Some babies and toddlers develop an aversion to having anything placed in their mouths. This is especially common amongst babies who have received medication or ventilation through a tube, though it sometimes crops up without any obvious reason.
Oral defensiveness generally shows itself with a baby’s refusal to take the breast or bottle, and an aversion to having anything else in her mouth. It is believed that the reason many babies (especially those who have been treated with ventilators or Naso-gastric tubes) develop oral defensiveness is because they experience a sensation like choking when anything is placed inside their mouths.
If your baby shows signs of oral defensiveness, or refuses to take anything into her mouth for an extended period of time, missing more than one feeding, consult your doctor. There are several therapies she may suggest to help your baby start eating properly again.
One thing you can try yourself if your baby is refusing to take the bottle or the breast is to simply hold your baby close, preferably with skin to skin contact, and offer the breast or bottle. Don’t force the issue; the last thing you want to do is to compound the problem by making feeding more unpleasant for your baby than it already is. In most cases, your baby’s hunger will overcome her hesitance to put anything in her mouth and she will eat. When she does, do whatever you can to make it a pleasant experience for her.
When you do consult your doctor, she might recommend a feeding therapist. In most cases, these therapists will work with you and your baby to help your baby realize that the bottle or breast is not something to be afraid of, but something to receive nourishment from.
One of the things babies and toddlers with oral defensiveness often do is spit milk or formula out or vomit rather than swallowing. A therapist will work with you and your baby to help her figure out that if she swallows, she won’t have the unpleasant feelings she is experiencing from having something in her mouth. The goal is to help baby start to view oral feeding as pleasant again. In most cases, it doesn’t take long before your baby will gradually start feeding for longer periods of time again.
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