Tips to Survive a Nursing Strike

Nursing Strike

The Dreaded Nursing Strike

I have been fortunate to have experienced only one nursing strike with my son. It was a painful and frightening few days, but we made it through. My son had barely started solids when it happened. Suddenly, he wouldn’t nurse, and he refused to eat or drink anything else. He didn’t seem sick, but I ran to the doctor after 48 hours because he was getting dehydrated.

It turned out my son was refusing to nurse, drink milk from a bottle, or swallow just about anything, because he had tonsillitis. We started him on antibiotics as well as a painkiller, and slowly he returned to nursing. 

Nursing StrikeWhat Exactly is a Nursing Strike?

A nursing strike is when a breastfed baby/ child suddenly refuses the breast. It can be confused with self-weaning, but since it typically happens quite suddenly you can often tell the difference. While natural weaning typically occurs over a period of weeks or months, with a gradual reduction in amount of breastfeeding, a nursing strike is very abrupt.

In the case of my son’s nursing strike, he didn’t ask to breastfeed for several hours, and when I offered the breast he refused. At first, this didn’t seem to extraordinary, but as the day wore on and he also refused to eat or drink anything else, while continuing to refuse to breastfeed, I grew worried.

In our case, my son slowly came back to the breast as the pain of his tonsillitis receded. I am sharing my tips on getting through a nursing strike below, based on both my experience and what I heard from friends when I was researching what to do with my son who wouldn’t breastfeed. 

Tips to Survive a Nursing Strike

  1. Check for a cause – such as illness or ear infection. While many nursing strikes are completely inexplicable, they can also can be due to factors such as pain from an illness, teething or, emotional upset after a new experience. During my son’s nursing strike he wasn’t displaying signs of illness, but when we saw the pediatrician I learned he was refusing to nurse due to tonsillitis. Once the tonsillitis was treated, he slowly resumed breastfeeding. 
  2. Encourage breastfeeding through skin-to-skin contact. A lactation consultant once told me that skin-to-skin can work like a “reset button” if your baby is upset. I practiced skin-to-skin a lot through the newborn and infant stage, but then stopped. It can work wonders with older babies, as well, though, and helped my son resume nursing when he was sick.
  3. Pump or hand express to keep up supply (and relieve engorgement). Nursing strikes usually last only a few days, but it is useful to express some milk to avoid the pain of engorgement or possible clogged ducts. Of course, it will also help maintain your supply, and you can offer the expressed milk to your child.
  4. Offer expressed milk in a cup or bottle. Especially if a younger baby (whose diet is primarily breastmilk) is refusing the breast, you can offer the expressed milk in a cup or bottle. 
  5. Begin a feed with a cup/ bottle, then try switching to the breast. Your child may be more willing to nurse directly if they have already had a bit of milk. Offering expressed milk first might whet their appetite, so to speak, so they are willing to try drinking more milk by breastfeeding directly.
  6. Experiment with breastfeeding in different positions than usual. There are a variety of comfortable breastfeeding positions to experiment with. You can also try nursing in a carrier – this worked well for me when my son was in an easily distracted phase because it helped him to focus. You can also do skin-to-skin easily in a carrier. During my son’s nursing strike, we used the carrier a lot.
  7.  Offer the breast while baby is very drowsy or nearly asleep. This has also worked well for me. Both when my son was refusing to nurse and also during a distractible phase, he was willing to nurse if I offered him my breast just before or after a nap, or at bedtime. In particular at the height of his nursing striked, this was the only way I could get him to breastfeed!
  8. Be persistent. If you are ready to wean, then you can take the nursing strike as a solution. However, if you feel you and your child should continue your breastfeeding relationship, be persistent in the face of the nursing strike. They typically last only 3-5 days, but even a longer nursing strike can be overcome if you keep offering to breastfeed and experiment with some of the ideas above.

Other Resources

When my son refused to nurse, I searched online for advice and saw our pediatrician over dehydration worries. Kellymom of course had great information, I also found these stories inspiring. 

Have you experienced a nursing strike? How did you overcome it? Share your experience in the comments!

You might also like these articles:

Common breastfeeding Questions quit breastfeeding snacks for breastfeeding

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Four Great Breastfeeding Positions

breastfeeding positions

breastfeeding positionsFour great breastfeeding positions, suitable for newborns and beyond.

These breastfeeding positions allow you to breastfeed comfortably. Lying down and laid back in particular are great so a mom can rest as well while nursing her baby.

Cradle Hold: Your baby’s will be on his or her side, facing your chest. His or her head will rest on your arm, and your forearm will gently support your baby’s back. A pillow is helpful, especially with smaller babies, but not a necessity.

Lying Down: Mother and baby lie down together, facing each other. This is a very restful position and can even allow mom to doze or sleep while nursing her child, so it is a particularly useful position at night (remember safe co-sleeping considerations if you will sleep with your baby).

Football Hold: An excellent alternative to the cradle hold if your baby has trouble latching, or if you had a c-section because it positions your baby away from the incision. In the football hold, the baby’s torso is tucked under your arm with his legs pointing behind you. Pillows can help bring his mouth up to the correct height to latch comfortably for a feed.

Laid Back: The laid back breastfeeding position is also referred to as Biological Nurturing. The mother lays back against pillows so she is slightly inclined. Her baby will lay against her chest. Gravity holds the baby in place so mom and baby can relax. This is a good position if you have an overactive letdown or a baby who is prone to reflux after feeding because it gives them better control over the flow of your breast milk.

What worked for you?

I hope this overview helps you find a breastfeeding position that is comfortable for you and your child. Which position is your favorite? Mine is lying down! Share your experiences or questions in the comments below.

Looking for breastfeeding tips and support? This might help!

breastfeeding support  manage breastfeeding pain  toddler breastfeeding tips

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10 Common Breastfeeding Questions, Answered

Common breastfeeding Questions

Common breastfeeding QuestionsSupport for Breastfeeding Moms

When my son was born I sought support for my breastfeeding struggles and found excellent groups on Facebook and in person through La Leche League. After participating in these groups for well over a year, I’ve seen the common breastfeeding questions come up time and again. While answers to these questions are readily available on other sites like the fantastic and all-knowing Kelly Mom, I’d like to share my perspective here along with my personal experience.

Please note I am not a medical professional, and my goal here is to share my personal experiences rather than the scientific answers that are available elsewhere. In sharing my experience I hope other women can relate and perhaps have a more successful breastfeeding experience after learning what worked for me.

So, without further ado, let’s look at the typical concerns among breastfeeding moms…

10 Common Breastfeeding Questions, Answered

Do I have enough milk?

This question plagued me early on, although nearly all women do have enough milk. The best way to measure if your baby is drinking enough is to monitor their diaper output. At first I recorded each wet and dirty diaper on paper, and then started using an app to track it. This might seem obsessive to some, but it was easy to do and gave me huge peace of mind when I could easily look and see that his diaper output was normal. Find out about normal diaper output here.

do i have enough milkMy young baby is feeding constantly! Why is he always hungry?

This is a worry I hear from so many new moms, and I was concerned myself. I called my lactation consultant because my son was feeding so frequently. And then I learned about cluster feeding. His behaviour was totally normal! Cluster feeding is actually what helps build up your milk supply and it does not mean you don’t have enough milk.

My best advice is to get comfortable in your favorite breastfeeding position and just enjoy the quiet time with your baby. I didn’t think I would miss cluster feeding, but once he was older and feeding sessions were quick 5 minute affairs I did miss the longer stretches we’d spend together when he was cluster feeding. Since he tended to cluster feed every evening, I used it as a time to watch some tv. 

I have cold/ flu/ upset stomach. Can I still breastfeed?

Yes, and you should! I am writing this while recovering from the flu, and I didn’t change our breastfeeding habits at all. Breast milk is an amazing liquid – by feeding during an illness you will actually share antibodies with your baby so if they do catch your ailment, the intensity and duration should be less. You cannot transfer a cold or flu through your breastmilk! (And yes, I wrote this while recovering from a flu that only I had – my son didn’t get sick).

What medicine is safe to take while breastfeeding?

This is another question I hear all the time. And, it is an important one to ask because many physicians don’t know which medications are safe during breastfeeding so it is important to be self-informed. There is an excellent database to check – Lact Med. You can also look up over the counter drugs to see if a painkiller or other medicine you’d like to take is safe while breastfeeding.

breastfeeding safe drugs

Can I drink alcohol and breastfeed?

There are huge myths around drinking alcohol around breastfeeding and ‘pump and dump’ is a common term as a result. Good news… you do not need to pump and dump! While drinking to excess will mean it is not safe to breastfeed your baby while you are intoxicated, you do not need to pump and dump because as the alcohol is metabolized out of your bloodstream it is also metabolized out of your milk.

In addition, a drink or two while breastfeeding is perfectly safe. A rule of thumb is, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. I found great peace of mind by having a glass of wine during an evening feed. This way my son was fed before I had consumed even a whole glass and then I knew I had a pretty long stretch of time to digest before he would need to be fed again. Check out these myths about breastfeeding and alcohol on Slate.

should i pump and dump

My nipples are chapped/ cracked/ bleeding. How can I treat them?

