Nursing Strike

Breast refusal

Does baby refuse to breastfeed?

With a nursing strike a breastfeeding mother will 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 refusing to continue breastfeeding. Baby might not want to suck at all, even though he seems hungry.

Sometimes some babies are just very fussy during breastfeeding, stopping a few times, but continuing this way until satisfied. This baby is the distracted restless baby that might even be fussy after feedings as well.

Take a deep breath and remember that this time will be all worth it in a few months from now. Relaxing will help your milk flow better and stressing never helped anyone 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 more calm. This is a great time to get some help with baby so that you can take a break.

Never ever starve baby until the breastfeeding problem has been solved, always make sure baby drinks enough even if you need to feed him some formula via alternative feeding methods to prevent nipple confusion or through a supplementary nursing system (lact aid).

A baby refusing to eat at all "total nursing strike" should be taken to the doctor so that he 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. Baby should have at least six wet nappies over a 24 hour period

Refusal to breast feed or a “breastfeeding strike” will usually only last a day or two, but here are some reasons why this might happen, also reasons why a newborn might have problems breastfeeding in the beginning…

Reasons for breastfeeding refusal “nursing strike breastfeeding”

- 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

- Over stimulation ~ Baby is overtired ~ It is best to breastfeed baby just after and just before he sleeps

- 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

- Baby might be put off the breast because of mom crying out in pain when he bites

- Baby has oral thrush

- Baby has a cleft palate ~ read more on breastfeeding a baby with cleft palate

- Baby has tongue tie

- Baby is premature ~ read more on breastfeeding preemies

- Moms flow of milk “milk ejection” is too fast ~ Read more on how to deal with oversupply and overactive milk ejection here

- Mom has a low milk supply

- Mom has a slow milk let down reflex

- Mom has eaten something that baby doesn’t like ~ breastfeeding diet guidelines

- Pregnancy can also change the taste of the breast milk resulting in a baby nursing strike ~ Read more on 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

- Mastitis 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 baby when he is calm especially after a nice warm bath

- Try to relax and stay calm

- Breastfeed in a calm, quiet place

- If baby is teething ~ read more here on biting while breastfeeding

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

- Try different breastfeeding positions

- Feed baby before he becomes too hungry

- Make sure that baby is latching correctly

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

- Massage baby to relax him before breastfeeding

- Breastfeed baby with skin to skin contact

- Co-sleeping at night can also help baby relax while breastfeeding

- Bathing together while breastfeeding ~ Sometimes called “rebirthing” where baby finds the nipple and attaches himself

- Pump or hand express before nursing to relieve a harsh milk flow

- Do not give baby an artificial bottle, but rather (if you need to work) use alternative feeding methods

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

- Using an SNS (lact aid) can help get baby drinking

- Using a nipple shield

One-sided nursing refusal

Sometimes baby might only want to drink from the same breast every time…reasons could be:

- He attaches easier to that specific breast

- That breast makes more breast milk

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

- Pain or infection on one side of baby’s body

What to do if baby won’t nurse from one side?

- Try different breastfeeding positions to see if baby might drink from the other breast easily another way

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

Read more here on breast preference

Calming baby for breastfeeding during a nursing strike

- Burp baby as often as possible

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

- Massage

- Keep baby upright while breastfeeding

- Walk and breastfeed (maybe use a breastfeeding sling )

- Swaddle baby


If baby won’t breastfeed and is not drinking enough, mom needs to get to a lactation consultant so that she can make sure that her milk supply is maintained through exclusive pumping or hand expression to prevent engorgement


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

- low milk supply

- Exclusive pumping

- Swaddle your baby

- Hand expressing breast milk

- Weaning a baby off of breastfeeding

- Reverse cycling - When baby starts breastfeeding more at night

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