What To Do When Your Baby Suddenly Stops Breastfeeding

When most people hear the words “nursing strike” the most common assumption is that it has something to do with a work stoppage by hospital caregivers, but the term can also refer to when a baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed. This response can sometimes be mistaken for weaning, but unlike a nursing strike, weaning normally takes places gradually over a period of weeks or months.

Nursing strikes can be frightening and upsetting to both you and your baby, but they are almost always temporary. Most nursing strikes end with your baby back to breastfeeding, within a few days. In some cases the cause is a mystery, but most of the time it is due to some external factor. Some of the most common triggers for a nursing strike include:

  • An illness affecting your baby such as an ear infection or stuffy nose
  • A change in deodorant, soap, lotion or anything that would result in you smelling different to your baby
  • Your baby is teething or experiencing sore gums
  • A temporary reduction in milk supply
  • A change in nursing patterns
  • Your baby was frightened during a previous nursing experience

Whatever the cause, getting the baby back to the breast can sometimes be challenging. Here are some tips that can help get your baby back to breastfeeding:

  • Be patient. Don’t try to force your baby to breastfeed as it can make the situation worse.
  • Rule out any physical problems such as an ear infection, stuffy nose, teething issues or a bladder infection.
  • Spend more skin-to-skin time together.
  • Avoid giving your baby a pacifier.
  • Attempt to nurse when your baby is either falling asleep, sound asleep, or just waking up.
  • Movement helps so try putting your baby in a sling while you walk around or try relaxing in a rocking chair.
  • Take a bath together or cuddle in a quiet, dark room.

You should continue to pump or hand express milk while your baby is refusing to nurse to prevent plugged ducts and infections.  It is also important to remain calm and understand that your baby isn’t rejecting you and while the situation can be upsetting that it is only temporary and everything will go back to normal.

If your baby is experiencing a nursing strike and you have additional questions, you should speak with your doctor or a lactation consultant.

If you would like to speak to a lactation consultant at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-670-5201.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.