How To Survive A Nursing Strike


It’s not uncommon for babies to seem less interested in breastfeeding as they become increasingly aware of the outside world around them. My busy-body nursling has trouble sitting still for milk, especially when we’re out in public. She constantly pulls off (leaving me hanging) and often only 'sips', rarely taking in a full feed.

This can easily be mistaken for readiness to wean, but to any other mamas going through this... hang in there! It's very unlikely that a breastfed baby younger than 1yr is actually ready to self-wean.

It can be quite distressing if your baby suddenly reduces breast milk intake or goes on a complete milk strike. Try to keep in mind that your baby isn’t rejecting you, and that with patience and perseverance you can almost always reestablish a healthy breastfeeding relationship.

9 Things To Help End A Nursing Strike

1. Bring your baby to a quiet and/or darkened room to nurse. Turn off the tv or radio to minimize distractions, or out of sight from a very exciting older sibling.

2. Offer the breast when baby is sleepy, as they’ll be less likely to be distractible and babies often latch on even when completely asleep.   

3. Attempt to nurse baby in a carrier, this not only reduces ‘pull off’, it can also help keep them focused.

5. Whenever possible, reduce or avoid the use of pacifiers until breastfeeding is maintained and encourage baby to suckle at the breast.

6. Babies that nurse less during the day sometimes begin making up for it at night. Even if co-sleeping isn’t something that is suitable for your family on a regular basis, bed sharing through this period offers baby more opportunity to nurse and minimizes night waking for both of you.

7. Spending skin-to-skin time not only offers baby more opportunity at the breast, it can also help maintain supply. If possible, have family or friends help with your daily chores so that you can spend a few days just focusing on your baby while maintaining physical closeness, outside of attempts to breastfeed. 

8. Milk is produced by supply and demand, so if demand from baby lessens use a breast pump to maintain supply and reduce the likelihood of clogged ducts. If need be, pumped milk can be used to feed baby in a cup, bottle, or needleless syringe. It’s recommended to pump above and beyond the frequency that baby would normally nurse, as a breastfeeding baby is usually more efficient at helping mom maintain supply than a pump. For more recommendations see: Naturally Increasing Breast Milk Supply.

9. Even if baby rejects your milk, continue offering your breast often, but don’t be forceful. Although emotions can run high, do your very best to keep breastfeeding a relaxed and positive experience for both you and baby. If either of you become frustrated, stop, do something else and try again a little later.

What Causes A Nursing Strike?

When a reduction in breastfeeding or a complete strike happens abruptly, the reason can sometimes remain unknown. Nursing strikes are often related to a disruption in baby’s schedule, such as travel. Sometimes even mama traveling alone while baby remains at home can cause a temporary disturbance in regular nursing. Breastfeeding can take some time to reestablish after travel, whether it’s done together or separately.

Some Other Things To Consider

  • teething
  • ear infection
  • stuffy nose, cold, difficulty breathing
  • encouraging the transition to too much solid food too quickly
  • offering too many complimentary liquids
  • you or your milk could smell/taste different due to new soap or perfume, or a new vitamin/drug
  • pregnancy & menstruation can also affect the taste/quantity of your milk
  • did you react strongly after baby bit down or otherwise caused you pain while nursing?
  • your let-down (too forceful or too slow): consider hand expressing or pumping to initiate slow letdown prior to breastfeeding, or to relieve a forceful let down

If you hope to resume your breastfeeding relationship, I strongly encourage you to seek the support of a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), or your local Le Leche League chapter (LLL).