What Is a Nursing Strike?
A nursing strike is when your baby refuses to nurse, or take a bottle. It might seem like there is no reason, and it can be a bit worrisome. These are short and often lasting between three to five days. In more severe cases, they can last a bit longer.
The most important thing to remember is that a nursing strike does not mean that your baby is ready to wean off of milk. It is their way of letting you know that something is wrong. Nursing strikes can happen with both breast and bottle fed babies. They are more common among breastfed babies which is where the name is derived.
What Causes a Nursing Strike?
Your new baby is sensitive, and learning how to navigate this new life outside of the womb. Because of this, there are a number of different things that can cause a nursing strike. While these interruptions are more common in babies who are nursed, bottle fed babies may also experience a nursing strike. Whatever your situation, the best or most important thing to do is to get to the cause of the strike.
Pain or Discomfort
When you’re in pain, you might find it difficult to eat. Imagine what pain must feel like to a tiny baby. Whether it’s from an ear infection, a sore throat, or an upset stomach, pain can prevent a baby from eating.
Other forms of discomfort like stuffy noses can also cause a baby to stop eating. While a baby is latching or bottle feeding, they breathe through their nose. When that adorable little nose is stuffy, it can make eating difficult.
Supply Chain Issues
There are a number of different factors that impact our breast milk supply. A nursing strike might mean there has been a reduction in your milk supply. Your baby might be suckling and not getting anything, and become frustrated. There might be a change in the taste of your milk. This could be due to medication, hormones from pregnancy or your period, high lipase, or even what you are eating.
A significant disruption in their schedule, or a new environment can create stress for your baby. This stress may impact their ability to nurse or feed. Babies are quite sensitive to their environment and rely on more senses than sight to identify caregivers and where they are. If you switch up a personal care product, laundry detergent, etc. it might throw off your baby’s senses.
Bottle Fed Babies
We mentioned before that babies are fairly sensitive. The bottle, nipple, or combination that you are using might affect your baby's ability or willingness to eat. If the bottle you are trying isn't working, you may want to try a different type. If your baby is eating just fine but then a strike happens, you may want to try to change the nipple size.
What Moms Should Do:
Nursing strikes can be scary for moms. You worry that there is something more serious causing the strike, and at the same time you stress that your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Determine the Cause
First thing is not to panic. These things happen and your healthcare professionals are equipped to help you navigate them. The first thing to do is to take stock of the past few days. Have there been any major changes in your schedule, environment, or the products you are using?
If there haven’t been any major changes, it can be a good idea to schedule a visit with your pediatrician. They can help you rule out teething, ear infections, or other sources of discomfort. They can also help you narrow down the potential cause, while also ensuring that you and your baby are cared for during this time.
Things You Can Try While You Search for the Cause
If you are nursing, try changing the breastfeeding position you typically use. Dangle feeding can help clear blockages. And other positions can help facilitate a better latch. Your baby may feel unsupported or uncomfortable in their current feeding position. Another way you can soothe your baby and try to help them nurse is to do some skin to skin time. This can be done while they nurse or in between feedings. A nursing vacation is a great way to navigate nursing during a strike if you can dedicate the time.
Movement while nursing can also help soothe your baby. Try rocking them while you nurse. Another option is to try walking around while nursing. If you need help supporting your baby while walking, using a sling or carrier can be really helpful. This might even lull your baby to sleep and that is okay! Babies can still nurse while they snooze.
Try to limit distractions. Sights, sounds, smells, these can all be distracting to your little one. Some moms find success by nursing in a calm and quiet space like your baby’s nursery. Other moms find providing your baby’s favorite toy, or lovey helpful. If your baby is fidgeting while feeding, providing them with a toy, even clipping one to your nursing bra can help.
Pumping to Keep Up Supply
Breast milk is made by our bodies on a supply and demand basis. If your baby goes on strike, and does not empty your breast, your body won’t produce additional milk. During a nursing strike, it is important to pump or manually express milk. This will continue to send signals to your body to produce breast milk and help to ensure that your milk does not dry up.
You can feed your expressed milk to your baby with a sippy cup, a bottle or whatever works. Pumping during a nursing strike also ensures that you don’t land up with any blocked ducts and that you keep your milk supply up. If you aren’t used to pumping, make sure that you are kind to your nipples and use our patent pending Breast Pump cushions.