Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential aspect of motherhood that fosters a unique bond between a mother and her baby. However, just like any other aspect of parenting, it can come with its fair share of challenges. One such challenge is a nursing strike when your baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed. I had it happen with my daughter Everly a couple different times. This situation can be both emotionally and physically taxing for us moms, but it’s important to remember that nursing strikes are often temporary and can be overcome with patience, understanding, and the right strategies. Let’s look at causes nursing strikes, how to identify them, and most importantly, what you can do to resolve them.
Understanding Breastfeeding Nursing Strikes
A nursing strike is when a previously breastfeeding baby suddenly refuses the breast, either partially or completely. This can be alarming for mothers, but it’s important to remember that it is usually temporary and manageable.
Common Reasons for Nursing Strikes
- Teething: The discomfort of teething can make babies reluctant to nurse due to the pressure on their gums.
- Ear Infections or Illness: Pain or discomfort from an ear infection or illness can make nursing uncomfortable for babies.
- Change in Routine: Any significant change in a baby’s routine, such as a vacation or the return of a working mother, can trigger a nursing strike.
- Milk Supply Issues: If the milk flow is too fast or too slow, it may discourage a baby from nursing.
- Stress or Tension: Babies are sensitive to their mother’s emotions, and stress or tension can affect their willingness to nurse.
Identifying a Nursing Strike
Recognizing a nursing strike is the first step in resolving it. Some common signs that your baby might be going through a nursing strike include:
- Frequent Pulling Away: Your baby may latch onto the breast but then quickly pull away or fuss.
- Refusing to Nurse: Your baby flat out refuses to nurse, turning their head away or pushing the breast away.
- Frustration and Crying: Your baby may become frustrated, cry, or arch their back when attempting to breastfeed.
- Decreased Feeding Frequency: You notice a significant decrease in the number of times your baby is nursing.
Strategies for Overcoming a Nursing Strike
Now that you can recognize a nursing strike, let’s explore some effective strategies for overcoming it:
- Stay Calm and Patient: It’s crucial to remain calm and patient during a nursing strike. Remember that this phase is temporary, and your baby’s refusal to nurse is not a rejection of you.
- Identify the Underlying Cause: Try to pinpoint what might be causing the nursing strike. Is your baby teething, unwell, or experiencing stress? Addressing the root cause can be the key to resolving the strike.
- Offer a Variety of Nursing Positions: Experiment with different nursing positions to make breastfeeding more comfortable for your baby. Some babies may prefer the football hold, while others may find the cradle hold more soothing.
- Maintain Skin-to-Skin Contact: Skin-to-skin contact can help reestablish the bond between you and your baby. Spend some time cuddling skin-to-skin, even if your baby isn’t nursing.
- Offer the Breast When Drowsy: Some babies are more receptive to breastfeeding when they are drowsy or just waking up from a nap. Try offering the breast during these times.
- Nurse in a Calm Environment: Create a peaceful environment for nursing by dimming the lights and eliminating distractions. A quiet, calm setting can help your baby relax.
- Temporarily Bottle Feed: If your baby is refusing the breast due to discomfort, you can try using a bottle with a slow-flow nipple to provide breast milk until the strike resolves. A syringe can also work if the baby is refusing the bottle as well.
- Pump and Maintain Supply: During a nursing strike, it’s essential to maintain your milk supply. Regularly pumping breast milk will help ensure you have enough when your baby is ready to resume nursing.
- Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant or a healthcare professional for guidance and support. They can offer valuable advice tailored to your specific situation.
- Be Flexible and Open-Minded: Be open to trying different approaches and be flexible in your feeding routine. Sometimes, a change in tactics can help your baby overcome the nursing strike.
- Continue Offering the Breast: Even if your baby is refusing, continue offering the breast at regular intervals. Persistence can pay off, and your baby may eventually return to nursing.
- Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished: Ensure that you are taking care of your own health. Staying hydrated and well-nourished is essential for maintaining your milk supply and providing your baby with the nutrients they need.
Experiencing a nursing strike can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that it’s usually a temporary phase. With patience, understanding, and the right strategies, you can navigate this difficult period and help your baby resume breastfeeding. Seek support from healthcare professionals, reach out to support groups or online communities, and most importantly, trust your instincts as a mother. Your commitment to providing the best nourishment and comfort for your baby will ultimately lead to a successful resolution of the nursing strike, reinforcing the beautiful bond between you and your little one.