Ending a Nursing Strike
How will I know a nursing strike from self-weaning?
A nursing strike is when a baby or toddler suddenly stops wanting to nurse and should not be confused with self-weaning. Babies typically self-wean gradually over weeks or months by decreasing their nursing times or frequencies until they no longer nurse.
Nursing strike triggers
There are a number of things that can trigger a nursing strike, including:A sudden awareness of distractions
Baby's positioning is no longer appropriate for his size
Frustration from overactive or hyper letdown or oversupply of breastmilk
frustration from slow flow of milk from nipples or undersupply of breastmilk
Uncontrolled reflux is causing discomfort which baby associates with nursing
Illness or teething is causing pain or discomfort which is aggravated when baby nurses
Baby has an impatient disposition, angers easily while waiting for access to breasts and won't nurse when angry
A traumatic or stressful event has occurred
A change in surroundings or environment such as on vacation
A biting incident has occurred. If baby has previously bitten your nipple and you elicited a strong reaction that can be confusing to baby. When baby bites break his latch with your finger, remove your nipple from his mouth, say calmly and firmly "no bite" and then offer him your breast again. If he bites again then end the nursing session but never startle him with your reaction.
Nursing strike remedies
Minimize distractions - Find a quiet, dimly lit place to nurse with fewer distractions. Try white noise or soft music to block out noises. A nursing cover can help shield visual distractions and a nursing necklace can help direct baby's eyes in where they should be.
Provide proper positioning - Be sure baby is on a secure surface and doesn't feel in danger of rolling off. Many U-shaped nursing pillows are too narrow for babies over three months old. Older babies also consume greater quantities of liquids and nursing them in a flat position can be uncomfortable. A very secure position that provides proper digestion for the older baby is on his side on a nursing wedge with his legs wrapped around your side. A narrow rocker can help keep his legs in place, or you can put one arm over his legs to hold them in securely.
Try changing your breastfeeding techniques to correct overactive letdown or oversupply.
Work on increasing your milk supply if you have slow flow or undersupply. You can try expressing breastmilk prior to latching your baby on to get your milk flowing. You can purchase fenugreek capsules at most drug stores and take as many as 3 per meal for serveral days until your supply has increased. Eating lots of oatmeal will also increase your supply. Dr. Jack Newman has more information on increasing milk supply. Any time you need to provide supplemental feedings you should express breastmilk in order to increase your supply to the level your baby needs. If, after all other suggestions are not increasing your milk supply, Dr. Jack Newman has some other suggestions on medicines to take that will help you increase your milk supply.
If your baby has uncontrolled reflux contact your pediatrician immediately to receive the proper dosage of medication before your baby develops a feeding aversion.
If your baby is teething provide him with cool, soft items to soothe his sore gums like a kammi or a teething necklace. You can also rub infant pain reliever directly on the gums to target the dose.
If your baby is impatient and won't feed when angry, wear clothing with quick access to your breasts.
If your baby is still resistant to your nursing attempts, try feeding him when drowsy. If necessary get help so you can spend 24-48 hours just focusing on your baby. During that time co-sleep, practice kangaroo care (topless baby wearing using something like a moby wrap while you walk around the house), cuddle and offer the breast often.
Breast care during nursing strikes
During the nursing strike you may become engorged. You should continue to express milk during regular feeding times to keep from becoming engorged as well as to maintain your milk supply and avoid getting blocked ducts or mastitis.
Feeding baby during nursing strikes
During the nursing strike be sure and track the number of wet and soiled diapers your baby has to be sure he has adequate intake. If your baby is not getting enough to eat, offer expressed milk or formula in a bottle in a nursing position with skin to skin contact. Use these feeding sessions as opportunities to offer the breast, either partway through or after a feeding.
A nursing strike is not a rejection of you or your breastmilk
Above all remain calm and positive when offering your breast. If your baby becomes upset stop trying to nurse and begin cuddling instead. Your baby is not rejecting you - this is simply the beginning of food battles that may plague you through childhood.
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Feeding positions to improve digestion
When to seek a lactation consultant
Getting baby calm - and keeping him that way.