Help This Reader: Breastfeeding and Potty Training

Occasionally I get questions from readers. Instead of answering directly with just my thoughts, I like to get the mom’s permission to post here and get your wisdom. What advice or tips would you give? Leave them in the comments below. :-)

Source: via Charlene on Pinterest


Hi Carrie,

I have a 5 month old who has been giving me trouble with breastfeeding since he was 3 months old. I feel like he hates the breast and even when I bring him NEAR me he’ll scream.

For one entire month I would rock him to sleep and then feed him in his sleep. That doesn’t work anymore. The doctors have said that he is losing weight because he is not taking enough milk- but how do I feed him if he refuses to latch on??

He does not take the bottle AT ALL and is exclusively breastfed.

I have tried more skin to skin contact, different positions, letting him get more hungry, feeding ON TIME before he seems hungry, singing to him, rocking him, anything you can think of.

Please help me and tell me what to do.

I’m sorry you’re having trouble. It’s so hard when baby seems to be rejecting you! But rest assured that babies always have a good reason for this behavior, and it can be solved quickly- it just takes a little detective work on mom’s part.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the possibility that your baby is having some pain or soreness when being held in the breastfeeding position. This can be due to a mild injury that takes place at birth (quite common actually!). I would especially suspect this if you had a long or difficult birth, but it can happen even with a very short or more uneventful birth.

You may want to take him to a Chiropractor or Osteopath for an adjustment. These aren’t painful for babies, and you may notice a difference immediately. Incidentally I have experience with this issue. My second child had no problems nursing at first, but he began fussing and crying when I tried to nurse him on one side. I took him to a Chiropractor who did a quick adjustment. That next feeding was no problem, and he had no trouble again after that. Apparently he had some tightness in his neck and shoulders from either the position he was in before he was born, or from strain that happened during his birth.

Secondly, get in touch with a La Leche League leader in your area who can observe you latching baby on. Some LLL leaders make house calls, and they are volunteers so there is no charge. You may even want to do this first, before spending the money on a health care provider. You can find an LLL leader via the website. Time is of the essence here. If baby is losing weight, you need to find help immediately. It’s possible that your milk supply could downshift in response, so be sure to pump when baby misses a feeding.

Another possibility is that your baby has thrush. Have you had a vaginal yeast infection? Does your baby have white patches inside his mouth? If you have any burning, pain, discomfort in your nipples this would be a giveaway, but sometimes mom doesn’t present with symptoms even when her baby has thrush. I wrote an article on breastfeeding and yeast infection that will help you diagnose and treat this common problem. Babies with thrush will sometimes reject the breast because sucking is painful for them.

Some other things to rule out: an allergy that baby may have to something on your clothing or body. Some sensitive babies will cry if mom uses perfume or fragrance, a new deodorant, detergent or fabric softener in her clothing.

One final tip: I don’t know if you have tried nursing baby while skin to skin in the bathtub. Some babies will latch on in the tub when they have trouble at any other time. Definitely take the steps mentioned above, but try this right away.

I wish you all the best! Likely you’ll be able to overcome this hurdle and continue to breastfeed. Get some help from an LLL leader. :-)


Hi Carrie,

I read your article on how to potty train in 2 days and I did everything you said, but my son seemed to think it was one big joke and would pee on purpose everywhere.

He just turned 2 and we have other kids in the house so when they saw him peeing on the floor they squealed and he seemed to think it was funny and has been doing it since.

I had to put the pamper back on. He used to be potty trained (would tell me when he had to go #2) but now does it in the pamper and THEN tells me.

I really want to train him before he’s 2.5 and I’ve heard you’re quite the genius so any advise would be highly appreciated.


I’m not sure I deserve the title of genius but thanks for the compliment! You wouldn’t be the first mom who found her efforts to train her toddler towards a certain behavior to be foiled by older siblings! It looks like they accidentally trained your little guy to repeat this behavior. Don’t ask me how my 20 month old knows the word “fart”, by the way. ;-)

First I would start by having a discussion with the older kids. Tell them you need their help in getting the little man potty trained. Tell them to totally ignore it when he pees anywhere but the potty, but congratulate him and make a big deal out of when he succeeds in using the potty. Have them talk up the fact that they use the toilet. Younger siblings naturally try to imitate the older ones.

Since your son has used the potty successfully in the past, this may just be a temporary setback. Sometimes it’s “two steps forward, one step back”. That’s ok. All kids are different and there is no deadline. But one very important component is mom’s determination. If I were you, I would get rid of all the diapers. No diapers in the house, period (except for the younger baby). This move tells him you mean business.

Yes, you’ll likely have some more messes to clean up – but you can have HIM help with this. Not in a punitive, shameful way. Act just the same as you would if he spilled his milk on the floor. Say something like, “Oh, goodness. There’s peepee on the floor. Peepee goes in the potty. Well, here’s a towel. Please clean it up, then we will play“. He can also take his soiled underwear to the hamper.

Toddlers can change overnight. He’s almost there, just give it a little more time. :-)

Those were my thoughts.

Do you have any other advice, “been there done thats” or encouragement?

Disclosure: This information is not to be construed as medical advice. Carrie is not a doctor. It’s wise to consult a health care practitioner you trust before taking action on any health information you read on the internet.

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10 Responses to Help This Reader: Breastfeeding and Potty Training

  1. Esper says:

    You might want to look into a SNS. Supplemental Nursing System so the baby can still drink from the breast and he’ll get more milk while he’s at it. Also try pumping your milk a bit before baby gets on the breast so he’ll immediately get milk and not have to work so hard for it and get so frustrated.