I want to share my top three favorite items for nipple pain, with affiliate links for easy shopping. First, lanolin cream. Lanolin helped heal and protect my nipples when they were chapped and cracked. It is perfectly safe to apply right before a feed and it offered a lot of protection. Second, hydrogel pads. I wore these between feeds and they were incredibly soothing, plus I think they helped my nipples heal faster.  Third, Silverettes. I didn’t learn about these until I had been breastfeeding for over a year. Once I heard about them I thought they sounded like an interesting product but didn’t think I needed them. However, when my period returned my nipples became incredibly sensitive so I invested in a pair and they are wonderful to wear.

Silverette Nipple Protector

Silver has antibacterial and healing properties so they can be used in place of hydrogel pads. It is a bit of up front investment, but since I wear them at least a couple weeks each month it is totally worth it. They are also a product I can use for as long as I am breastfeeding, so I don’t have any qualms about the price. I strongly recommend Silverettes for any kind of nipple pain. Interesting note about them, they are pure sterling silver and made in Italy.

How can I get started with pumping so I have mik stored for when I return to work?

Many women are comforted by a larger freezer stash. My doula pointed out that when I returned to work all I really needed was enough milk for that day’s feed, since I’d pump enough for the next day at work. I didn’t want to cut it quite that close, but her words were reassuring and I only had about two bottles worth of milk stored in the freezer.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Going back to when to start pumping, I am personally very cautions about creating an oversupply by pumping too much or too early. I pumped a bit early on, but only to replace a direct feeding session. To start storing milk for my return to work, I would pump first thing in the morning when my breasts were fullest. I only stored about 2 ounces a day, but this added up over a couple of weeks to enough milk for my son while I was at work, with some to spare in the freezer.

What do the acronyms EBM and EBF mean? What’s an EPer?

This is a simple but useful one! EMB is expressed breast milk. EBF is exclusively breastfed. EP stands for exclusively pumping, so an EPer is someone who pumps exclusively to feed breastmilk to their child. This might be due to personal choice or latch issues that prevent direct breastfeeding.

What is typical breastfed baby weight gain?

My son has always been on the smaller side. He gained weight quickly at first but then his growth tapered off and even started dipping down below his growth curve. I realized that the best growth chart to follow for breastfed babies is the WHO chart. Once his growth was compared to the WHO charts I realized it was quite normal!

My baby won’t nurse! Is he weaning or is it a nursing strike?

I have dealt with several nursing strikes, mostly when my son was sick and it hurt to swallow (or at least I assume that was the reason because he had tonsilitis). A nursing strike might also come up if your baby develops a preference for the bottle. In most cases, especially before 1 year of age, but also well past that point, your child is most likely not weaning.

Nursing strikes are frightening and can be frustrating. My first happened before my son was on solids so I was panicked about him not getting any nutrition. My doctor eventually gave advice that helped get him back to the breast – skin-to-skin. In the meantime I pumped to keep supply and managed to get him to swallow a bit of milk by cup feeding. The skin-to-skin was almost like a reset and he resumed nursing after a few sessions. The other tip that worked wonderfully was to nurse him when he was very drowsy. I would nurse him just as he was waking up or falling asleep from a nap, and in this semi-conscious state he would feed, even if he had refused 15 minutes earlier while awake.

breastfeeding baby

I hope these notes are helpful in answering common breastfeeding questions. What other questions do you have about breastfeeding, or how did you find solutions to some of these common issues? Leave a note in the comments below!

Interested in natural term breastfeeding, or breastfeeding longer than 6 months or a year? You might like…

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Looking for a milk-supply boost? Check out my most popular lactation recipes…

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5 Tips to Breastfeed Your Child Beyond their First Birthday

extended breastfeeding

extended breastfeedingBreastfeeding Wasn’t Easy at First

If you’ve visited Fresh Milk Mama before, you already know that breastfeeding was a struggle for me. Those challenges are what inspired me to start this site with the hope of helping other moms breastfeed successfully. If this is your first time here, you can read a bit about the breastfeeding challenges I faced.

I wanted to quit breastfeeding many times, and I’m still surprised sometimes that I managed to make it well beyond 12 months breastfeeding my son. Very early on, it was often my stubborn personality that kept me going another day when I wanted to quit. As my son and I developed a better breastfeeding relationship we still had our challenges, but a few key things beyond being stubborn really helped me keep going. Read on for my suggestions if you are struggling but want to continue breastfeeding.  


