A nursing strike is very common in young babies, especially breastfed babies. A feeding strike can happen to all babies, no matter how they are fed. But it’s less likely to happen to a bottle fed baby.
I remember so well the time when we got out first nursing strike! My baby was 3 months old, it was also the first time when we went to visit my parents abroad.
Most certainly that was the main reason why he had this nursing strike. I think too many changes have happened with my little one so he decided to “punish” me by not wanting to nurse anymore.
We had quite a painful time. If I’m not mistaken it lasted for about 2-3 weeks. Horror story!
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What’s a nursing strike?
In just a few words a nursing strike or a feeding strike is when your baby suddenly stops nursing or bottle feeding. Although I think this strike is more common to the breastfed babies.
Often mommies think of self-weaning, when in fact, some external factors are causing it.
What are the causes?
There can be physical, psychical causes or maybe something you did and you haven’t realised.
No matter the case, you will have to identify the cause and if you’re not certain of the causes, take them one by one and rule them out.
If you think that’s something wrong with your baby but you can’t figure it out, it’s best to consult a paediatrician. You have to make sure that your baby is healthy before anything else.
So here is the list of the possible causes of a nursing strike:
- any type of mouth pain – teething, sore throat or infection
- ear infection which can cause pressure when sucking
- stuffed nose or difficulty in breathing
- after a vaccination
- low milk supply
- sudden changes in your baby’s routine
- going away from home for a longer period of time
- any reactions you might have if your baby has bitten you
- your baby doesn’t like the smell of your deodorant, perfume
- when your breastmilk changes its taste or volume – this will constantly change – it can be hormonal, the start of your period, something you ate, etc
- you’re stressed – stress can be transferred to your baby and can affect your milk supply as well
- your baby uses a dummy (pacifier) too often
How long can a nursing strike last?
They say it can last from a couple of days to five days, or sometimes even weeks. I guess it depends on what’s causing the nursing strike.
In our case, it lasted for about 2 weeks. I think that the main cause was because we went away from home for a longer period of time, he missed daddy and I guess he was “protesting” haha…
It was the time when I offered a pacifier to him because he was feeling very uncomfortable and crying a bit more. So that was one of the things that have helped me calm him down and keep him happy.
With all these being said, the length of a strike depends on your baby and the root of the problem and the cause.
You also have to keep in mind that it’s something temporary and everything goes back to normal. Just the journey of it can be difficult.
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What to do during a nursing strike?
So you realised that your baby is having a nursing strike. You also identified the cause of it and you are taking care of the situation. But what you really do?
First, you have to be calm and patient. Please bear in mind that it can be tricky and tough.
I was in panic mode and researched everything I could on the internet about this subject. So please don’t do that! Your baby can sense that something is wrong or if you’re stressed. All your emotions are transferred to him.
Second, you have to do whatever it takes to keep your milk supply. You also have to keep your breasts healthy – by avoiding engorgement and mastitis.
This can have a massive impact on it if you are not taking care of it.
So in order to maintain it, you can use a breast pump or hand express. This has to be done quite often, or if your baby has a nursing schedule, you can use that as a reference.
Third, you still have to feed your baby, you don’t want him to starve, do you? It’s very important to don’t stop nursing.
Remember, you don’t want to force anything, otherwise, you will achieve the contrary of what you are trying to do.
How to end a nursing strike?
Now that you know what you are dealing with, it’s time to put an end to it. Mainly you are going to focus on feeding your baby but in a different manner. If the strike cause is an emotional one, you have to “trick” and approach him from a different angle. Whereas if it’s something physical, you have to tackle that problem first. That’s how you will end the strike.
Remember not all the things will work for your little one, babies are very different and very clever, but you just have to keep trying and don’t give up.
Sometimes you have to try more than once in order to see results.
- if you think your baby is refusing to nurse because of something physical, it’s best to go to the doctor to rule out or solve any medical causes.
- offer your breast while the baby is semi-asleep. When they are sleepy it’s more likely to accept the breast. For us, nursing him in between sleep worked perfectly.
- change the nursing position.
- stop using perfume or deodorant with a scent.
- create a distraction and then offer your breast. This is another thing that has worked for us. I told my mum to put a squeaky toy on my shoulder and play with it so that my baby would pay attention to the toy. Immediately after that, I would put him to nurse.
- don’t force anything – sometimes skin-to-skin or just cuddles are more than enough for your little one
- sometimes sitting in a quiet room and singing to your baby can calm him down a lot and you can offer your breast again and this time will latch on.
- nurse in motion – when in a baby carrier or rocking can help a lot.
- stimulate the “let-down” reflex by gently massaging your breast and then touch your baby’s mouth with your nipple. This works if your baby gets really upset at the beginning of the feed. He may be bothered that nothing is coming out from your breast. I know for sure that sometimes it takes longer for the milk to become available and your baby doesn’t have much patience.
- you can also try feeding your baby with a cup or a baby bottle.
A final note
This is everything for this article. I shared everything I know about a nursing strike.
Like I said earlier, be patient and don’t give up on your baby.
I know that it can get really stressful and difficult. But you’ve got this momma!
If you’ve got anything else to add to this list or you have other tips on the subject, please share them in the comment section!
I am certain that it will help other mommies out.
Until next time take care & stay beautiful!
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