Is your baby refusing to breastfeed? You could be dealing with a nursing strike.
No, I don’t mean with picket signs and slogans. Babies can go on what is referred to as a nursing strike.
It can be super frustrating to deal with, and in worst case scenarios can lead to an early end of breastfeeding. There are solutions though!
The key is early identification, determining the potential cause, and remediating the situation ASAP.
If you have ever experienced a nursing strike you know that it can really be emotionally taxing on a mom. If you are a new mom or soon to be new mom who plans on breastfeeding, you will want to learn about this now so you will be able to tackle the strike head on.
The worst time to learn about a nursing strike is when you are in the midst of one. I can speak from experience on that one. My baby was about 8 weeks old when she went on strike.
Let’s discuss what it looks like and what you can do to fix it!
Baby Refusing to Breastfeed: Causes & Solutions
You are finally starting to get the hang of this breastfeeding thing- awesome! Your nipples have healed and you and your baby are really finding your routine. Strong work, mama!
And then- BAM!
Your baby starts refusing to breastfeed one day. What is going on here? *Enter stage left- Nursing Strike.
Signs of a Nursing Strike
- “My baby cries or screams when I try to breastfeed”
- pulling head away from breast
- restless while nursing
- looking around and pulling off breast multiple times/ baby won’t stay latched
- difficulty with latch/ baby won’t latch
- refusing the breast completely
Reasons for a Nursing Strike
- baby illness
- mother stress
- loud or busy atmosphere
- babies being babies
There are early signs you may be able to identify when your baby could be heading toward a nursing strike.
Your baby may begin by being more restless when you try to nurse. Or they may start looking around and pulling off the breast frequently. This may escalate to your baby being more difficult to latch to breast.
Your baby may start to cry or scream when you go to get them into the position to nurse. This stress on your baby and frustration they feel will lead them to refusing the breast completely.
Babies does not have the ability to reason. Meaning, when something upsets them- they don’t know what it is or why. They just know they are unhappy, you need to fix it, and that’s it.
When we have a screaming baby, it is very easy to feel frustrated in not knowing what they want. They don’t know what they want either, mama. It’s okay. Take a breath and let’s fix the problem!
Nursing strike potential cause #1: Your environment while breastfeeding
If everything thus far has been smooth sailing with breastfeeding and this behavior comes out of nowhere, chances are you are just in a nursing strike. Let’s first look at your environment.
When you have a newborn they lack awareness of what goes on around them. They have their instincts to eat and they cry for their discomforts/needs and that is it. That is why they could sleep in the middle of anything! Wouldn’t that be nice if we could sleep that well?
Once your baby starts to get older and the newborn haze is wearing off, they start to become very interested in what is going on around them. So if you are in your living room with the TV on and other people talking around you, that can become very distracting for your baby.
Their little minds have a big job to do. This world is new to them and they want to soak in everything they can. Colors, language, faces, everything! This is a major cause to most nursing strikes early on.
The good news is, this is an easy fix! Move out of the environment with a lot of stimuli for your feedings. Go to a quiet place and dim the lights.
The goal is to decrease any potential distractions so your baby can focus on the task at hand (or mouth for that matter). What really works best is to designate one location for feedings. That way, once your baby is able to, they will recognize it and get into the “time to eat” mind set.
Potential problem #2: Illness while breastfeeding
When you or I don’t feel well, how motivated are we to do much of anything? Your baby is human too, and when they don’t feel well it can be very common for them to refuse to nurse. Nasal congestion can make them especially fussy while eating.
Offer your baby a bottle of expressed milk during this time. Getting proper nutrition to your sick baby is far more important than trying to breastfeed when they don’t want to.
Chances are, when they begin to feel better they will resume breastfeeding just fine. If they continue to refuse to nurse, then you work on re-establishing your breastfeeding relationship at that time.
Giving your baby a bottle of expressed milk takes less energy for them to eat. Energy they need to fight whatever illness they are dealing with.
Potential Problem #3: Your stress while breastfeeding
Humans are highly emotional beings. We can sense others moods and so can your baby.
If you are stressed, your baby will feel that tension. If you are rushing throughout your day and feel like you barely have time for another breastfeeding session, your baby will feel that too.
Well, I definitely can’t replace your therapist, but if you are dealing with the many stresses life brings us- all I can say is take a deep breath.
Your stress will affect your breastfeeding. It can also impede let-down of your milk.
Think about your current mood or state of mind- could that be the reason your baby is resisting to breastfeed? Take a mommy time out if you need to. Step away from whatever is stressing you out right now, and put it on the back burner.
There is nothing more important than feeding your baby.
Potential Problem #4: Babies Being Babies
There is not a single or easy solution to this… sorry.
Sometimes babies are just fussy and difficult for no apparent reason. Babies will do what they want and you sometimes have to just go with it.
Don’t give up, but don’t force it.
My baby gave me quite a run for my money during her nursing strike, and I was on my last straw about to quit breastfeeding. I kept offering her the breast whenever. Even if she would nurse for a couple of minutes- that was a start. I kept it non-stressful.
I dedicated one spot in the house to where she would feed. I kept the atmosphere peaceful. It took a lot of patience and perseverance, but it worked. She got through her nursing strike, and hasn’t looked back since.
At one point or another there is a strong likelihood your baby will go on a nursing strike.
Stay calm. Consider the possible reasons for it. Make a plan to get through it.
Remember, stressing is the last thing you want to be doing. You can get through this and continue on your breastfeeding journey.
Happy breastfeeding, mama!
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