5 Things that Helped me Breastfeed my Son into Toddlerhood

1) Learning to Breastfeed Lying Down

After the first few weeks of night feedings I was very eager to figure out how to breastfeed lying down so I could get more rest. While it works very early on for some mamas, it wasn’t until my son was about 3 months old that I mastered this skill.

Once I could breastfeed lying down, it changed everything! Night wakings were much easier to handle because I didn’t wake up as much from being in a sitting position, so I got more sleep in total. We could also have restful breastfeeding sessions during the day. And, this alleviated the arm and shoulder cramps I would get from breastfeeding sitting up.

Ultimately, my doula had to show me in person how to breastfeed lying down. The best tip she gave me was to position my son so he was eye-level with my nipple. I had been positioning him much too high so he couldn’t latch. The other tip was that I could breastfeed him from both breasts without flipping over to my other side! She recommend feeding first from the breast that was on the bottom. Then lean forward slightly to offer the second breast! This was much easier than turning over and re-positioning my son.

If you are struggling to breastfeeding your child while laying down, see this page from the Australian Breastfeeding Association for guidance.

2) Learning to breastfeed in a carrier

This was another thing I was desperate to learn. I like to go for walks with my son for exercise, and I also mostly carry him when we go out since we don’t have a car. Again, some mamas master this somewhat early, but we couldn’t manage it until my son was over 6 months old. Once we could do it, though, it was another game changer. I was free to breastfeed on the go!

I think this was difficult for us for so long because my son had trouble latching and also I couldn’t seem to manage putting on a nipple shield and then getting him latched in the carrier. I have had the most success now feeding him in my ergo – I just loosen the straps a bit so his head is level with my breasts and he helps himself. When he was younger I would hold my breast in place for him to latch and support the side of his head while he was feeding.

how to breastfeed in ergo carrier
Breastfeeding in the Ergo Carrier

There are a lot of great tutorials out there about feeding in a carrier. Here is one that I like. Also, I generally feed my son in the ergo, but this works with a lot of carriers/ woven wraps/ ring slings, etc.

3) Joining Breastfeeding Support Groups (Online and In Person)

Outside of La Leche League, I had no idea breastfeeding groups existed. However, I found several really supportive group on Facebook as well as a local group of breastfeeding moms with a chat group. These were amazing resources – anytime I had a question I could be guaranteed an answer within minutes thanks to facebook and the chat group. Plus, monthly La Leche League meetings let me connect with other moms and realize I wasn’t the only one faced with breastfeeding challenges. It was hugely motivating to know other women struggled like I did and also to have access to so much helpful advice whenever I needed it.

If you are looking for a breastfeeding support group, you can search for your local La Leche League chapter as a start. Also check with your hospital as they may be associated with a support group. Facebook is another place to search for online support. You can also see my article about breastfeeding support resources.

breastfeeding support group

4) My own sense of stubbornness (didn’t want to ‘quit’) + cheapness (didn’t want to pay for formula)

Early on, I cried daily over the pain and unexpected difficulty of breastfeeding. My family was supportive but reminded breastfeeding was not something I had to do. To this day I’m not sure exactly what drove me so hard to stick with it. I am stubborn by nature but I clung to the idea that I could successfully breastfeed very fiercely.

A secondary thing was the cost of formula and bottles. While this was only a small piece of my decision making, I did keep wondering why I would pay for formula if I had perfectly good breastmilk available. I don’t have anything against formula and I did buy a canister when I thought I would supplement a bit to give my aching nipples a rest. I never did use the formula because I opted to express some milk and cup feed instead when I needed a break from direct feeding. That allowed my nipples to heal and helped my vasospasm pain reduce a bit.  

breastfeeding beyond one year
My Back-up Formula Canister

5) A supportive employer so I could pump at work

I returned to work full time when my son was three months old. He was exclusively breastfed so I had to pump enough milk each day for the feeds we missed while I was working. My employer was very supportive and I was able to spend as much time as I needed to pump each day.

Without their support I’m not sure if I would have had the will to fight to pump because I was exhausted between motherhood and working. I eventually developed a good routine and came to look forward to pumping each day. See my tips for pumping at work here. You can read about the best breast pumps for working moms here

If you are living in the USA, your employer must provide you with the time and a place to pump. I was living abroad but working for a company headquartered in the USA, so I was able to take advantage and pump in a private room. What worked for me was to bring my laptop with me so I could do work while pumping. This wasn’t necessary but it kept me from getting bored and also helped me leave work punctually each day. I also had a tendency to eat lunch while I pumped. This was a little lonely but it helped me make sure I finished my work each day because my priority was leaving work on time.

