Is your child not feeding well and you suspect “milk aversion”, “feeding aversion” or “bottle aversion”?
Basically, are you facing difficulty in getting your child to drink milk?
First, find out all about this milk aversion and why your baby is refusing the milk feeds here. As one would realize, the right solution can only be determined by knowing the cause of the problem!
Once you identify the cause of the milk aversion, try out our tips to overcome this hurdle!
1) Differentiate “Milk Aversion”, “Feeding Aversion” and “Bottle Aversion”
Do not assume that your baby is “adverse to milk” straight away!
There are plenty of possible causes of why your baby refuses to drink milk, but identifying the root diagnosis is really essential. Why does your baby cry? Is your baby adverse to the bottle instead? Or, is your baby simply adverse to feeding?
One simple (albeit not foolproof) method is to observe if your baby prefers the breast but rejects the bottle. In that case, there is a good chance he or she has bottle aversion, and not milk aversion.
Alternatively, if your baby rejects all feeds (milk, fluids and solids alike), and not milk alone, there could be feeding aversion.
As easy as this may sound, we still highly recommend a personalized consultation with a medical expert to determine the exact cause and diagnosis. Not to forget, there could even be multiple causes at play concurrently!
2) Seek Professional Medical Attention for Underlying Health Problems
Now, if you are still stubbornly trying to handle all of these by yourself, stop!
There are many possible underlying health issues that can result in your little one refusing to feed, declining milk, or throwing a tantrum at feeding times. A list of commonly encountered medical problems is here:
- Mouth ulcers caused by trauma, burns, and infections like HFMD
- Esophagitis or other complications caused by acid reflux (GERD)
- Intestinal obstructions such as chronic constipation, gastroparesis and other gastro-intestinal causes
- Swallowing problems such as laryngomalacia and nervous causes
- Milk protein allergies
- Developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Psychological trauma from previous intubation, nasogastric tube usage, choking, NICU stays, mixing of foul-tasting medicines with milk, etc
- A combination of causes from any above;
Remember, these medical issues should always be properly diagnosed by a medical practitioner. Furthermore, in Singapore, there are multiple specialists – from pediatricians, to speech therapists, and pediatric dietitians and psychologists – that can help you and your family deal with milk aversion.
With the advancement of healthcare nowadays, there are countless treatments available and getting professional help early is often the best approach.
3) Stay Calm and Reduce Stress All Around
Well, this is easier said than done.
Remember the days when you were single and babysitting your cousins, nephews and nieces? Or, taking care of someone else’s child as a babysitter perhaps?
The feeling and stress experienced as a parent is inherently different versus that faced by a non-parent carer.
Trust us when we say this, but MEIDE’s extensive experience is definitely one that tells us parents are more often overly-anxious or overly-stressed. Yet, that is not necessarily a horrible thing. It is only natural for parents to want to love and protect their own bloodline. What is important is for the parents themselves (you) to recognise the boundary when they are becoming “overly stressed and protective”.
Commonly Encountered Signs and Symptoms of Milk Aversion
Before we begin, we can already foresee the “ah, yes” and earnest nods of agreement to these commonly encountered scenarios:
- Going for prolonged durations without wanting to feed or drink milk
- Showing signs of hunger (eg. like an empty stomach) but refusing milk
- Becoming stressed, tense or agitated when nearing milk time
- Pushing away milk feeds and turning head away from milk bottle repeatedly
- Consuming small amounts of milk only, and sometimes stopping and continuing again (appearing to have a conflicted feeding behavior)
- Shutting their lips and mouth tight and struggling against any feeds
- Able to tolerate very specific foods and feeds (eg. water, sweet drinks only), but refuses milk
- Increasingly refusing milk feeds, and drinking less and less
- Only able to drink milk when about to sleep, drowsy, or just woken from nap (see below on dream-feeding)
- Having poor growth (in terms of height, weight, head circumference, or other developmental milestones) – this warrants urgent professional medical attention!
Indeed, milk aversion is a very commonly faced issue. They come in varying severities, and impact different households differently.
Vicious Cycle of Fear and Stress
Did you know that in the majority of the cases of milk aversion, STRESS is the number one common cause?
Moreover, stress coming from the parents and caregivers leads to over-pressurizing of the baby, which leads to stress encountered by the baby and further refusal to drink milk. This is quite frequently known as the “fear-avoidance-cycle” – a negative viscous cycle and downward spiral.
Additionally, the pressure from parents forcing their baby to drink milk, due to the fear of milk aversion, may lead to the other causes of milk aversion (eg. GERD, aspiration, etc) too. This in turn worsens the milk aversion in the baby.
So, as simple as it may sound, the key to fighting milk aversion and stress, is to stop this spiral!
