What To Do in the Event of a Breastfeeding Strike

babel · November 8, 2022
In this article, you'll find all the information you'll need to know about what to do if your baby goes on a breastfeeding strike.

Are you familiar with the term breastfeeding strike? Yes, this kind of strike exists and it’s a situation that can occur during breastfeeding. There are several possible causes, and we’ll tell you more about them below.

What is a breastfeeding strike?

A breastfeeding strike is when a baby suddenly decides not to breastfeed anymore. This can happen overnight without expectation and can last from a few days to even a couple of weeks.

It can be a very stressful and sad time for the mother, as it may make her feel that she’s low on milk or that her baby is rejecting her. However, this can sometimes happen for a variety of reasons and doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is over.

The most important thing is to know that these breastfeeding crises exist and to find out the exact cause in order to get breastfeeding back to normal.

You may be interested in: From One Mom to Another: 11 Top Breastfeeding Tips

Why a breastfeeding strike may occur

Breastfeeding strikes usually occur due to several situations and are different from one baby to the next. Here are the most common causes of this phenomenon.

Pain

The eruption of the first teeth, an injury in the mouth (such as a canker sore), or any type of physical pain in the child may be sufficient cause to initiate a breastfeeding strike. Once this condition ceases, breastfeeding will probably return to normal.

A baby with two bottom teeth crying.

Illness

As in the previous case, any illness of the baby can cause the cessation of feeding. This is because your baby feels uncomfortable or because they’re suffering from some ailment in the oral cavity.

For example, if they’re very congested, it will be very difficult for them to breastfeed and they may choose not to do so. The same can happen in case of fever or gastrointestinal discomfort.

Stress

If your baby’s had a stressful or very frightening situation and they’ve associated that moment with breastfeeding, they may decide to go on a breastfeeding strike.

A very clear example is when a baby bites on the mother’s nipple and she responds with a scream. The baby may be startled by the response and be afraid to latch on again.

Distractions

As a baby grows, they discover that there’s a world outside of their mother’s breasts. These distractions awaken their curiosity to want to see and know about everything around them. And that can be a reason to stop breastfeeding. They’re often more curious than hungry.

Different tastes

The taste of milk isn’t always the same and can be altered by infection, mastitis, or a mom’s menstruation. The baby may not like this change and decide not to breastfeed as long as the new taste is still present in the milk.

What to do in the event of a breastfeeding strike

As we’ve mentioned, this phenomenon is to be expected during breastfeeding and it’s possible to offer some guidelines to mothers so that they can get through the crisis in the best possible way. In the end, after a while, the strike ends and everything returns to normal.

Maintain the emotional well-being of the mother

We must be informed in order to know about breastfeeding strikes and understand that they’re also part of what we can expect in the breastfeeding process. This way, we won’t run the risk of misinterpreting the signals and carrying out early weaning.

There are mothers who may experience some anxiety when, suddenly, their baby doesn’t want to breastfeed. It’s very important not to fall into the false belief that the mother has no milk or that the baby doesn’t want to breastfeed anymore. This often leads women to offer bottles more frequently, and by doing so, condition the baby’s preferences (milk comes out more easily from the rubber nipple than from the mother’s nipple).

Look for the cause

Check that your baby doesn’t have any discomfort or pain that could make it difficult for them to latch on to the breast. To do this, think about changes in routine that have occurred in the last few days or a stressful episode for your little one.

Change position and don’t give up

Some babies may feel uncomfortable in certain positions, either because a label rubs against them, they feel squeezed, or the place where they’ve received a vaccination is bothering them.

A change in the environment can also be helpful, such as a more relaxed place with less stimuli and distractions.

Practice skin-to-skin contact

Carry your baby a lot, hold them in your arms, and, if you can achieve skin-to-skin contact, even better.

Having your baby close to you can help them fall “in love” with the breast again and come to seek it again as they did some time ago.

A good option is to take a bath with your baby. Many mothers opt for this idea because of the fact that it’s a reunion between the baby and the breast in an intimate and calm environment.

A mother breastfeeding her baby under a tree.

When to consider weaning

As mentioned above, when a baby goes on a breastfeeding strike, they’re not looking to wean. However, the mother may feel real distress that brings her closer to this idea that she hadn’t yet considered.

A baby who goes through this episode usually returns to normal after a short time, especially after resolving the cause that provoked it.

However, when it occurs in older children, the mother can take advantage of this situation to carry out the weaning process.

A breastfeeding strike is nothing more than a hiccup

We hope that, with this article, you’ve been able to learn all about breastfeeding strikes in order to normalize them and deal with them in the best possible way.

  • Comité de lactancia de la AEP. Preguntas frecuentes sobre lactancia materna. Rechazo del pecho – huelga de lactancia. [Internet, revisado 13-01-2022] Disponible en: https://www.aeped.es/comite-nutricion-y-lactancia-materna/lactancia-materna/preguntas-frecuentes-sobre-lactancia-materna#t48n160
  • Comité de Lactancia Materna de la AEP. (2004). Lactancia materna: guía para profesionales de la salud.  Madrid. Ergón. disponible en: https://www.ministeriodesalud.go.cr/gestores_en_salud/lactancia/CNLM_guia_de_lactancia_materna_AEP.pdf