and also some things I read afterward that gave me those “aha!” moments when I realized Katelynn did the same things that other parents or doctors described babies doing.
1) crying after nursing, usually for a set amount of time, then feeling relaxed and happy (or maybe not..but with Katelynn its like a switch flipped.It was crazy!)
2) Pulling off the breast (or bottle) even when clearly hungry, by the cues and by the clock, attempting to nurse again but pulling away crying and
3) arching the back. With silent reflux, you have to look for this and other symptoms because you aren’t going to see the milk come all the way out of the mouth. The acid will rise and burn the esophagus and will be very painful and upsetting to your baby. Before any meds at all, Katelynn would scream nonstop for 30 minutes and I have not since heard her scream like that so thank Heaven for the meds! When we’ve tried to drop a medication, though, she does fuss and try to not nurse. It would last all day long and she was obviously hungry but wouldn’t eat due to feeling uncomfortable when eating, even when the tips given above were used. In two weeks we will be trying a trial of removing one of the medications (Zantac first for a week, then dropping Prevacid) so hopefully it will go well!
The happy ending to that story is that the trial went well and she outgrew it-yay! Currently I’m in the last stages of weaning/drying up. She is no longer nursing at all as of two days ago.