Getting a healthy nursing routine established is hard enough, but when your baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed , it's hard to know how you should react. Although every baby goes on a so called "nursing strikes" for different reasons, there are a few things you should never do to help them through it. Every breastfeeding parent should know the best and the worst ways to respond to your baby's nursing strikes so that you can help get them back on track as smoothly as possible.
According to Baby Center, there are a number of reasons why some babies refuse to nurse for a period of time. Sometimes it's related to pain from teething or an ear infection, or discomfort from being sick. Other times it's due to stress or other issues affecting a mother's milk supply. Even something as simple as switching the scent of your detergent or perfume can throw your baby off track, so getting to the bottom of their nursing woes may be a little bit trickier than you expected.
Although there are multiple ways to handle a nursing strike, eliminating the things you shouldn't try from your list can help you identify the problem without making it worse.
1. Assume Your Baby Is Weaning
According to La Leche League International (LLLI,) many moms understandably confuse a nursing strike as their baby trying to wean. However, more often than not, weaning looks totally different than a nursing strike. Weaning, according to LLLI, is generally a gradual process that can take weeks or even months, while a nursing strike is an abrupt aversion to nursing.
Find ways to gently encourage your baby to nurse — skin to skin time, nursing when they're tired, and ensuring you're as calm as possible are all great ways to help.
2. Give Up Nursing All Together
A nursing strike, while usually incredibly frustrating, shouldn't cause you and your baby to give up nursing altogether. The aforementioned article noted that most nursing strikes last between three and five days and you'll need to pump or hand express milk so that your milk supply doesn't diminish during the time your baby is eating less.
Today's Parent noted that patience is key — continue trying different positions and situations for nursing and identifying the cause for the strike, but don't give up. Call a local lactation consultant if all else fails and you aren't sure what to do.
3. Keep Nursing Without Any Change
Since your current routine clearly isn't working, continuing to do the same thing will only make the strike worse. The aforementioned LLLI article noted that if an injury or illness seems to have caused the strike, you can seek medical help. But if there seems to be no other apparent reason, try switching your detergent or perfumes, trying new positions, or relieving stress in your own life that could be affecting your milk supply.