How To Handle A Nursing Strike

how to handle a nursing strike

So your baby suddenly refuses to nurse for no apparent reason. 

You may be thinking:

  • Is my baby sick?
  • Is something wrong with my breast milk?
  • Are they trying to wean?

…amongst many other worrying thoughts that are totally normal to have as a parent!

But please try to keep calm and don’t worry too much. This is actually a fairly normal occurrence, and should not be a problem if taken care of properly.

What Is A Nursing Strike?

Just like it sounds, a nursing strike is when a baby who is nursing well suddenly refuses to nurse. You may or may not be able to identify the exact cause, but it is important to note that a strike should last no longer than four days. Some common causes for breast refusal can include:

  • Congestion
  • Teething
  • Distractions from being overstimulated
  • Sensing that mom is angry or stressed
  • Potential illness (i.e. hand, foot and mouth disease, ear infection)
  • Milk’s taste changes due to hormonal fluctuations 
  • Change in mother’s scent (i.e. using a new soap or perfume)

Typically, a nursing strike does not indicate your child is ready to wean. Strikes are sudden and seem to come out of nowhere, whereas self-weaning is a gradual process and rarely happens before the second year.

How Long Will A Nursing Strike Last?

Nursing strikes can be stressful for the both of you, but keep in mind that it will soon pass. If more than four days have gone by and your baby still is refusing to breastfeed or seems fussy, irritated, or dehydrated, speak to a Lactation Consultant or your healthcare provider. Remember, every baby is different!

What Should You Do About A Nursing Strike?

The first, and most important task is to ensure that your baby is getting fed somehow. If you suspect that your child is on a nursing strike, there are many techniques that you can try to get your baby nursing again.

Here are some techniques to try:

  • Skin-to-skin contact 
  • Catch your baby’s feeding cues as early as possible
  • Nursing in various positions (see our video on positioning here)
  • Feeding in a room that is quiet, and free of any distractions
  • Babywear between feeding sessions
  • Nursing while rocking or while walking (some babies prefer eating in motion!)

If you find no success when trying the tips above, we highly recommend speaking to a lactation consultant.

Should I Pump During a Nursing Strike? How Do You Maintain Supply?

During this phase, do not forget to extract your milk as often as possible! You do not want your milk supply to diminish while your baby is refusing chestfeeding. Pump frequently or hand express to maintain your supply. Pumping when your baby takes a bottle will keep your body in sync with their demands.

Once again, if it has been more than four days of your infant refusing to nurse, please reach out to a lactation consultant and your pediatrician if you have not already. 

As always, we are here to support you, do not hesitate to contact us!

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