Therapies to Fight Stress From Milk Aversion
Look back at the commonly encountered signs and symptoms above, and take time to re-consider your options. Do you really need to force your way through it? What are the real and evidence-based consequences? How can you overcome these sticky situations without leading to stress and pressure? Are there ways to reduce the stress?
If you are reading till here, you are doing great. You have just taken the crucial first step to escape stress! Fortunately, there are many more ways to tackle stress, beyond the scope of this article. We will list them here and recommend that you follow it up with a healthcare professional:
- Behavioral Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech Therapy
- Family Therapy and Counseling
But this is not everything just yet. Keep reading for more of our tips to fight milk aversion!
4) Adjust Your Environmental Factors
Next, you can try these small steps to make the feeding experience more conducive for your baby.
To the surprise of many parents, these 5 seemingly minute shifts in environmental factors may work wonders!
- Adjust the milk brand, taste and temperature
- Change different milk bottles or teats and flow rates
- Adjust the feeding positions
- Adjust the feeding timings and amounts
- Check the surroundings
Read on learn the intricate details:
Adjust the milk brand, taste and temperature
Milk aversion can be improved by adjusting the milk taste and temperature. Your baby could simply have a preference for certain particular brands of formula milk
Hypoallergenic formula milk may have less than desirable tastes, hence try to be sensitive when using them!
Oh, and remember to ensure the milk is slightly warm (similar to breastmilk temperature) too!
Change different milk bottles or teats and flow rates
Experienced babysitters and parents know the variety of milk bottle volumes, brands, designs can be a whole lot. Different teat flow rates are meant for babies of varying sizes and ages too.
In general, younger babies need slower and more gradual flow rates, and older ones need higher flow rates. If the rate is too slow or fast, it poses feeding problems and may lead to milk aversion
Adjust the feeding positions
Now, back to basics! We know that many babies feed when lying entirely flat. However, some babies prefer slightly inclined positions or being cradled. Older babies may even want to drink when sitting. In fact, this helps prevent acid reflux too.
Try to vary the feeding positions and see which ones your baby loves the most. Milk aversion can be overcomed easily by adjusting feeding positions!
At different stages of growth, your baby may switch preferences on their preferred feeding position.
Adjust the feeding timings and amounts
Next, a perennial question many parents may have is – how much milk should my baby drink?
The truth is, there is no silver bullet or perfect volume of milk. Every baby has their own style and needs. With the golden advice from nannies and professionals, MEIDE recommends letting your baby take the lead.
Allow your baby to drink as much as he or she wants. Do not worry about milk “wastage” as it is really a normal encounter for all parents! More importantly, be always on the lookout for signs that your baby is full already, or still hungry and wanting more.
The good news is that once you have established a routine feeding time and amount, your baby will likely stick to it for weeks and months (until they grow bigger and require larger amounts, during which they will indicate signs of wanting more again).
Check the surroundings
Some parents may feed their babies in less-than-ideal surroundings. For instance, with over-stimulating and distracting TV shows nearby that prevent the baby from feeding properly.
Also, some breastfed babies may refuse bottles or other feeds when they sense their mother nearby due to the familiarity of being breastfed. In such cases, allowing mommy to be a certain distance away, before gradually moving closer to the baby, can improve feeding.
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Viola! You now have a whole slew of strategies to use and combat your baby’s milk aversion!
5) Try “Dream Feeding” or Early Introduction of Solids
Last but not least, these are some unique strategies to counter milk aversion.
Dream-feeding, or some may call it sleep-feeding, is feeding your baby milk when they are drowsy or asleep, often when just woke up from sleep, or about to fall asleep. Although an exhibition of such behavior indicates possible milk aversion in babies, it in itself is a helpful solution to allow the baby to take milk more comfortably.
This is because the baby’s psychological fear and stress is significantly less when in a drowsy or sleep state. Hence the baby may not be fully aware of being fed and instead follows his or her natural hunger instincts to suck milk.
As one may realize, milk aversion is indeed a very “psychologically-driven” condition!
Additionally, in moderate to severe milk aversion, and when the baby is indeed showing the possibility of poor growth, an early introduction of solids can be done. Please note that this should only be done in consultation with a medical expert. In general, a single fruit diet is suitable to start with. Your medical physician may also recommend certain high energy feeds, whilst working hand in hand with therapists and dietitians to help you tide over the initial milk aversion phase.
Conclusion on Milk Aversion Causes and Cures
We truly hope this has been beneficial towards mummies and daddies coping with milk aversion in their kids! There are really a lot of information available and here are some additional useful resources that MEIDE Babysitting Blog Team would like to share with you too:
Hang in there, and know that we are always here with you! As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!
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