FAQ 17: Why is my baby suddenly rejecting the breasts?
When babies reject direct breastfeeding consistently, even if they're really hungry and it's been hours from their previous feed. This is termed as a nursing strike. Nursing strikes are worrisome. During nursing strikes and teething is not a great time to introduce new ideas and ask the baby to stretch their skill-set. Using consistent, usually effective relaxed strategies to offer milk to baby usually gets them through the challenge. Offering to nurse while the baby is sleeping is sometimes effective as it calls on their inborn feeding reflexes.
Just on the chance that it works for you too, one of my babies hated cold while teething and preferred warmth! (I actually understand this since I too am sensitive to cold!)
The baths and offering in a very relaxed manner or while you are doing things such as rocking or walking can also provide an opportunity for baby to latch comfortably.
Some of the reasons could be
1) If the baby is ill (ear infection, hand, foot, mouth disease, teething, etc.)
2) If there's an overactive letdown
3) If the baby was startled at the breast (e.g., by mom yelping if bitten, etc.)
4) If the baby has been forced to nurse
5) If the baby was vaccinated
Nursing strikes generally last a few days, but there are cases where it could go on for longer periods as well. If babies stop nursing prior to 18 months of age, it's probably a nursing strike and shouldn't be considered as the baby self-weaning.
If your baby is on a nursing strike,
1) Make sure baby is feeding sufficiently, either by offering the breast when the baby is sleepy or offering expressed milk. Try not to use a bottle at this time. Open cups, shot glasses, straw cups, spoons, paalada are all options that can be used.
2) Keep an eye on the baby's pee count. That’s your best bet to check if the baby is getting enough.
3) Make sure that your supply is maintained, by feeding the baby regularly, pumping or hand expressing
4) Gently encourage the baby to return to the breast. Do lot of skin to skin. Never force the baby to latch.
The following scenarios are not nursing strikes.
1) At around 3-5 months of age, babies get distracted and don’t nurse as often as they used to. Offer in a dark and boring place. They also get more efficient at nursing around the same time. It’s nothing to worry if the baby has 6+ wet nappies.
2) Changes in nursing patterns, like nursing fewer times once solids are introduced. It can be due to offering too many solid meals.
3) Baby rejecting the breast after bottle feed has been introduced. Babies tend to prefer the fast flow from the bottle, compared to putting effort to suck from the breast and hence reject the breast.