Why would a baby that previously breastfed just fine suddenly go on a nursing strike? There are many reasons that your baby might suddenly be refusing to nurse. While this is no doubt stressful for the mom, it is also a stressful time for the baby. While you try to figure out what the problem is, it’s important to remember that you need to pump as regularly as a baby was breastfeeding to ensure milk production continues and to avoid discomfort for you. Also, continue feeding your baby your milk while you try to remedy the problem to avoid issues when you do get your baby to take your nipple again. Next, it is important to try and determine the reason for the strike and see if it is possible to remedy it. Try asking yourself these questions.
1. Is your baby not feeling well?
A baby with an ear infection, sore throat, thrush, a stuffy nose, reflux, or another illness may not want to eat. A trip to the pediatrician may reveal that your baby has an illness that is making feeding uncomfortable or painful. Just like you may not want to eat when you feel sick, your baby might be responding in the same way. Your pediatrician can diagnose any issues. They can prescribe any needed medications and give you recommendations on getting your baby to eat until they feel better. They will probably start breastfeeding again once they feel better.
2. Have there been any changes to your diet or hormones recently?
Changes in your hormones can cause your breast milk to taste differently. Becoming pregnant again, starting your period, or taking birth control can all cause your breast milk to taste differently to your baby. Cigarette smoking is another thing that can affect the taste. Certain foods, as well.
3. Have you used any new soaps or lotions recently?
Babies are very sensitive to changes in smell. What happens if your grocery store is out of your usual deodorant or shampoo? You probably don’t even think about grabbing another brand and tossing it into your cart. However, a change in the product could mean a change in how you smell. The new product could be irritating your baby’s nose or making them feel uncomfortable enough that they don’t want to feed. Try switching back to your old products or selecting unscented options to try and remedy the situation.
4. Is your baby getting distracted?
As your baby gets older, they will get more easily distracted when they are feeding. Your baby may be on a nursing strike because they are getting distracted by all the interesting things around them. Your baby could also have been frightened by yelling or a loud noise while breastfeeding. Ensuring that you are in a quiet, dark place when feeding makes it less likely that your baby will get distracted. Breastfeeding should be a relaxing, happy time for both of you, so try to avoid loud noises, lights, and moving distractions so that your baby can focus on feeding.
5. Has your baby’s schedule changed?
Your baby may go on a nursing strike if their feeding schedule has changed or if you are spending more time away than usual. If you recently went back to work or school or had if your schedule has changed, your baby may go on a nursing strike. Spending more time with other caregivers like a relative or sitter can get your baby used to feed on a bottle instead of breastfeeding.
6. Is your baby teething?
Sore gums from teething can make feeding uncomfortable. Your baby may not want to latch if their gums hurt. Try to soothe sore gums with your usual remedies before feeding. A cool washcloth or even your finger might ease the soreness enough to encourage them to latch. Also, a teething baby will sometimes bite down pretty hard. If your baby bit you and you yelped loudly, the baby may have been frightened. Try not to react strongly when your baby bites down and just gently encourage them to break the suction.
7. Are you trying to feed when your baby is sleepy?
Sometimes a sleepy baby doesn’t want to be bothered with feeding. If you try to breastfeed when your baby is sleepy, they may not want to latch. On the other hand, some babies will latch more easily when they are sleepy, so even if you have an older child that liked to feed when they were sleepy, this baby might not feel the same way. Try to offer your breast at different times to see when your baby wants to feed.
8. Are you overproducing milk?
Some women have overactive letdown (OALD), which can make feeding unpleasant for your baby. Overactive letdown means that your milk comes very quickly and can spray too hard. This means that your baby will be unable to control the milk flow and closes their mouth.
9. Is your milk supply reduced?
Your baby may reject the nipple if you aren’t producing enough milk. If your baby isn’t getting enough milk, they may reject the nipple in favor of another food source. Your milk supply can be reduced because you aren’t pumping as often as you need to be, because you’ve recently become pregnant, or you are dehydrated.
Going through a nursing strike is a frustrating and stressful process with no one clear cause or solution. You have to stay positive as you work through the list of possible causes. Only you can determine what, if any, of these factors apply to your baby’s situation. It’s important to consult your pediatrician and lactation expert at any time that your baby’s behavior has changed suddenly.