Nursing Strikes

Nursing Strikes

Sometimes, seemly randomly, babies decide to go on a nursing strike.  It usually happens so quickly, and out of the blue, that moms are a bit shocked.  “Everything was going so well, then little Chanie just rejected me,” is what a woman will proclaim.  Nursing strikes are usually temporary but the mom needs to do some investigation work because there usually is a reason to for the baby’s refusal of the breast.  If the baby is on a nursing strike here are the steps to take:

Here are the steps to take if the baby is on a nursing strike:

1.            Visit your pediatrician to rule out the possibility of your baby having an ear infection or fluid in her ear.  An ear infection can cause pressure in the baby’s ear, making it too painful to breastfeed.

2.            Check to see if your baby has a stuffy nose.  Since a baby’s mouth is entirely closed during breastfeeding, a stuffy nose can cause trouble breathing and create the uncomfortable sensation of suffocating while attempting to nurse.

3.      Look inside your child’s mouth for cold sores—which can make breastfeeding very painful.

4.            If your child recently bit you and you gave a startled, painful or angry reaction, as normal and reflexive as it might be, may have frightened your baby from repeating that experience.

5.            If a baby had trouble breastfeeding, and rather than address any nursing issues directly, the baby was supplemented with more bottles, then this baby may want to choose the bottle over the breast.


•             If the child has an ear infection or fluid in the ear, simply treating the ear problem should resolve the breastfeeding issue.

•             If your child has a stuffy nose, try clearing the nose with saline solution, an antihistamine or an herbal antihistamine before you breastfeed.

•             If your child has cold sores, they are the result of a virus that your doctor or natural practitioner can help you to address.  While the sores are healing, you can maintain nutrition and hydration by giving your child breastmilk that you have frozen into the form of soothing popsicles.

•             If your child bites you and you scream, you should look your baby in the eyes, being firm and direct, and gently say that you hurt mommy when you bite, so let’s try it again without biting.

•             If your baby stopped nursing due to an inability to breastfeed properly, then working with a breastfeeding expert is a good choice.  Using an SNS (supplemental nursing system) first on your finger to hydrate your baby, then putting the SNS on your breast may be the answer.  See Tools-Finger feeding and Tools-SNS.

A very successful approach to getting the baby back on the breast after a nursing strike is:

Taking a bath with your baby 

•             Taking a bath with your baby to get your baby to re-latch onto the breast is also called a re-birthing. There is something about you and the baby being in the water together that creates the environment that encourages the baby to breastfeed again.  So fill up the bath tub and get in, and then have someone hand you the baby.  Hold the baby so the baby’s head and face are always above the level of the water.  Gently splash the baby with water.  Offer the breast to the baby.  Do not push the baby to breastfeed, just offer the breast.  Most babies will breastfeed after engaging in a re-birthing.  Some babies breastfeed after one bath and some need to take three or four baths over a period of a few days, before they start nursing again.

By Sara Chana, IBCLC RH (AHG)

Sara Chana Silverstein, IBCLC RH (AHG) is a Lactation Consultant, Classical Homeopath, and Registered Herbalist with twenty years of experience.  She migrates from New York and spends her summers in Los Angeles, seeing clients from newborns to the elderly.  She helps with all medical conditions and specializes in woman’s and children’s health.  She can be reached at 917-587-0262 or


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