Navigating nursing strikes

Mother breastfeeding her baby beside window
Some of the most common triggers for nursing strikes include:
  • You smell “different” to your baby – perhaps you changed deodorant, soap, perfume or lotion
  • You’ve been under stress – such as hosting extra company, traveling, moving or dealing with a family crisis
  • Your baby has an illness or injury that makes nursing uncomfortable – an ear infection, a stuffy nose, sore gums from teething or a cut in the mouth can all negatively impact your baby’s desire or ability to nurse
  • You’ve recently changed your nursing pattern – if you’ve returned to work, left the baby with a sitter more than usual or put off nursing for any number of reasons, your baby may not have caught up to the new schedule
  • You reacted strongly when your baby bit you, which then frightened the baby

What to Do

Feed the baby while keeping up your supply

You baby’s strike may last for a few feeds or even for a few days. No matter the span of time, feed your baby with a bottle until she comes around.

Giving a bottle doesn’t mean she won’t come back to the breast so do keep pumping so that she can. And a nursing strike is not necessarily an indication that your baby has started weaning (baby’s tend not to wean before 12 months of age).

Be patient and consistent

Continue to offer the breast at feeding times without being forceful or overwhelming to her. A gentle offer in a favorite position and place is an invitation you can provide over some minutes; if she rejects it, move on for that feeding and try again for the next one.

Go back to the basics

Provide your baby with lots of extra time together, especially cuddling and skin-to-skin.

Switch sides

Sometimes a baby “strikes” only one breast. Try swapping sides to see if your baby prefers the other side.

Offer the breast at times when your baby is most calm

Early morning, right before bed or after a bath are usually mellow times to try nursing. And, when she’s due a feeding but not already ravenously hungry and impatient.

Try a new position

Read Breastfeeding Basics 101: Positioning for suggestions on how to switch it up. As your baby grows she may find comfort in a new a different position.

Seek support from the Happy Family coaches

We have lactation consultants on staff that can offer a sympathetic ear and help you both figure out the situation.

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

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