Surviving A Nursing Strike
Nursing strikes occur most often in babies older than 3 months of age.
Typically the baby has been nursing well and then suddenly will refuse
to nurse for no apparent reason. Many mothers wonder if their babies
may be self-weaning, but natural, baby-led weaning is rare during the
first year and is more gradual than sudden. During a strike a baby is
also many times obviously unhappy about the situation. When he is
naturally weaning himself, however, he is most likely not distressed
with the change.
A nursing strike usually lasts just a few days but may persist for a
week or two. Even though a lot of mothers do choose to wean during a
strike, most babies can be coaxed back to the breast with some patience
and determination. It may take some detective work to find the cause.
All of the following are known to occasionally result in a strike:
teething, illness, sores in the baby's mouth, a change in the taste of
the milk, apprehension as a result of the mother's reaction to being
bitten, prolonged separation between mother and baby, the frequent use
of bottles or the pacifier, low milk supply, etc. Some lactation
experts believe that a nursing strike can many times precede the baby's
mastery of a developmental skill such as crawling, standing, or
walking. And sometimes the cause is never known.
Following are some suggestions that you may find helpful in persuading your reluctant nurser back to the breast:|
You will need to express your milk as often as the baby was nursing in
order to maintain your supply during the strike. If the strike persists
for more than a day or so, consider using a pump that will allow you to
pump both breasts simultaneously. Doing so will increase the hormone
that causes milk production.
- Before attempting to feed at all, pump a few minutes. This will
elicit letdown so that the baby gets a quick reward. It will also elongate the nipple for him.
- Also before feeding, offer him your index or pinky finger
down to suck on for several minutes. This suck-training teaches him
to drop his tongue down as he must do with breastfeeding. This is also
a good way to calm the baby should he become upset as you offer your
- Breastfeed frequently - as often as you can. Attempt to feed before
the baby gets too hungry - when he is sucking on his fingers or rooting, but
before he cries. If you can catch him early he may be more willing to
work with you.
You also might try nursing when he is a little drowsy.
Some babies are more willing to take the breast when they are
semi-asleep than when fully awake. Try nursing as he is beginning to
get sleepy or just beginning to wake up. Some mothers find that their
babies will instinctively nurse well once completely asleep.
- Try different nursing positions. Nursing while lying down
often helps minimize any distractions that may interfere with nursing.
Nursing in a quiet, dark room may also be helpful.
- Nurse while in motion - as you walk, sway, rock, bounce, etc.
- Provide lots of skin-to-skin contact when nursing and at other
times as you can. Undress baby to his diaper and remove your blouse
if possible. Try nursing while you both enjoy a warm bath.
- Drip expressed breastmilk over your
nipple in the corner of the baby's mouth using an eyedropper or
feeding syringe while he is at the breast.
- If the strike persists for more than a few days, the baby
may be more willing to nurse at the breast if the flow of milk is
instant and constant. A nursing supplementer can help you achieve this.
- If baby becomes upset as you are trying, stop and attempt to calm
him before trying again. Nursing should not become associated with unpleasantness.
If you must offer your expressed milk to your baby, do so with an
alternative feeding device such as a cup, spoon, feeding syringe,
medicine/eye dropper, or nursing supplementer rather
than a bottle. If you choose to use a bottle anyway, use a newborn or
slow flow nipple so that they baby still has to work hard with the
bottle. Use an Avent bottle if possible.
Written by Becky Flora, BSed IBCLC
Last revision: February 6, 2000
Source: La Leche League's, "The Breastfeeding Answer Book" (1997) by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Julie Stock, BA, IBCLC
More info at other sites:
"Is Baby Weaning or Is It a Nursing Strike?"
Help--My Baby Won't Nurse!