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Nursing Strikes

Have you heard about a “Nursing Strike”?

Believe it or not, there IS such a thing. A nursing strike happens when a baby -especially younger than a year- suddenly refuses the breast, with no apparent reason.

But WHY?

The reason might not be obvious to you, but it is making your baby to breastfeed uncomfortably. It could be due to physical causes, such as an ear infection -that often comes without apparent symptoms-; or a stuffy nose; or a sore throat that causes pain when he swallows. An overactive letdown reflex can also be the responsible of his discomfort.

A nursing strike can also be due to emotional reasons. Maybe you started to negotiate the breastfeeding sessions; a laugher noise, odor, or texture. Maybe you scolded your baby when he bit you, and he got scared. Some babies are very sensitive to new situations. Mommy’s return to work and the substantial increment of bottles and pacifiers can also contribute to this reaction.

The good news is, it is temporary. Be careful not to confuse a nursing strike with your baby’s desire to wean. There are two different things. A nursing strike is not weaning.

A strike happens suddenly, and it is much more frequently among babies younger that one year. A “baby-led” weaning occurs slowly, and you can see how he progressively loses interest in the breast; however, this rarely takes place before the baby’s first birthday.

A nursing strike can last a few days before the baby comes back to normalcy. But, it could be a rough time for the whole family. Here’re a few tips that can help you cope with this situation and lead you to a happy ending.

- Do not force your baby to breastfeed.

- Try to breastfeed when he’s sleepy or lousy.

- If the strike lasts for over a day and you’re concerned about his daily intake, offer your milk in a cup and teach him to drink it safely. Avoid bottles if you can, so his sucking urge will lead him back to the breast.

- Pump to maintain your milk supply and prevent plugged ducts or mastitis.

- Keep an open bar. Hold him frequently with your shirt off, to encourage him to take the breast, without directly offering it.

- Try to breastfeed in different positions, and switch the usual nursing place. That may break any association he’s making and lead him back to the breast.

- Look for relaxing ways to share with him skin to skin, like a bath, or dancing slow music, or maybe singing him a song you both like.

And lastly, be patient. This too shall pass.

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