If your baby has been nursing happily for months and suddenly refuses the breast, he’s probably on a nursing strike. A nursing strike doesn’t mean your baby wants to wean; weaning is a gradual process that could take several weeks or even months. A strike comes on abruptly, but usually only lasts a few days. Common causes include earaches, stuffy nose, acid reflux, nipple confusion caused by artificial nipples, teething pain, or an unusually long separation from the mother. Regardless of the cause, the strategies for getting your baby back to breast remain the same.
Here are 5 tips that can help you and your baby get back in the nursing groove:
1. Increase skin-to-skin. Provide lots of skin-to-skin contact by placing your baby’s bare torso against your chest. Skin-to-skin has been found to be a stress reliever for mothers and babies. Providing a soothing and relaxed environment can help your baby accept the breast again.
2. Express some milk first. Expressing a few drops of milk onto your nipple can help provide an instant reward for your baby. Swallowing triggers suckling, which can help get your baby breastfeeding again.
3. Try different nursing positions. Your baby may be more willing to breastfeed if you try a new nursing position. If you usually nurse sitting in a chair, try laid-back nursing. Laid-back nursing elicits a baby's natural breastfeeding instincts while gravity helps keep the baby in place. Unlike other positions, babies can’t arch away in this position.
4. Minimize distractions. Nursing in a quiet, darkened room helps minimize distractions and allows your baby to focus on breastfeeding.
5. Nurse the baby in his sleep. Lots of babies take the breast more willingly when in a relaxed, sleepy state.
Almost all nursing strikes end happily. With a little patience and persistence, everything should smooth out within a few days. The most important thing to do during this time is to protect your milk supply by pumping or expressing milk whenever your baby normally feeds and of course to continue feeding your baby on their regular schedule.