In the world of babies and breastfeeding, a nursing strike is when your baby suddenly stops nursing. This can be a confusing and even scary time for a lot of moms. That’s why understanding why it happens and what you can do is so important.
While most moms think a nursing strike is their baby’s way of telling them they’re ready to wean, that’s usually not the case. Weaning usually happens over a period of weeks or even months, not cold turkey. If you’re not ready for baby to wean, and he suddenly decides to stop nursing, here are some possible reasons for the strike:
- Baby is sick. This can be anything from a stuffy nose to an ear infection. When you’re sick your appetite isn’t the same either, right? Babies are no different.
- Baby is teething or you had a strong reaction to biting. Teething can be painful for your baby, making it uncomfortable for him to eat. Teething can also sometimes lead to biting. If that happened to you recently, and you reacted by screaming or jumping, it may be that he’s scared to try feeding again.
- You are stressed or on your period. Stress and being on your cycle can both disrupt your milk supply.
- Baby is too busy to nurse. Babies are busy little people, especially around the 4-month mark and again at 6 to 9 months. They begin to notice the world around them, and it’s pretty interesting…even more interesting than nursing!
- Change in routine. If you’ve gone back to work and now your baby is getting bottle-fed, this could also be a reason behind his sudden nursing strike. Any shift in routine can throw your baby’s feeding out of whack.
- You smell different. Maybe you’re using a new perfume, soap or deodorant. If baby smells something he’s not used to, he may not associate it with you, causing him to stop nursing.
As a mom, you want to fix everything with your magic wand. But when it comes to a nursing strike, sometimes you just need to be patient and give it time. It’s hard, we know! Here are some other things you may be able to do while you’re waiting it out.
- Continue to pump. Even if your baby isn’t interesting in breastfeeding at the moment, pumping will help you maintain your supply until he’s ready to get back to how things used to be (or to a new normal).
- Snuggle out the fright. If you sense your baby is scared from a strong reaction you had to his teeth during a feeding, get some extra snuggles in to reconnect and let him know there’s nothing to be scared of anymore.
- Think about your routine and stress. Has anything changed? If you haven’t been nursing as much or are stressed, think about taking time to reconnect with your baby. This can help boost supply and may help end that nursing strike.
- Change nursing location. If your baby gets distracted by all the cool things around him, try nursing in a quiet or dark space to limit distractions.
- Get rid of that new smell. Ditch any new soaps or deodorants you may have switched to. Go back to what baby knows and recognizes as your signature scent.
If you’ve tried these tips and your baby still doesn’t want to nurse, don’t hesitate to reach out to your baby’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant.