What to Do About Nursing Strikes

Nothing is more stressful for a breastfeeding mother than a baby who suddenly refuses to nurse. A nursing strike happens when a baby who typically nurses well suddenly refuses the breast, often while crying, fussing or showing other signs of unhappiness. While natural weaning happens gradually (and almost never before at least 12 months of age) nursing strikes are sudden. While it’s often impossible to know what is causing a nursing strike, there are several things you can do to help baby begin to nurse like they should again.

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1. Nurse baby while they’re asleep

If your baby is fussy, distracted, or refusing while they’re awake, give dream feeding a try. Wait until your little one has drifted off and offer the breast as they rest. Often a sleeping baby will begin to nurse and, when they wake up, their strike will have passed. If they still refuse while they’re awake, continue to dream nurse until they come around.

2. Spend time skin to skin

Nursing babies are used to being close to mom but, often, they don’t have regular skin to skin time after the newborn period. Keep your baby close (and the pressure low) by laying skin to skin with them without directly offering the breast. Sometimes a warm, relaxing bath for mom and baby is all it takes to end a nursing strike. 

{ MORE: 3 Things That Have Made My Life as a Triple Feeding Mom SO Much Easier }

3. Change things up

If your little one is refusing the breast as you sit in your regular nursing glider, consider changing up your routine. Place your baby in a different position, try nursing in a different location, or in a carrier or sling.

4. Try again tomorrow

Sometimes there’s more to gain by taking a break than by forcing the issue. If you are used to using a pump, consider pumping for a day or two and offering your baby your milk in a bottle. After a day or two of pumping, try offering the breast again and it’s likely your baby will accept. While nursing strikes can be frustrating and worrying for moms, they tend to resolve after a relatively short period of time. In the meantime, make sure you maintain your milk supply by pumping at the intervals you would normally nurse, don’t offer your little one formula, and take comfort knowing that your baby will soon be back to nursing! 

{ MORE: The Best New Breast Pumps and Accessories This Spring }

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What to Do About Nursing Strikes

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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