Out of all the issues we have faced with Harper's eating, the feeding aversion was the most stressful. In my mind, I knew I had done this to her and I felt the most guilt around the idea of that. The reason I say "I" gave it to her, is because in all of our efforts to get Harper to eat more than 1-2 ounces in a feed, we made the feeding process an unpleasant, stressful, and painful situation for her! We tried everything: we distracted her with an IPAD, fed in a dark room, used small breaks and sneaky feeds, but these efforts combined with Harper's silent reflux pain, ultimately lead Harper to develop an aversion to feeding. Her polite dismissals of the bottle turned into screaming and crying. Here is how we overcame the aversion:
What is a feeding aversion?
A feeding aversion is a psychological or emotional response where person tries to avoid a situation. Feeding aversions can occur in babies as young as 2 months old, as that is when they start to develop a memory that can link the situation to a bad experience. Feeding aversions are reversible, but you have to be able to identify the issue and follow a very strict plan led by your baby to resolve. I highly recommend you read this book by Rowena Bennett if you think your baby has a feeding aversion. This book was eye-opening for us and resolved Harper's aversion in just a week or so! Here are signs that led us to research and find out about feeding aversions:
- Seems hungry, but doesn't eat- Harper would take one or two sips and then pull away from the bottle.
- Cries and becomes tense around bottle- Eventually, Harper would not even take one sip of the bottle before crying hysterically. Harper never cried, so this was a big sign for us that something was wrong.
- Doesn't eat when being held- Harper would only eat if she was propped on my leg or a pillow, never held.
- Eats fine when sleeing- Harper would eat fine during her middle of night feeds and dreamfeed.
Plan of Action
After lots of google searching Harper's behaviors, I came across the book, Your Baby's Bottle Feeding Aversions by Rowena Bennett and a lightbulb went off, Harper had a feeding aversion. We bought her book that night and followed her plan religiously for the next 2 weeks. We tried to be the only ones to feed her, and taught our nanny how to follow the program until the feeding aversion was reversed.
Note: this is not medical advice and you should talk to your healthcare professionals about any and all concerns. You should also rule out medical conditions before starting any plan. We already knew Harper had silent reflux and were treating that at the same time her aversion began.
- Rule out or diagnose medical conditions- We knew Harper had silent reflux and were treating it in tandem with the feeding aversion.
- There is NO pressure to feed- Pressure to feed was ultimately, what led to Harper's feeding aversion, so the first step was to eliminate any and all pressure during her feeds.
- Ask permission- You can see a theme here, the baby is the boss here. Ask permission before the feed. In a happy tone, ask if she wants to have her bottle, then offer the bottle and gauge her response. Remember no pressure and follow baby's led!!
- Follow Baby's lead- In order to offer a no pressure feeding environment, you also have to follow baby's lead. If Harper pushed the bottle away, we would wait 10 minutes and then offer again. If she rejected it, we immediately ended the feed.
- Limit who feeds baby- In the first few days of working through the aversion, I was the only one to feed Harper. I wanted to be sure it was a no pressure environment and also wanted to gauge her reactions and progress.
- Baby needs to be hungry- try not to feed all throughout the night because then baby will not be hungry during the day. The exception here is in the first few days of the program, you may need to feed baby a little more at night to get the calories in if she is refusing during the day. We did a dream feed and one other night feed. Refer to the book for more details!
In the first 3 days of this program, you are not too concerned with the amount baby is eating. You are aiming for a minimum of 10 ounces. If you are following the key steps above, the aversion should get better each day and the ounces in turn will grow.
Feeding aversions take time and patience to resolve, but know that it can be done! I was amazed at how quickly Harper rebounded and progressed each day. Reading Bennett's book and following the steps she outlines not only resolved our feeding aversion, but also built a healthier relationship for Harper and I.
Nichole @ Little Peach Sleep