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Your Baby Going on a Nursing Strike?

Nursing strike is your baby’s refusal to take the breast or loss of interest in the breast after several minutes of breastfeeding. It often begins after seven months of age, when your baby figures she/he can have a say too.

At this age most nursing strikes are just that – the strikes. They shouldn’t be interpreted as your baby’s self-weaning. Take every measure to make breastfeeding attractive again before giving up and giving your baby a bottle.

If your baby stops breastfeeding before the age of one, you will have to start giving him/her formula. Whole cow’s milk is not recommended for babies under one.

Are All Strikes Created Equal?

Your baby can go on a nursing strike for various reasons. Check this list:

  • If your baby is sick, his/her stuffy nose may interfere with the breastfeeding. Use saline to clear your baby’s nose and try offering breast again.
  • An earache may get worse when your baby is reclined for a feeding. Watch for other symptoms of an earache (ear rubbing, fever, fussiness when in horizontal position). If you suspect an earache take your baby to the doctor.
  • If your baby has a cold, congestion may get worse when swallowing during the feeding.
  • Sore throat may cause your baby’s refusal to nurse.
  • Gum soreness from teething may interfere with the breastfeeding. Offer a cooled-down teething ring before the feeding to decrease gum soreness.
  • Mother’s low milk supply can discourage some picky eaters. Some babies are very particular about milk flow intensity. Visit Low Milk Supply section to read more.
  • Mother’s oversupply or a vigorous let-down may be the culprits. Try pumping some milk before the feeding, so that when the baby latches the flow is not so intensive. Visit Oversupply section to read more.
  • Delayed milk let-down may be making the baby anxious and reluctant to try again. Hand express or pump some milk before the feeding to stimulate let-down.
  • If your breast is over-filled with milk, the nipple may flatten, and it may be difficult for the baby to latch-on. Hand express or pump some milk to release tension in your breast. Massaging your breast also helps.
  • Your milk may have a peculiar taste after something you ate. Visit Food Avoidance section for a list of products to avoid while breastfeeding.
  • Your breast milk may be causing an allergic reaction in your baby. Visit Allergies section to read more.
  • Pump some milk and look at its consistency. Does it look different? Some breast conditions like mastitis or abscess may change milk consistency. It may account for your baby’s refusal to take the breast.
  • Your baby’s thrush mouth may keep him/her from breastfeeding. Visit Yeast Infection section to read more.
  • Frequent offering of a bottle or a pacifier may cause nipple confusion and lead to a strike. Visit Nipple Confusion section to read more.
  • Nursing strike can be due to emotional discomfort or stress. It could be anything from moving the baby to his/her own room, mother’s long absence, noise, mother’s new perfume or detergent.
  • Some babies are very sensitive to even a minor change in their breastfeeding routine. Are the feedings rushed? Are you nervous? Are you leaving right after the feeding? Breastfeeding is first of all a means of communicating with you for your baby and only then - a source of nutrition. Nursing strike can be your baby’s protest to get your attention and ask for more of mother-baby time. Try to re-create the pre-strike situation (if possible) and offer breast again.

Your Response to a Strike

While figuring out the exact reason for a nursing strike or if you can’t find one here is what you need to do:

  • Hand express or pump your milk to maintain your milk supply and prevent breast problems.
  • If your baby is healthy, acting happy and not under-weight a day- or two-long strike is nothing to worry about. Try giving your baby breast while he/she is sleeping. Depending on the reason for a strike, the baby may breastfeed well while asleep.
  • If the strike continues after a day or two, talk to your baby’s doctor. You will also need to make sure your baby stays well-nourished. Supplement with your milk using SNS, finger, dropper, syringe, spoon or cup feeding methods. Refrain from using bottles!
  • If using a bottle is absolutely necessary, get a slow flow nipple to make bottle-feeding a hard work for the baby.
  • Make breastfeeding interesting. Try a new breastfeeding position. Breastfeed in a different room. Breastfeed while walking (this one proves to be extremely effective!).
  • Don’t be pushy. If refused, don’t offer breast till the next feeding.
  • Don’t rush. Allow enough time for the feeding. Undress your baby. Let your skin touch your baby’s skin. Spend time with your baby before and after the feeding. Carry your baby between the feedings. Somehow your baby lost confidence in breastfeeding. Do everything to help him/her regain it.

If the nursing strike continues for a week or longer and you are running out of patience, talk to a lactation consultant. There may be a simple solution to the problem.

When your baby accepts breast for the first time after the strike, don’t interrupt the feeding. Let your baby have it his/her way. I believe at that moment all you will want to do is look at your little one thinking what a blessing a nursing baby is!

There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.



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