Is your baby refusing to breastfeed? 10 tips to help end a nursing strike

baby breastfeeding feeding problems Mar 06, 2023
A baby is snuggled up next to the mother's breast. Skin to skin is one way to help end a nursing strike.

When my son, Max, was seven months old, he took a hard stand against breastfeeding. I was really worried and thought that maybe this was the end of our nursing journey.

Let me tell you, it was HARD. I knew he needed to eat, but he would not latch AT. ALL.

After doing some research, I realized he was on his first (and thankfully only) nursing strike.

If you are going through something similar with your little one, here are some things to know and some tips to try to get through the nursing strike.

What is a nursing strike & how long do they last?

A nursing strike, also called a breastfeeding strike, is when your baby suddenly refuses to nurse after a period of breastfeeding well. This is different from weaning which is a gradual decrease in nursing instead of a sudden refusal.

A breastfeeding strike typically lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and are almost always temporary.

Why do nursing strikes happen?

There is no real solid answer to why nursing strikes occur. Babies can be very particular and they may strike due to a trigger such as:

  • Being sick (either you or the baby)

  • Teething

  • Decrease in milk supply

  • A change in your deodorant, shampoo, soap, etc. is making you “smell” different

  • A sudden change in nursing patterns (new job, using a babysitter more often, not being as consistent with sessions, etc)

  • You are newly pregnant and your milk supply has changed

What do you do if your baby suddenly refuses breastfeeding?

Getting through the nursing strike is going to take time and patience. There are a few things you can do during this time to help:

  • Protect your milk supply either through hand expressing or pumping.

  • Increase the frequency of skin to skin. I promise you, it's not just for newborns. 

  • Use a sling or a baby carrier to promote more bonding.

  • Nurse in a dark quiet room free of distractions.

  • Don’t force the baby to nurse. When we force our babies to do anything, we ALL lose.

  • Try Tylenol or Motrin if the baby is sick or teething. This may help them feel more comfortable.

  • Nurse when your baby is drowsy. When they are sleepy, they tend to not be as stimulated with the world around them and may revert to their instincts to nurse.

  • Don’t make any changes to how you smell. Your baby wants to smell you!

  • Try different nursing positions. You might find that they will nurse in a different position than they had previously preferred.

  • Try not to stress about it. Babies pick up on your stress and it can make the strike worse. Do what you can to stay calm and relaxed while nursing.

So, how did our nursing strike end? It took TWO weeks! That is TWO WEEKS of pumping every two hours before he eventually started nursing again.

If you are struggling with a nursing strike, I’m here to help. I’ve been there and I know how hard it can be. Please reach out if you have concerns or need support.

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