If your baby can’t or ‘doesn’t want to’ breastfeed…it’s worth investigating WHY

Studies show that a newborn baby can distinguish the sound of his own mother’s voice even amidst a crowded or chaotic room full of people and other voices. Studies show that a baby actually knows the unique smell of her mother’s own breastmilk. Yes, that’s right, even when surrounded by samples of various womens’ breastmilk, a newborn baby will actually turn towards her own mother’s milk sample.

Our babies are born to and are designed to connect with us, to choose us, to breastfeed. And sadly, so many women walk around believing that their baby has rejected them. That their baby, (who they wish to breastfeed) does not want to breastfeed with them, does not like breastfeeding, or cannot breastfeed. They think it’s some sort of reflection on them or on their bond with their baby. So often we hear statements like, “some babies just don’t like breastfeeding” and “some babies just can’t breastfeed” and “some babies just prefer the bottle.” Often these statements are coming from well-intentioned friends and family members who are trying to be supportive, or they’re coming from misinformed healthcare providers, who don’t have the breastfeeding education required to determine the underlying issue that’s impacting a baby’s ability to breastfeed. Ultimately though, these messages do women such a huge disservice because…they’re untrue and because they just perpetuate the breastfeeding myths and misperceptions that are so prevalent in our society.

The thing is, babies are born to breastfeed, but breastfeeding is also a skill that’s learned by both mom and baby. It’s a skill that takes support to get going and time to get the hang of. Also, while yes, babies are born to breastfeed, there are also about one million different factors that can make it challenging for a baby to breastfeed, and about one million different factors that can undermine or impact successful breastfeeding. What occurred during your baby’s birth can make breastfeeding challenging, your baby’s position in the womb can make breastfeeding challenging, your baby’s anatomy can make breastfeeding challenging. Interventions you received can impact breastfeeding, lack of quality support can DEFINITELY impact breastfeeding, health conditions can impact breastfeeding, inaccurate advice can impact breastfeeding. The list goes on and on and on.

In my opinion, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to investigate WHY a baby can’t breastfeed or isn’t interested in breastfeeding. Maybe it’s as simple as needing the right lactation consultant and the right positioning techniques. When it’s not this simple though, the reason that your baby isn’t breastfeeding is not that “some babies just don’t like it.” There is ALWAYS something underlying going on that is making it challenging for your baby to breastfeed. Your baby does want to experience the bond of nursing, but there is an obstacle. Even if you’ve made the decision not to continue pursuing breastfeeding (which of course is a very valid choice) it’s STILL worthwhile to investigate what’s going on. Breastfeeding challenges are an early red flag that something is up. Just switching to bottles doesn’t change whatever it is that’s up, and the underlying factor that is impacting breastfeeding has the potential to impact other areas of your baby’s life even months or years down the road. We deserve this information and the resources it takes to make breastfeeding work and to uncover what’s making breastfeeding so challenging. Babies do want to breastfeed, and it’s about time we stopped the false narrative that “some of them just don’t.”

About Shelley Halloran

Hi! I'm Shelley of Mama Blooms, LLC. As a Lactation Counselor and Postpartum Doula, I serve women and their families; providing both in-person and virtual supports during all phases and stages of a breastfeeding and/or postpartum journey. I'm on a mission to educate, empower, support, and nurture modern mothers, and am honored to witness women bloom into the mamas that they're meant to be! Shelley Halloran, M.Ed., CLC, CPD

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