  2. rebecca says:

    For the breastfeeding mother: my sister had trouble with her daughter breastfeeding. She would get really mad and pull away crying. She was also very collicky. It turned out she had a milk protein intolerance. Once my sister cut out all dairy she was fine. If your child is otherwise collicky, I would try eliminating dairy or other common food triggers. I hope this helps!

  3. Ali smith says:

    I’d love to get your advice on potty training. Been potty training my 2 1/2 yo girl since a year and now with a seven month old and daddy coming and going on business trips (and moving I Japan!) she seems difficult to finish the task. Sometimes she asks to go but web I use underwear she pees right on it ad watches herself pee. Is my timing off? Maybe she needs more time? She likes to sit I the potty sometimes and other times not interested. I though going diaper less would help but doesn’t seem to. Help!!

  4. carrie says:

    I have done a bit of diaperless/infant potty training, and I found that I set myself up for expectations that may have been too high for me. This may not be the case with you, but thought I would mention it. I think all kids are different too. One of my children had a very difficult time having bowel movements in the toilet, even after she had been potty trained for a long time. I think we sometimes need to take a step back and relax about it.

    I also believe that diaperlessness doesn’t always lead to quicker training. I’ve read lots of stories online about parents who practice elimination communication whose children trained at about the same time as diapered babies.

  5. carrie says:

    Wonderful tip Rebecca, thanks for mentioning.

  6. Bekah says:

    Cut out all dairy–no casein at all (even almond cheese has casein in it). Be very strict! Dairy takes 21 days to get out of the system, and a trace amount could make baby fussy. You will probably have a new baby within 3 or 4 days though. (not a new one–I know you love the one you have) I did this with my 3rd, along with going to a person who did cranial sacral for torticullis (tight neck on one side), and she was nursing beautifully within a week. If their tummy hurts, they will squirm, pull off and on, or even refuse to eat as yours is. Stick with it! You can do it! I am gluten-free, and cutting out dairy was harder than cutting out gluten, honestly. But if it helps, you can’t cheat–baby will notice. :) If dairy doesn’t help, you might try cutting out gluten or at least wheat (that takes 60 days to completely leave your system, so it would be a longer trial). You could also go to a chiro or osteopath–that definitely wouldn’t hurt. Or if there is a private lactation consultant (not a free hospital one) in your area that midwives recommend, pay the money to go to that one–it was worth its weight in gold when my 3rd was helped by the one I went to (who suggested cutting out dairy and did the cranial sacral). Hope this helps!!

  7. Bekah says:

    Oh, and with potty training, I can’t help ya there. None of mine were completely trained until 3. I usually just don’t stress it, and they do it pretty naturally. Potty prizes have helped (try not to do M&Ms, but this time I am doing raisins with my 3rd). Dry underwear for the day meant potty prize (I would go broke if it were each time they peed–I thought *I* peed a lot after 3 kids!). Or for my first, a poo poo meant a potty prize b/c that was what she had trouble with. I like the idea of older siblings cheering her on. Right now, my 3-in-3-months daughter will ask me, “Is I wearing underwear?” and then pee in her pants if not. This tells me that she is a little bit lazy like her mama, and that she is at least thinking about it before she pees. We had 2 accidents yesterday and she does have trouble when we go somewhere, so I do often put a diaper on in public (she peed 3 minutes after we got to the park the other day and I had run out of spare pants in the van!). Another tip–bring spare shoes when you go out too–you don’t think about how the cowgirl boots will “fill up” if they pee in public. :)

  8. Bekah says:

    p.s. By both of us being lazy I don’t mean that I pee in my pants, but I do need to work on not wanting to go do something I have to do (in her case, going to the bathroom to pee).

  9. The dairy might be the thing, especially if he has little red bumps on his face. Even last my week, my nearly 2 year old wasn’t interested in his feeding. Later I realized I had a huge milkshake the night before and some cheese that day. I can do dairy now, after a long time, but obviously going nutty isn’t going to work.

    Baby Legs is the way to go if you try potty training in the cooler months. Some mommies really like them.

  10. Jeanne says:

    Hi Carrie
    I support your words of wisdom with both Mom’s. To the Mom with a five month old. I would suggest the La Leche League–wonderful and encouraging in times of stress and feeding for Mom’s.

    So the Mom has tried many remedies and not felt successful–just know that you are a good Mom and you are doing your best. Just the fact that you are seeking assistance says you are a loving and caring Mom. You do not have to do this all yourself–seek assistance from someone else who has been there like The LL. Probably the number one concern of Mom’s as I saw being an OB nurse is –is my baby getting enough nourishment? So your Dr. has not suggested you stop breastfeeding so this might just be a bump in the road. You are both learning and bonding . Seek advise of another so that you do not add to your already stressed life. Let someone help you!

    If you do not have confidence in you Dr. find another who can support you and your needs and seek the support you need.. Know you are doing the best you know with the tools you have trust this will pass and seek support from another.

    My answer to Mom#2
    So we have expectations of our children from an early age. Expectations that they will use the potty at a certain age–and maybe their nervous system is not ready. These are your expectations and maybe Maybe neurologically baby is not ready for full time potty use. Relax your baby will surely not go to school in diapers and his body will tell him when he is ready. As the mouth sphincter/muscle is strengthened so is the anus and genitals. Let him suck on things to strengthen the muscles. Let go and know it all works in the end for the best and we cannot control everything–Trust that baby will be potty trained and let go of the expectation and let baby grow without the stress and expectation of your time table–You will both be happier. I say this from experience with my own children and grandchildren. It all works in the end.


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