Nursing strike: what is it? And how to overcome it?

Have you heard of a nursing strike before? Why do some babies suddenly stop breastfeeding announcing a strike? How can you overcome a breastfeeding strike? And bring your baby back on his regular breastfeeding schedule? Read on to find out.

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Sally Al Beer
Published on:Jun 5th 2022 |Updated on:Apr 10th 2024
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 What is a nursing strike?

It is a baby suddenly refusing to breastfeed, after nursing for a while without any issues. A baby will just refuse a mother’s breast out of a sudden.

Many mothers mistakenly interpret this refusal as a sign of self-weaning. Something that rarely happens before age one, and that usually happens gradually.

Causes of a nursing strike

- Teething pains.

- Difficulty swallowing due to a throat infection.

- Nose congestion due to a cold.

- The mother’s return to work.

- The baby’s being repelled by the mom’s smell due to her changing her perfume or body wash.

- The change in the taste of the mother’s milk, is due to hormonal changes. These changes happen at the return of the menstrual cycle postpartum, or in the case of pregnancy.

- The decrease in milk supply frustrates the baby leading him to stop nursing.

Nursing strike signs

- The baby’s complete refusal to breastfeed.

- The child’s crying at nursing attempts.

- The baby’s crying if the mom holds him to nurse him.

Solutions to end breastfeeding strikes

A nursing strike is a difficult period for a mother to face. A mother will feel sad and frustrated about her child’s refusal to breastfeed. She will interpret this strike as a refusal to her. In addition, the baby’s strike will cause him hunger and will cause the mother breast encouragement and pain. All of this will add to the mother’s sadness and frustration. Therefore, it is essential to provide the moms with solutions to end this strike and to convince the baby to breastfeed again.

There are two major goals while facing nursing strikes:

- Trying different breastfeeding positions.

- Nursing at night.

- Breastfeeding while the mom is sitting in a warm bath.

- Nursing while holding the baby in a baby carrier, or sling.

- Practicing skin-to-skin, when the mom holds her baby while they are both naked and under a blanket. This will increase the chances of ending the strike. The skin-to-skin doesn't need to end up in a feeding. However, repeating it will help convince the baby to breastfeed again.

- Attempting to breastfeed the baby while he is feeling half full. After getting half the needed milk from the bottle.

- Avoiding the baby’s starvation, before attempting to breastfeed them. Starvation will only increase the baby’s anxiety and will cause malnutrition.

- Not to give up, and to continue offering the baby his mother’s breast without forcing it.

- Spending quality time with the baby. A strike can be caused by something that upset the baby. Therefore, playing with your baby, or reading to him will help end the nursing strike.

  •  The other goal is to maintain the milk supply by:

- Continuing to pump the milk, each time the baby refuses to breastfeed. Pumping will help the mother avoid breast engorgement pain and will help preserve the flow of milk.

- It is essential that the mother stays calm and relaxed, and knows that this is temporary.

How long does a nursing strike last?

The period of a nursing strike is different from one baby to another, depending on the cause of the strike. If the strike is caused by teething pain, it can end in two to three days. While it can last for a few weeks for other babies, in this case, a work plan with a breastfeeding specialist is needed. During such strikes, the mothers need a lot of help and support to overcome this difficult period.


Check out Top breastfeeding myths and how to debunk them




dr sally.webp
Sally Al BeerBreastfeeding Counselor & Newborn Care Specialist

Sally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Sharjah. She moved to Ontario Canada where she worked as a pharmacist for several years. Meanwhile, she had two children and received great support from breastfeeding consultants. She enjoyed the breastfeeding journey which drove her to volunteer to help new mothers in this journey as well. She found her passion in the field of mother and baby and continued to volunteer after returning to live in the UAE, until she became an accredited breastfeeding specialist providing support to hundreds of breastfeeding mothers, by helping them overcome the challenges of breastfeeding.

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