9 Things to Try During a Nursing Strike

Baby Wont Nurse? Wont Take a bottle?

Have you ruled out Nursing Strikes?
They can happen at any time !

When babies abruptly stop nursing, it’s a nursing strike – not weaning. Babies rarely wean on their own before 18-24 months, and self-weaning is almost never abrupt.

As long as baby is not nursing as often as before, you’ll want to express milk to maintain your supply, and reduce the risk of plugged ducts and mastitis.

Will baby nurse while asleep or just waking up?
This is usually one of the best times to try. You also might try nursing lying down or while walking around.

You can also try coaxing:

Do not attempt to force your baby to breastfeed. Forcing baby to the breast does not work, stresses baby, and can result in baby forming an aversion to the breast. As baby gets better at nursing and is able to get more milk via nursing, baby will grow to trust that breastfeeding works and will have more patience when latching.

1. Wear clothing that allows very easy access to the breasts. Baby may get very impatient in the split-second it takes for mom to lift the blouse and undo the bra. Spend time, if possible, in a warm place that allows both mom and baby to be naked from the waist up.

2. Lots of skin-to-skin contact can help your baby nurse better and even gain weight faster. Keep your baby with you as much as possible, and give him lots of opportunities to nurse (even if you’re not successful). Get skin-to-skin with him, first when he is sleepy, right after a bottle feed (or however you’re supplementing). This way baby has the opportunity to sleep and wake up happily, skin to skin at mom’s chest, and mom is right there to catch the earliest hunger cues. If baby moves toward the breast and then falls asleep before even mouthing the nipple, or after sucking twice, then these are positive baby steps, not failures.

3. Offer the breast often. Try breastfeeding in baby’s favorite place, in his favorite position, in the bath, while walking around, while lying down, with baby upright, baby flat on his back, in his sleep, just as he is waking, any time baby looks as if he might be interested, or any other way you can think of, i.e. any time, anywhere.

4. Avoid pressuring baby to nurse. Offer in an ultra-casual way and pretend you don’t mind if he refuses (easier said than done, but try not to show any frustration – your aim is to avoid pressuring baby to nurse). Don’t hold the back of baby’s head or push or hold baby to the breast. If baby pulls off the breast, then don’t try to make him go back onto the breast at that time – simply try again later. If baby seems frustrated with your offering the breast, then turn the pressure down and simply make the breast available (lots of skin-to-skin!) without offering. It can be helpful to have lots of skin-to-skin time with baby where he is cuddled at the breast with no pressure to nurse – give control over to your baby, so that baby decides if and when to nurse and when to stop nursing.

5. Carry your baby close to you (a sling or other baby carrier can help with this). “Wear,” carry, hold and cuddle your baby as much as possible; carry baby on your hip while doing other things, play with baby, and give baby lots of focused attention.

6. Sleep near your baby. If baby sleeps with you, you’ll get more skin-to-skin contact, plus baby has more access to the breast (see this information on safe co-sleeping). If baby is not in the same bed, have baby’s bed beside your bed or in the same room so that you can catch early feeding cues, breastfeed easier at night, and get more sleep.

7. Nipple shields can be helpful at times for transitioning baby to the breast.

8. Comfort nursing is often the first to come, followed by nutritive nursing. Offer the breast for comfort any time you see a chance- at the end of a feeding when baby is not hungry, when baby is going to sleep or just waking up, when baby is asleep, and whenever he needs to comfort suck If your baby is actively resisting nursing, then try encouraging comfort nursing after baby is comfortable with skin-to-skin contact. After baby is willing to nurse for comfort, you can then proceed to working on nursing for “meals” as well.

9. Rule out ear infections. Does baby seem in pain? Sometimes health conditions and illnesses make baby to uncomfy to want to nurse or eat – ear infections is a prime reason for this. Its good to also have your Pediatrician make sure baby is healthy with no underlying or overlooked issues as well. I actually recently experienced this. My daughter had a double ear infection two weeks ago that resulted in a 5 day nursing strike. When babies nurse their suckle does effect their ear drums and an infection can cause them to refuse breast because they start to associate it with pain. Watch for other symptoms of an ear infection (ear pulling, not sleeping well, fever) – and consult a Dr if necessary.

If none of these methods work, a nursing strike can last a week or so and you can try offering bottles for the EBF baby (Kiinde, Tommee Tippee, Dr Brown’s , Minbie are a few with great reviews)

Also, try having someone else feed baby a bottle without you in the room. If they can see or smell you, that might be why they’re
refusing the bottle.

Its also good to rule out any medical conditions- ties of course (if previously revised it doesnt hurt to get re-assessed to make sure there is no reattachment)

Nursing strikes suck but they DO end, bottles are generally the go to; as well as pumping on a schedule to prevent engorgement but if this also isnt working please see your Ped and make an appointment with your local IBCLC for extra assessing.

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