Why do babies have nursing strikes?

A nursing strike is a temporary refusal by a breastfeeding infant to breastfeed. It occurs when a baby who has been breastfeeding suddenly refuses to nurse at the breast. Nursing strikes can be distressing for both the baby and the breastfeeding parent. They can last for a few hours, several days, or even longer, depending on the underlying cause.

Nursing strikes can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Physical discomfort: Teething, an ear infection, a stuffy nose, or other sources of pain or discomfort can make breastfeeding uncomfortable for the baby.
  2. Changes in routine: Major changes in a baby’s routine, such as starting daycare, traveling, or a change in the mother’s work schedule, can disrupt breastfeeding patterns.
  3. Strong let-down reflex: Some babies may become overwhelmed by a forceful let-down reflex, making them reluctant to breastfeed.
  4. Distractions: As babies grow and become more aware of their surroundings, they may become easily distracted during feedings, leading to nursing strikes.
  5. Introduction of solids: When solid foods are introduced to a baby’s diet, they may become more interested in exploring new tastes and textures, leading to a temporary decrease in breastfeeding.
  6. Illness: If a baby is sick or has a sore throat, they may find breastfeeding painful and may refuse to nurse.

It’s essential for parents to remain patient and responsive during a nursing strike. They should continue offering the breast and try to address any underlying issues that may be causing the strike, such as providing pain relief for teething or seeking medical attention for illnesses. Pumping breast milk and offering it to the baby in a bottle or cup can help ensure that the baby continues to receive breast milk during the strike.

Consulting with a healthcare provider or a lactation consultant can be helpful in identifying the cause of the strike and developing a plan to resolve it. In most cases, nursing strikes are temporary, and with patience and support, breastfeeding can usually resume successfully.