I’m grateful to be breastfeeding in toddlerhood

I’m so glad now that I’ve continued breastfeeding my son. For example, it has been an excellent comfort for him while he’s sick. And it’s reassuring to me to know he’s getting good nutrients from breastmilk when he won’t eat his meals. Plus, we travel a lot, and breastfeeding him on the plane is a great way to either keep him quiet or help him fall asleep.

extended breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my 17 month old on the train

I do still get frustrated some days and feel like it’s time to think about weaning, but my goal is to breastfeed him to natural term when he weans on his own.

How long have you been breastfeeding? Do you plan to go longer than a year or until natural term? Share your experiences in the comments below.

See my other tips on breastfeeding older babies:

toddler breastfeeding tips    breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent biting

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11 Easy & Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

snacks for breastfeeding

breastfeeding snacks

Breastfeeding Makes you Hungry!

I was so hungry after my son was born and I was getting started with breastfeeding. So hungry. Breastfeeding hunger made my pregnancy appetite feel like nothing. I became obsessed with breastfeeding snacks. 

Aside from huge meals, I snacked at regular intervals. I tried to be healthy with my snacking because I wanted to lose my baby weight quickly (and I did! Read about it here).

Of course, it was also important to be able to eat things one handed and quietly, so these breastfeeding snacks also fit this criteria. Here is a list of my favorite snacks to satisfy my ravenous appetite in the early days of breastfeeding. (Disclosure, this post contains affiliate links – all opinions are 100% my own)

11 Easy & Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

  1. Trail Mix – possibilities are endless here. Make your own, buy a bag at Costco, etc. I kept a ziploc baggie full of trail mix in bed with me for the first couple of months because I would wake up so hungry in the middle of the night. One note – especially if you’re going to be eating trail mix in the middle of the night like me, try to choose one without chocolate since the caffeine and sugar might mess with your sleep.

  2. Cottage cheese with fruit – another great source of calcium along with protein. I don’t like cottage cheese that much but I was so hungry that it tasted delicious. Plus, you can dress it up with virtually any kind of fruit so it tastes even better and you get extra vitamins and fiber.
  3. Hard boiled eggs – maybe this isn’t for everyone, but I love hardboiled eggs and they were really easy for me to snack on if I peeled them ahead of time. I would boil them up a dozen at a time because they keep for a while in the fridge.
  4. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches – easy to make ahead and for me these are somehow a total comfort food. It is easy to add variety with different types of bread and jam flavors, or you can experiment with different nut butters.
  5. Lactation smoothies – I would mix one of these up after breakfast so I could sip on it during one of my son’s morning feeds. Check out my berry smoothie and green smoothie recipes for ideas. Do note the recipes contain galactagogues – foods that can help maintain or increase your milk supply.
    very berry lactation smoothie                 green lactation smoothie
  6. Yogurt – Calcium and probiotics. Lots of flavors for variety. It was easy for me to eat yogurt with one hand (ok, I occasionally dripped some on my son but he didn’t mind). Yogurt is also a good snack because you can add toppings (fruits, nuts, etc) for more options and also to make it more filling.
  7. Hummus with vegetables – I tried to avoid chips because they are salty and generally unhealthy. Plus the chip was really just a vehicle for me to eat more hummus. So I switched to dipping carrots and cucumbers in hummus and felt very satisfied. Chickpeas are packed with nutrients and protein… great for lactating women.
  8. Frozen grapes – super easy to prepare! My son was born in the summer so these were very refreshing to snack on. They also helped quenched that crazy breastfeeding thirst a little bit.
  9. Lactation cake – yes, it was hard to find time to make this in the postpartum haze. My very kind mother made me this for me, sliced it up, and froze each portion so I could pull out a piece to snack on whenever I needed it. Click below for the recipe.
    lactation cake recipe
  10. Bananas and peanut butter – this works with other nut butters, too! The sweetness of the banana tamed my sweet tooth a bit and helped boost my energy. You can also try peanut butter on an apple… might sound odd but it is SO delicious.
  11. Lactation cookies – ok, not the healthiest item on this list, but when I was struggling with breastfeeding there was nothing like a delicious cookie to lift my spirits. I ordered from a local baker because I was too stressed to make my own. You can also find lactation cookies online.

Have Fun Snacking!

I hope this list of breastfeeding snacks inspires you a little and helps you satisfy that crazy breastfeeding hunger. Your body needs a lot of extra calories each day so you can nourish your little one. Don’t be afraid to eat! 

Let me know your favorite snacks while breastfeeding in the comments below.

You might like these lactation recipes:

Lactation granola recipe Lactation Granola Bar recipe no bake lactation energy balls

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