Aversion to feeding means screaming or crying when offered the breast or bottle, refusing to eat, or needing to be fed while moving or while drowsy/asleep. This is not a temporary nursing strike where baby refuses the breast/bottle for a few days because of periods returning, mom going back to work, teething, or illness, etc. The behaviors seen in baby are much more extreme for a true aversion. Most common causes:
👅Tongue tie: One of my biggest red flags for tongue tie is reflux and shutting down during breastfeeding (sleepy on the breast, popping on and off, refusing the breast and preferring the bottle but then shutting down on the bottle). Some babies with tongue or lip tie do fine for the first few months by compensating on a full milk supply. The aversion comes around 3-4 months when supply regulates. Address the ties and do oral motor exercises to strengthen the system and the refusal can go away.
🥛Intolerances/Allergy: This looks similar to reflux, but often with bowel issues as well (constipation, diarrhea, or mucousy/foamy poops). Babies who’s digestive tracts are uncomfortable don’t want to eat. They learn quickly to associate feeding with pain, so they shut down on feeding.
🤮Reflux: Easiest culprit to blame and mask with medication. The medication may mask the pain but won’t actually take the reflux away. Reflux is usually caused by food allergy/intolerance, gut issues, or tongue tie. Address the issue, resolve the reflux.
🥵Silent aspiration: Milk going into the lungs instead of to the stomach. If baby is having recurring chest infections, they should be seen by a speech pathologist right away for a swallow study to see if they actually are aspirating
🤯Behavioral: The number one concern of parents is feeding the baby. When feeding isn’t going well, it causes extreme stress, which can causes parents to do extreme things to try to fix the problem. It’s easy to spiral out when you’ve tried everything and it’s not working out of stress and desperation. Occasionally the reason for the refusal is no longer there, but it was so stressful in the moment, the panic that it could happen again sets in and perpetuates the problem. Some times the root issue is still there, but you’ve compensated and it’s causing a behavioral manifestation in both you and the baby.