All right, this is a post that is 100% baby. I am in need of some help. I know a lot of my blog readers aren't parents, but many still know a lot about babies, and others have had lots of babies and might be able to help me out. Feel free to skip if you're not interested.
Here's the problem. Since Marko was about 12 weeks old, he has been very difficult to get to nurse. When he's not hungry, it's not an issue -- he simply turns his head away and I put him down again. But when he is hungry, it's a huge issue. He throws himself backward and screams, seeming to be either in pain or very angry. I know he's hungry because it's often been quite some time since he's eaten, and he also gives some strong cues like biting on my shirt or sucking on my finger. And yet, he won't nurse!
I've mentioned before that he used to nurse with a plastic shield, which was a huge pain. At 10 weeks he weaned himself off of it and nursed just fine ... for two weeks. Then the arching and screaming started cropping up. At first it was just when he was overtired; now it's pretty close to always.
It's not that he'd prefer a bottle, because the first bottle of his life was yesterday. I'd offered them before, but he was never interested and I didn't push it. This time, after a lot of screaming and misery, I offered a bottle of expressed milk and he drank it right down before falling asleep.
Things that help: nursing him every 45 minutes; starting him off on a pacifier or finger and switching; trying to get him to self-attach (sometimes); nursing lying down; nursing the moment he wakes up from a nap. Things that don't help: waiting for him to get hungrier. He will go for 3-4 hours without nursing before screaming himself to sleep (and then I nurse him on awakening). Repeat: it is NOT that he is not hungry!
So I have a few ideas of what it could be, based on some research I've done on nursing strikes and nursing aversion.
Thrush: a yeast overgrowth in baby's mouth. Why he might have it: Thrush can cause nursing to be painful, so a baby will refuse to nurse. Why he might not have it: There are no other symptoms -- no white patches in the mouth, no bad diaper rash, no apparent yeast on me, etc.
Silent reflux: acid gurgling up in baby's throat and hurting him. Why he might have it: Babies with reflux occasionally come to dislike nursing because they know it will make their throat hurt later. He has some symptoms: occasionally a gurgly noise in the throat, frequent hiccups, when I lay him down on his back he rolls onto his side and arches into a banana shape, frequent nursing helps. Why he might not have it: Usually reflux appears very early on, not at 12 weeks. He's not a big spit-upper. He doesn't cry when laid on his back or when his throat makes that gurgly noise. He's a good sleeper.
Teething: teething babies often refuse to nurse because the sucking motion can hurt their gums. Why he might have it: he's drooling, chomping on everything, and these past couple of days he's been very fussy and soothed by a cold pacifier. Why he might not have it: he's been doing this for over a month, and no sign of a tooth. Besides, he likes to suck just fine -- in fact he sucks on everything -- he just doesn't like to nurse.
A behavioral issue: It's possible that using that shield has confused him somehow, so that he doesn't know how to latch well and gets confused about it when he's upset or tired. He also seems to have developed a preference for pacifiers, and doesn't like the real thing as much. I have never yelled at him while nursing or any such thing. The funny thing is, originally he just minded nursing in one single position, and if I switched things up a bit he wouldn't mind. But as he's caught onto my various "tricks," suddenly he gets suspicious and will cry if he's brought even remotely near a breast. It's the strangest thing.
Does ANYONE have anything that might help me? I'm planning to take him to the doctor and see what they can tell me, but he appears healthy other than this one thing, so I'm not sure they will be able to help. I just would like to get my little boy to like nursing again.