The nursing relationship between a mother and child can be a constant work in progress. As if breastfeeding isn't hard enough, there's the unpredictability of babies to factor in — as soon as you've got things figured out, they go ahead and change it up on you. You might've just settled into a nice breastfeeding routine, when all of a sudden, your baby refuses to nurse. What's going on? Are they not hungry? Do babies ever dislike the taste of your breast milk? It can be overwhelming enough to not know why your baby is not eating, but even more so to think there may be an issue with your milk.
As it turns out, the taste of your breast milk can impede both the nursing and bottle feeding (if you're bottling breast milk) process. Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), tells Romper, "In rare cases, if moms eat certain foods or take certain medications or herbs, it can change the taste of the milk. This is generally a good thing, as the baby is exposed to many flavors and will have a wider palate when it comes to eating solid foods. However, if the taste is super strong, the baby may reject it." This is rare, O'Connor notes, but not unheard of.
According to a study from Denmark, certain flavors of a mother's diet can be distinctly tasted in her breast milk later in the day. But, this doesn't mean mothers should avoid spicy, pungent, or strong tasting foods. In fact, research shows that babies typically nurse longer and stronger after mom has eaten something strong-tasting, like garlic. These babies often show more varied taste in solid foods as well.
But, in some instances, something may be affecting the taste of your milk enough to turn your baby off to it. According to the Mayo Clinic, your period or becoming pregnant can change the way your milk tastes. A change in the way you smell (new soap, lotion, perfume, or deodorant) can also affect your baby's nursing, even though it has nothing to do with the taste of your milk.
Thinking about any changes in your routine that might be affecting your baby or milk can help you overcome a nursing strike. Are you taking any new medications? Has your diet changed? Are you using a new type of perfume or fragranced soap? Could you be pregnant? Since all babies are different, there's no exact way to tell why your baby could be refusing your milk.
If your baby is refusing breast milk you've pumped and stored, there could be a more concrete reason. Some mothers have high levels of an enzyme called lipase, O'Connor says. "If a mom has a high level of lipase in her milk, it will often smell funky or spoiled after a few hours. Some babies do not mind this, while others do."
There's a simple test you can do to determine whether or not your milk has extra lipase — taste it before you freeze it, and then after it's defrosted. The extra lipase will give it a soapy or metallic taste. If this is the case, the milk can be scalded before freezing to help eliminate this issue, continues O'Connor.
You can also test how long your milk will last refrigerated before you need to scald and freeze — leave some fresh, expressed milk in the fridge and check it every hour. You'll notice when it turns, and from there, you can determine when exactly you'd need to scald it.
Breastfeeding is often not as simple as it's made out to be, and there can be complications along the way — nursing strikes are definitely one of them. If you've taken into account any diet or medicinal changes and you aren't pregnant or on your period, this particular strike could just be a blip. A few days of persistence could have you and baby back on track.
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