Nursing Strike

Breast Refusal
Baby Wont Breastfeed! 

Does Baby refuse to breastfeed?

With a nursing strike, a mother might feel rejected, useless, guilty and very distressed.

This can happen during any time in any breastfeeding relationship. Baby might suck for a few minutes and then push away crying and refusing to continue breastfeeding. Baby might not want to suck at all, even though he/she seems hungry.

Some babies are just very fussy during breastfeeding, stopping a few times, but continuing this way until satisfied. Some babies may be distracted, or restless and might even be fussy after feedings too.

Take a deep breath and remember that this time will be all worth it in a few months from now. (Hopefully sooner than that)

Relaxing will help your milk flow more efficiently and worry never helps to solve anything. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it would be best to stop trying for now and then try again later, when you are feeling calmer. Get some help with your baby, so that you can take a break.

Always make sure that your baby drinks enough, even if you need to feed him/her donor breast milk or formula. If you do need to supplement, it's best to use a supplementary nursing aid

A baby refusing to eat at all "total nursing strike" should be taken to the doctor, so that he/she can be tested for several things, including ear and throat infections or tongue tie.

How do I Know if Baby is Getting in Enough Milk During a Nursing Strike?

1. Baby should breast-feed at least six times per 24 hours.

2. Amount of wet and dirty diapers according to age group.

3. Weight gain, according to age group

Refusal to breast feed or a “breastfeeding strike” will usually only last a day or two.

Reasons for breastfeeding refusal 

Nursing strike breastfeeding Causes

- Baby is struggling to latch onto the breast.

- Baby is too distracted during feeds: this is why it is a good idea to breastfeed in a quiet, peaceful environment.

- Baby has pain because of teething.

- Baby is going through a growth spurt.

- Nipple confusion: Baby was introduced to artificial nipples too early and is now confused.

- Baby has been overstimulated and is overtired.

- Baby has a cold or infection of the throat or ears.

- Baby is ready to self wean from breastfeeding (unlikely if baby is under a year old).

- Baby has suck problems or a weak suck

- Baby may have oral thrush.

- Baby may have tongue tie.

- Baby is premature: read more about breastfeeding preemies.

- Mom's flow of milk “milk ejection” is too fast or too slow: Read more about this here.

- Mom has a low milk supply.

- Pregnancy can change the taste of breast milk, resulting in a baby nursing strike.

Read more about breastfeeding while pregnant.

- If mom smells different than usual, baby might also pull away. 

- Mom has used some new substance or strong tasting cream on her breasts.

- A Mastitis infection can also change the taste of your breast milk.

- Oral contraceptives can give your milk a different taste.

- Unusual long separations from mom can cause a breast feeding strike.

So What Can I Do to get Baby Back Onto the Breast?

- Always breastfeed your baby when he/she is calm, this is especially effective after a nice warm bath.

- Try to relax and stay calm.

- Breastfeed in a calm, quiet place.

- If your baby is teething: read more here about biting while breastfeeding.

- Breastfeeding your baby upright, will help if your baby has colic or acid reflux.

- Try different breastfeeding positions.

- Feed your baby before he becomes too hungry.

- Make sure that baby is latching correctly.

- Entice your baby to the breast by putting some breast milk onto your nipple.

- Massage your baby, to relax him/her before breastfeeding.

- Breastfeed your baby with skin to skin contact.

- Co-sleeping can also help your baby relax while breastfeeding.

- Bathing together while breastfeeding can relax your baby. 

- Pump or hand express before nursing, to relieve a harsh milk flow. This can also be helpful to those moms with slow let down reflex problems, as the pumping can get the milk flowing before the baby nurses. 

- Do not give your baby an artificial bottle, but rather use alternative feeding methods.

- Do not force your baby onto your breast, wait… be patient. Forcing your baby to breastfeed can make things worse.

- Using an SNS (lact aid) can help get baby drinking, if Mom's milk supply is low.

- Using a nipple shield can help, if mom is struggling with nipple issues. 

One-sided Nursing Refusal

Reasons, why a baby only wants to drink from one specific breast:

- He/she attaches easier to that specific breast.

- That breast makes more breast milk.

- Let down reflex on that breast is more comfortable for the baby.

- Pain or infection on one side of a baby’s body may cause pain when breastfeeding on one side.

What to Do if Baby won’t Nurse from One Side?

- Try different breastfeeding positions.

- Express breast milk from the breast that was not emptied, this will keep up your milk supply up, on that side, so that you can store the breast milk for a later stage and also to prevent engorgement.

Read more here about breast preference.

Calming Baby for Breastfeeding During a Nursing Strike

- Burp your baby as often as possible.

- With a nursing strike, it always helps to breastfeed your baby with skin to skin contact.

- Massage your baby before a breastfeeding session. 

- Keep baby upright while breastfeeding.

- Walk and breastfeed (maybe use a breastfeeding sling ).

- Swaddle baby.

If your baby won’t breastfeed and is not drinking enough, you need to get to a lactation consultant.

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems” in connection with baby nursing strike

- Reverse cycling - When baby starts breastfeeding more at night

Leave a comment

Want to share your stories? Ask a question or just say hello...

What Other Moms Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

I need some help! 
Hey I've got a baby that's 4 months old on the 16 th! She nursed fine for the first24 hours, but because she was 6 weeks early the nurse decided that we …

Successfully Ended Strike 
My 9 mo bit me one day and I yelped and said "No!". He started crying, really crying. He did not nurse for 5 days after that. He wanted me near him …

Click here to write your own.

Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr. Currently studying through Child birth International (CBC, CBD). Also an accomplished author and Mommy of two.