September 6, 2010 – A nursing “strike” is when your baby has been breastfeeding well for months, and then suddenly begins to refuse the breast. A nursing strike can mean that your baby is trying to let you know that something is wrong. This does not usually mean that the baby is ready to wean. Not all babies will react the same way to the different situations that can cause a nursing strike. Some babies will continue to breastfeed without a problem. Others may just become fussy at the breast, and others will refuse the breast entirely. Some of the major causes of a nursing strike include:
• Mouth pain from teething, a fungal infection like thrush, or a cold sore
• An ear infection, which causes pain while sucking
• Pain from a certain breastfeeding position, either from an injury on the baby’s body or from soreness from an immunization
• Being upset about a long separation from the mother or a major change in routine
• Being distracted while breastfeeding – becoming interested in other things around him or her
• A cold or stuffy nose that makes breathing while breastfeeding difficult
• Reduced milk supply from supplementing with bottles or overuse of a pacifier
• Responding to the mother’s strong reaction if the baby has bitten her
• Being upset about hearing arguing or people talking in a harsh voice while breastfeeding
• Reacting to stress, overstimulation, or having been repeatedly put off when wanting to breastfeed
If your baby is on a nursing strike, it is normal to feel frustrated and upset, especially if your baby is unhappy. It is important not to feel guilty or think that you have done something wrong.
Keep in mind that your breasts may become uncomfortable as the milk builds up.
What you can do
1. Try to express your milk on the same schedule as the baby used to breastfeed to avoid engorgement and plugged ducts.
2. Try another feeding method temporarily to give your baby your milk, such as a cup, dropper, or spoon.
3. Keep track of your baby’s wet diapers and dirty diapers to make sure he or she is getting enough milk. Keep offering your breast to the baby. If the baby is frustrated, stop and try again later. You can also try when the baby is sleeping or very sleepy.
4. Try various breast feeding positions, with your bare skin next to your baby’s bare skin.
5. Focus on the baby with all of your attention and comfort him or her with extra touching and cuddling.
6. Try breastfeeding while rocking and in a quiet room free of distractions.
How to avoid breast feeding related disorders
If you find yourself wanting to delay feedings because of pain, get help from a lactation consultant. Delaying feedings can cause more pain and harm your supply.
1. Try changing positions each time you breastfeed. This puts the pressure on a different part of the breast.
2. After breastfeeding, express a few drops of milk and gently rub it on your nipples with clean hands. Human milk has natural healing properties and emollients that soothe. Also try letting your nipples air-dry after feeding, or wear a soft cotton shirt.
3.If you are thinking about using creams, hydrogel pads, or a nipple shield, get help from a health care provider first.
4. Avoid wearing bras or clothes that are too tight and put pressure on your nipples.
5. Change nursing pads often to avoid trapping in moisture.
6. Avoid using soap or ointments that contain astringents or other chemicals on your nipples. Make sure to avoid products that must be removed before breastfeeding. Washing with clean water is all that is needed to keep your nipples and breasts clean.
7. If you have very sore nipples, you can ask your doctor about using non-aspirin pain relievers.
8. When your baby is around 6 weeks to 2 months old, your breasts may no longer feel full. This is normal. At the same time, your baby may nurse for only five minutes at a time. This can mean that you and baby are just adjusting to the breastfeeding process — and getting good at it!
9. Growth spurts can cause your baby to want to nurse longer and more often. These growth spurts can happen around 2 to 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months of age. They can also happen at any time. Don’t be alarmed that your supply is too low to satisfy your baby. Follow your baby’s lead — nursing more and more often will help build up your milk supply. Once your supply increases, you will likely be back to your usual routine.
Some women have a strong milk ejection reflex or let-down. This can happen along with an oversupply of milk. If you have a rush of milk, try the following:
1. Hold your nipple between your forefinger and middle finger or with the side of your hand to lightly compress milk ducts to reduce the force of the milk ejection.
2. If baby chokes or sputters, unlatch him or her and let the excess milk spray into a towel or cloth.
3. Allow your baby to come on and off the breast at will.