Nursing Strike: What is it and How Can You Fix it?

By Bailey Lawson

August 22, 2019

As mamas we encounter many struggles throughout motherhood and daily life. We are faced with times when we become so overwhelmed that we have ourselves questioning everything. One of the biggest challenges can be when our babies suddenly begin to have feeding issues and refuse the breast. 

What is a Nursing Strike?

A nursing strike is when your baby or toddler, who was previously breastfeeding well, begins to refuse to nurse for a period of time. Your baby may scream, cry or even push away when being put to the breast. Nursing strikes can be misinterpreted as self weaning. Typically, babies who are ready to wean do so over a gradual period of weeks and babies rarely wean on their own before 18-24months. Even though most nursing strikes are temporary and last only a couple of days, it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for the whole family. Even though your baby is protesting, remember he is not rejecting you. Recognising and understanding how to manage a strike can better prepare you if your little one gives you some trouble. 

Factors Related to a Nursing Strike

There are many triggers related to a nursing strike. Usually a strike is temporary, and the cause is not always known. Here are some things to think of when evaluating your babe’s strike. 

Increased Maternal Stress

Fatigue, Trauma, Anxiety, Decreased Fluid Intake, Inadequate Nutrition can all lead to low milk supply which then causes baby to become frustrated at the breast

Low Milk Supply due to Maternal Hormonal Changes or Medications

Supply has shown to decrease during ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy. Birth control and other medications also have an affect on supply. 

Unfamiliar Odours

Perfumes, fragrant deodorants, shampoos, hair sprays and lotions can all cause your child to object the strong scents. He may not recognize your scent and then refuse to feed. 

Unusual Taste of Milk

If you have begun a new workout routine or increased your daily exercise you may find baby has resisted to breastfeed. While not harmful, lactic acid in breastmilk may increase with exercise and cause babe to dislike the taste.

A Change in babe’s routine

Mom returning to work, Travelling, or a change in nursing patterns can all cause a baby to protest his feedings.

Illness or Teething

Stuffy noses can make it difficult to breathe and suck. Teething may cause sore gums. 

How to manage a nursing strike

  1. Relax. I know that’s easier said than done but it’s so important when it comes to breastfeeding. Stress truly does affect your milk supply and can slow your let down. Deep breathing, visual aids (picture your baby breastfeeding or crying) and staying positive throughout the process will help.
  2. Spend some extra time skin to skin with your little one. Create a calm environment with soothing music and dim lights. Run a warm bath and allow your baby to lay on your chest with no pressure to nurse. Eliminate all distractions and spend time bonding together. 
  3. Manage Illness and Cope with Teething. Seek medical attention if baby has quit nursing due to being sick. Colds, ear infections, thrush and other illnesses can all affect how he feeds (or refusal to feed). Until it is dealt with your little one will likely continue to protest. If he is biting during teething, give him a cold cloth to chew on before trying to nurse him.
  4. Try expressing or pumping until your milk starts flowing before bringing your babe to the breast. If he doesn’t have to suck as long to work for the milk, he may be more interested in feeding. 
  5. Nurse before or a half hour after a workout to allow the lactic acid levels to subside.
  6. Keep trying but be patient. Don’t force baby to feed. If he becomes comes upset, then simply stop the feed and try again later. Don’t show the baby you are frustrated. Try to nurse using different positions or while in motion. Use a wrap or a sling to carry baby close to you and allow them easy access to your breasts.  Some babies also feed better when they are asleep, drowsy or just waking up. 
  7. Establish a Pumping Routine or try a few sessions of Power Pumping to boost your supply.
  8. Take Care of Yourself. This can be an emotional time in your nursing journey. Eat nutritious meals. Drink your water. Get adequate rest. Your supply with thank you and your baby will almost always begin to breastfeed again. 

 

It is so important to remember to feed your baby and protect your supply. Offer your breast often and supplement with expressed breast milk or formula if needed. Make sure baby is getting enough intake and monitor his wet diapers. If baby wont nurse, it is imperative that you replace the breastfeeding session with a pumping session to maintain your supply.

Remember that if a nursing strike continues into days or weeks you may need to seek help.  Be patient during this process. If you are in need of breastfeeding support reach out to a Mama Coach, we are all Lactation Counsellors or Consultants and would love to help you on your breastfeeding journey. If there isn’t a Mama Coach close to you, don’t worry- we can help you virtually. You Got This Mama!

 

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