Just in case you were wondering, that baby of yours has a mind of her own. Despite your best efforts, she’ll eat when she wants. Sleep when she wants. Oh, and yes, she may even go on strike.
That’s right, even the best breastfeeder of them all may sometimes just put her foot down and refuse to nurse. But before you decide she’s ready to wean herself, make sure this isn’t just a temporary hiatus.
A nursing strike is when a baby abruptly stops nursing for a few days. Babies usually don’t wean themselves until 18 to 24 months of age, and weaning is gradual, rarely abrupt.
Strikes can be triggered by a range of causes:
- You smell different to your baby because you changed soap, perfume or lotion.
- Something is causing you stress. Maybe traveling, a family crisis or moving.
- Your baby is sick or injured. Maybe she’s teething, or has an ear infection, stuffed nose or cut in the mouth.
- The nursing pattern changed. Maybe you started a new job or have a new babysitter.
- Your baby bit you and you reacted strongly.
- There are too many distractions in the environment.
- Nipple confusion caused by using a pacifier or bottle.
So how do you coax a reluctant baby back to breastfeeding? Here are some hints:
- Try to nurse just before the baby goes to sleep or just after waking up.
- Spend as much time as possible with the baby to facilitate closeness.
- Stimulate your let down reflex, right before nursing so the baby gets an instant reward.
- Find a quiet place to nurse and dim the lights.
- If your baby is sick or hurt, take her to the doctor.
- If you are worried about maintaining your supply, or want to avoid getting engorged, use a pump.
It’s possible to get things back on track. So don’t despair. And just be thankful, she isn’t a teenager yet. Then you’ll really be dealing with some strikes.