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Women's Health Blog

When Your Baby Goes On a Nursing Strike


A nursing strike is the baby’s way of telling you that something is wrong. In most cases, the baby will get past a nursing strike and continue to breastfeed. The strike does not mean the baby is ready to wean.

Not all nursing strikes are alike – some babies become fussy at the breast while others refuse to nurse all together.


What Causes the Strike?

There are many reasons that your baby may decide to stop nursing or may become fussy when nursing. Some include:

  • The baby might have a sore or pain in his or her mouth.
  • The baby might have an infection like thrush – check his or her tongue for a white hue. 
  • The baby may have an ear infection that causes pain when sucking.
  • The baby may be bruised or be sore from an immunization.
  • If you have recently changed your routine or nursing location, the baby may be reacting to these changes.
  • If you are distracted while breastfeeding, the baby may be picking up on your cues.
  • The caregiver may be allowing the baby to “look around” during a feeding if your baby is receiving bottles when you are away from him/her.
  • You may be starting your period.
  • The baby may have a cold or a stuffy nose that makes it hard to nurse and breathe at the same time. 
  • The baby may want less milk if you have introduced solids or are supplementing with pumped milk or formula. The baby may also be reacting to using a pacifier or bottle nipple. 
  • If the baby recently bit you while breastfeeding and you had a strong reaction, you may need to reassure the baby that nursing is OK.
  • If the room is loud, whether because of the television or arguments among family members, the baby may be upset and not want to nurse. In this case, return to a quiet, comfortable place to continue breastfeeding.
  • Babies often react to overstimulation, which can be stressful. Make sure to provide a relaxing atmosphere for nursing to reduce stress for both yourself and the baby. Skin to skin contact again or taking a warm bath together can be extremely helpful.

It can be frustrating when your baby refuses to nurse, but it is a normal part of the growing up process. Make sure to reassure your baby and provide a safe, quiet place for nursing for a few days. Be patient and keep trying to offer the opportunity to nurse to your baby.

Most nursing strikes only last a few hours but can last a few days. To maintain your supply or if you are concerned about getting engorged, you may want to pump or hand express some breastmilk and, depending on how long the nursing strike lasts, give your milk to your baby either using a cup, dropper, or spoon.

Try alternate feeding positions to see if your baby would be more comfortable and take to the breast in a new way.

Beebe Healthcare’s Certified Lactation Consultants are available to help. Call (302) 645-3577 to schedule an appointment.