Nursing baby

Nursing Strikes – What Breastfeeding Moms Need to Know

Many nursing moms spend some time monitoring their baby’s feeds, checking how much they are eating and how frequently. Therefore, they quickly notice when their baby is eating less often than normal and  drinking less milk during a feed. Today, we are exploring nursing strikes – what breastfeeding moms need to know, and what to do when it happens.

When your little one suddenly changes his feeding patterns, it is vital to try and understand why, and what you can do to remedy it as quickly as possible. Here’s what you need to know about nursing strikes:

Nursing Strikes - 4 things breastfeeding moms need to know

What Is A Nursing Strike?

A breastfeeding or nursing strike is explained as a period when your baby who has had no nursing issues, suddenly refuses to nurse. They generally do not begin this behaviour until at least three months old when they are more aware of what is going on around them.

Babies who are transitioning into a breastfeeding strike and refuse the breast, typically appear fussy, resistant to nursing, and unhappy.

While your infant might sometimes become distracted while nursing, root halfway during a feed, or pull away, is not necessarily a sign of a nursing strike, rather a case of him getting distracted. It is the refusal to breastfeed for any given time that usually signals a nursing strike. 

It often happens that a nursing strike is confused as a sign that a baby is all set to wean. However, this is highly unlikely since babies hardly ever self-wean until they reach the age of two years. And once they are ready to wean, the duration and frequency of feeds are gradually reduced rather than just stopping instantly.

Common Causes Of A Nursing Strike

Babies can go into a breastfeeding strike for various reasons that can be emotional or physical, or both. Some causes might include:

  • Earache or congestion that is making breastfeeding uncomfortable.
  • A cut or ulcer in his mouth or a sore throat that makes nursing painful or uncomfortable.
  • An illness like hand, foot, and mouth disease, or oral thrush, which targets the mouth, making breastfeeding unpleasant.
  • Teething or experiencing sore gums.
  • Frustration because of overabundance of milk if the flow is too fast, or low milk supply that causes slow milk flow.
  • Baby getting startled because of a loud noise or mom crying out after a bite.
  • Frustration due to the milk tasting different because of diet or hormonal changes.
  • Changing personal care products which make you smell differently.
  • Baby sensing that you are angry, stressed, or feeling out of sorts and not focused on breastfeeding.
  • Distractions because of an overstimulating environment.

Most of the above mentioned causes can be avoided and it is essential for you to keep track of what is going on for your little one that might impact nursing success.

Content baby

Overcoming A Nursing Strike

While it can be stressful for both you and your baby when a nursing strike occurs, there are various things you can do to assist your baby to return to his normal breastfeeding patterns. When managing a breastfeeding strike, you have to overcome two main challenges: making sure your baby is fed and maintaining milk supply.

When your baby is not taking in the same amount of milk than he usually does, you will have to express milk to keep up your milk supply. You can do so by hand expressing or pumping. Expressing milk will signal to your body that you still need the milk and it will continue to generate what your baby needs when normal nursing resumes.

How To Feed Your Baby During A Nursing Strike

As far as making sure your baby is feeding during a nursing strike is concerned, consider bottle feeding, pumping, or cup feeding. While it might be an uphill battle to try and get your baby to take a cup or bottle, it is vital to make sure he is taking in sufficient calories to stay hydrated and well fed until his breastfeeding patterns return to normal.

Once you have made sure that your milk supply and baby are taken care of, you can start working on getting him back on your breast. If you are concerned that he might be sick or is experiencing any physical discomforts that causes the nursing strike, visit his pediatrician for a physical examination. After trying to find out what is the cause for the nursing strike and working on eliminating any issues, there are certain things you can do to encourage your baby to return to your breast.

Baby drinking milk bottle

How To Encourage Baby To Start Breastfeeding Again

  • Practice skin-to-skin contact and gently offer him your breast.
  • Try different nursing positions, including different sides and holds.
  • Breastfeed your baby in a dimly lit or dark room to avoid distractions.
  • Offer your breast while relaxing in a warm bath together.
  • Try to be relaxed and not think about anything stressful during breastfeeding sessions.
  • Offer loads of positive reinforcement to encourage successful nursing.
  • Spend positive, quality time with your baby when not breastfeeding.

When is There Reason For Concern?

Most breastfeeding strikes only last for a few days to one week. However, if you notice any of the following behaviours, or all of them, you should speak to his pediatrician straight away:

  • Refusing to feed no matter how you are trying to feed him (bottle, cup, breast).
  • Not urinating or pooping less frequently than before.
  • Losing weight.
  • Any other behaviours or signs that are worrisome.

If he is breastfeeding less frequently than before, but he is drinking from a cup or bottle, and he looks healthy and content, then there shouldn’t be any reason for concern, and it doesn’t appear that the nursing strike is affecting him or his overall health negatively.


Nursing strikes are no walk in the park and can be stressful for both mom and baby. They happen because of various emotional and physical reasons. However, a nursing strike does not necessarily mean that you have to resort to formula or that your breastfeeding journey has come to an end. Trying the above tactics to encourage him to take the breast, waiting for a few days, and offering support can get your little one back to his previous breastfeeding patterns.

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