A Motherlode of Breastfeeding Information
When your own baby is screaming at your breast, it may feel as though your heart will break. The feelings of failure can be overwhelming, as well as the frustration, anger, resentment and the utter exhaustion. There can be many different reasons that your breastfeeding baby will scream and refuse your breast. A baby's main form of communication is to cry. Deciphering the puzzle of why the baby is crying can seem an impossible task.
When a baby suddenly starts screaming and refuses to nurse, there is always the possibility of illness. Getting your baby checked by a health practitioner could ease your mind and allow you to pursue other reasons for the crying. One of the most common reasons the babies scream at the breast is nipple confusion. Nipple confusion occurs when a baby gets confused about how to extract milk from your breast. There is a very specific type of jaw movement and tongue placement that need to happen for the baby to get the milk. When artificial nipples and pacifiers are introduced before a baby masters nursing, nipple confusion can result. This causes frustration and results in the baby refusing to nurse and screaming at your breast.
Starving the baby's suck, not starving the baby, is what really needs to happen. A baby uses a different type of sucking for pacifiers and artificial nipples, and if he isn't practicing this type of sucking, he will be able to practice the proper suck for nursing. Removing the pacifiers and artificial nipples is the first key to ending nipple confusion. If there are no pacifiers around to be given, then you will find other ways to comfort your baby. If your baby is only fed at your breast, there will be no chance for nipple confusion.
If your baby is already experiencing nipple confusion and is refusing the breast, there are some important things to keep in mind. Feeding the baby, establishing or keeping your milk supply and getting the baby back to the breast are the keys to overcoming nipple confusion. A hospital-grade pump is important for your milk supply. A quality pump can be bought or rented at a pump rental station throughout the country. Feeding your baby is possible without an artificial nipple. Your baby can be fed with a cup, a finger-feeding device or a supplementer.
Allowing your baby to suck on your finger is a great way to calm her down. This more closely replicates the type of suck needed for nursing. Make sure that your finger goes well back in the baby's mouth to closer replicate the nursing action. Calming your baby down is important before trying to nurse. If you are upset and your baby is screaming, breastfeeding will be much more difficult. Let your baby suckle your finger to calm down and then exchange the finger for your nipple when she is calm. Walking a baby almost to sleep and then nursing is also an effective way to deal with this issue. When your baby is upset he is less likely to be able to suckle correctly. She may nurse well in her sleep and then be much more frustrated during the day. Cutting out pacifiers and artificial nipples is the best way to end nipple confusion. If your baby is not allowed to suck improperly, breastfeeding will go much smoother.
Another reason for screaming at the breast is an overactive letdown or overabundant milk supply. If your baby latches on well and proceeds to start screaming after the milk starts coming, a too-forceful letdown could be the problem. This is especially true if she seems to be choking and sputtering at every feed.
Teething can also be a major source of screaming in the breastfed baby. Each baby deals with the pain of teething differently. Some find it to be no problem to get teeth, while others seem to be in intense pain. Certain babies find comfort from breastfeeding during teething times, yet others find the pressure of nursing to increase the pain, thus starting the cycle of crying. Homeopathic teething tablets, such as Hyland's brand, can ease the symptoms of teething (if your baby is dairy sensitive, Boiron chamomilla liquid is a good alternative). Allowing your baby to gum a frozen wash cloth or terry doll can help as well. Teething can begin much earlier than most believe. Your baby's teeth start very low in her jaw and need to move up through the gum before they can actually break through. Since babies grow in spurts, you will notice the teething symptoms come and go. Your baby can drool, mouth everything in sight, may be chewing on her fist and your breast, and may have diarrhea and a slight fever. (Always check with your health care practitioner to rule out illness.)
If the screaming is occurring in the evening hours, it can often be associated with overstimulation. A baby's immature nervous system can only handle so much outside stimulation. If there is a lot going on throughout the day your baby could be overstimulated by evening. Going into a dark, quiet room to nurse with few distractions can help. Carrying your baby in a sling throughout the day can help to minimize overstimulation. Having your baby connected with you in that manner also helps to facilitate the breastfeeding relationship as a whole.
Whatever the reason your baby is screaming at your breast, it CAN be solved. With patience, trust and a lot of ingenuity you can discover what is going on with your infant and solve the problem. Keep trying and realize that you don't need to stop breastfeeding-- you need to find solutions to keep your baby nursing. A board certified Lactation Consultant is a great resource. Trust your instincts; you know your child better than anyone.
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DISCLAIMER: This web site is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for medical attention, or diagnosis. If you are having breastfeeding difficulties, please contact an IBCLC near you for assistance. If you have any questions consult your family's health care provider. In some instances, the information represents opinion or judgment. Neither the information providers nor the Site owner guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information in this website nor will they be responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. The Site owner and the information providers will not be liable or responsible to any person(s) for any loss or damage caused whatsoever by the use of information or ideas referenced in this web site. Your participation in this service therefore is solely at your own risk.