I have to admit I don’t hear of mothers having nursing strikes very often but they do happen and can be very frustrating for mom and baby. For mom, not knowing why she is being refused and for baby, because he might not be happy yet won’t nurse even though it’s always been his food and comfort.
Just for clarification, a nursing strike is when an infant who has been nursing happily for months suddenly refuses the breast when offered. It is different from baby-led weaning because it happens so suddenly. The baby is often unhappy with the whole situation and wants mom to figure out what’s wrong and solve the problem.
Nursing strikes can be caused because of physical discomfort like a stuffy nose, ear ache, teething, sore throat or anything that keeps baby from nursing comfortably. It also could be caused by a stressful time like a move or a new job. It may be that mom startled him when he bit or perhaps he heard a loud noise while nursing. Even things like mom changing lotion, perfume, or deodorant can lead to a nursing strike. Any unusual change from the norm can contribute to a nursing strike depending on baby.
Even if mom can’t figure out what caused it, she can help get things back on track. Don’t be too quick to offer other drinks and food. Do pump or hand-express milk during the strike to maintain the milk supply and to prevent plugged ducts and mastitis. If the strike lasts longer than a day, mom can offer expressed milk in a cup but avoid bottles so baby’s sucking urge will encourage him to nurse. Some ways to encourage baby back to the breast are: Nurse him in his sleep (probably the most common suggestion because it works); nurse somewhere different – while walking, while sitting in the car, at a friend’s house, outside or in a warm bath (the skin-to skin contact can really help anywhere); make yourself available - leave your shirt up with your breast exposed for a day but don’t push the issue; and maybe just some time spent away from the hubbub of the family snuggling mom will calm him enough to nurse.
Whatever works might need to be used for a couple days before everything is back to normal. Almost all nursing strikes end happily but they don’t all end quickly. If you need help with a nursing strike or any other breastfeeding difficulty, contact La Leche League (LLL). We are here to help!!!
This Thursday is our monthly meeting at 6:30 at Elegant Mommy in Sioux Falls. Come meet some wonderful mothers who love to breastfeed and support each other!
By Sarah Alberts, LLL Leader