Dear Lactation Consultant,
Our 4 1/2 month-old boy, Sam, has been breastfed since he was born. My wife went back to work at 3 months and we out of necessity we started feeding him breast milk from bottles. We occasionally give him formula as well. But over the last week he has been reluctant to breastfeed and for two days has refused to breastfeed completely. He obviously likes the bottle because it is easier to draw the milk from.
We would like to keep him on breast milk until at least 6 months, but if he refuses to breastfeed my wife is afraid her milk supply will dry up even if she pumps several times a day. Are there techniques for getting a 4 1/2;month-old to nurse again? (We have tried wetting the nipple with milk.) And/or is it possible for my wife to continue pumping for a few months and we bottle feed him the breast milk?
Thanks in advance for your assistance,
It sounds like you are experiencing a nursing strike, and I hope that the problem has resolved itself by the time you receive this response (My computer has been in the shop and I just got it out today, so I'm way behind on correspondence).
Most of time when babies go on nursing strikes, their frustrated parents are never able to figure out the exact cause and the babies resume nursing on their own after a few days. Older babies and toddlers (nine months or older) who go on strike are often just weaning themselves, and there is really nothing you can do to change their minds. Babies younger than six months rarely wean themselves, so when they go on strike they almost always can be persuaded to take the breast again.
My article "Nursing Strike" has lots of info about possible causes and solutions for dealing with this situation. In the meantime, while you are trying to figure out the cause, it is a good idea to keep up the milk supply by pumping until the baby decides to start nursing again.
If worse comes to worse and the baby absolutely won't start nursing again, it is certainly possible to pump and feed the baby breastmilk in a bottle, but this requires regular use of a good pump, and is rarely necessary when a baby this age goes on strike.
I hope this information is helpful,
-- Anne, IBCLC
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.