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Babies on (Nursing) Strike!

Mar02

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Hi Amy,

I love your column! The only consolation about our current baby woes is that I finally have a question worth writing to you about. My almost-7-month-old baby has been steadfastly refusing to nurse for a week now. Seven days, not a single suck.

As background, we’ve had a stellar nursing relationship since about 5 days after she was born, when she got good at latching. My supply has been great, she eats A TON, and she’s big and healthy and thriving in every way. I went back to work at 8 weeks, found a pumping routine that worked for me and made enough for her, and she’s never had any trouble switching between boob and bottle. The only hiccups came when I would eat curry for lunch and she’d refuse to nurse that night – no problem, give her a bottle, and no more Indian food once I figured it out. More recently, with the advent of teeth, she bit me a few times, I cried out, she got upset. But we recovered from those times. We coped with the “distracted phase” by only nursing in her bedroom with the door closed. When she refused to nurse a week ago, I chalked it up to Thai food for lunch and thought nothing of it, until she refused the next morning too . . . and the next night . . . and every single day since then. I keep offering her the breast, but the closest she’s come is to sort of half-curiously mouth at it and move on, like it was a subpar toy. Most of the time if I try to get her into nursing position (any nursing position, up to and including some ridiculous acrobatics), she arches away and fusses.

I talked to a lactation consultant (“I can tell you for sure she’s not self-weaning at that age. Let her comfort nurse and try to reduce stress in your life.”) and our pediatrician (“huh, she’s healthy, it doesn’t look like thrush. probably nothing to worry about.”) but still feel lost and desperate. Other factors in play: she may well be teething (drool, lots of chewing), we still think thrush might be an issue (persistent diaper rash, I have some stabby boob pain, although who knows if that’s related to the pumping extravaganza of the past week?), and she may be low-grade sick (has been slightly fussier than normal all week, now is running a fever). Also, she’s super independent and has never been much for comfort-nursing. She’s also really unimpressed by solid foods so far – as in, less than half a teaspoon of puree per day – so doesn’t get any significant calories except from breast milk. I haven’t changed diet, medication, soap etc. I do have a whole pile of other stress in my life, but nothing that has really changed in the last few weeks.

So far I’ve been pumping up a storm, trying to feed her and maintain my supply in the hopes that she’ll change her mind. But it’s not a sustainable routine for the long term, and not what I signed up for as an excited-to-breastfeed mom. Also, owwwww overpumped boobs ow.

So my questions are 1) How long do we keep trying? Everything I’ve read on nursing strikes promises that they’ll resolve in 2 – 4 days. Could she really have weaned herself before 7 months, and before she likes to eat anything else? 2) What else can we do to “keep trying”? Are there sneaky tricks to get a baby back on the breast? Should we do the whole crazy thrush treatment process even though the doc doesn’t buy that she has thrush? 3) If she really is done breastfeeding forever, what can I do to make the quitting process less . . . miserable? The prospect of cutting back on pumpings and just watching my supply dry up sounds awful. I really liked having that special time with her, and thought we’d still have it for at least a few more months. I’m amazed at how completely depressed I feel now that she’s rejecting it. Seriously, I’ve been crying and losing sleep over it. Help!

Thanks so much,
A flummoxed pumper

Argh! Nursing strikes. I SHAKE MY FIST AT THEE, NURSING STRIKES!

From way over here, it sounds teething-related. Since your pede ruled out thrush (stabby boob pain sounds more like a possible plugged duct from the switch from nursing-baby-to-all-pumping — thrush is a hot itchy feeling, like athletes’ foot in your nipples) and I’m assuming checked for an ear infection, I’d say teething. Drooling, diaper rash, fussiness, low-grade fever…we’ve gotten all that (AND MORE!) just from good old-fashioned nasty teething. And yes, I KNOW all the books and websites will tell you that “teething doesn’t cause fever.” Whatever, books and websites.

It’s possible that with all the drooling and pain from teething caused nursing to become uncomfortable — maybe add in a sore throat or mild ear infection that cleared up by the time your pede saw her, maybe she’s got a little cold or allergy congestion — and she’s yet to forget about it and give nursing another go. It’s very unlikely that spicy foods in your diet had anything to do with the initial rejection, for the record, so if you’re holding on to any residual curry/Thai food guilt, you can let that one go. (I know, I know! I just did That Thing where I said X doesn’t cause Y when I’m sure a zillion people can anecdotally disagree, just like I disagree with the teething/illness connection. AM HYPOCRITE.) And the truth is sometimes you just can’t figure out what causes/caused a nursing strike. Since there isn’t a supply/letdown problem or a big appetite for solids, teething or some other illness/physical discomfort was/is probably the cause.

But no matter what the cause, what do you DO about it? It sounds like you’ve probably read everything Google can offer up about nursing strikes and encouraging a baby back to the breast. Wait it out, babywear/co-sleep, do skin-to-skin, offer when she’s especially sleepy to combat that independent, distracted streak, and offer, offer and offer some more. Recognize that she’s probably not going to root and ask for it, even though I know the rejection is painful. (More on that in a second.) Maybe a nipple shield or alternative feeding device? Pump a little first to get your letdown happening and the milk…uh…dripping…so she’ll get milk right from the start, even if she’s not really sucking? Commenters who have survived a week-long nursing strike? Any additional suggestions?

Okay, so moving onto “No babies self-wean before a year! You’re just misinterpreting a developmental stage! You just secretly WANT to wean and are telling yourself it’s baby-led to make yourself feel better.”  I have nursed two babies who weaned before a year. And no, neither case was completely baby-led, but more like the end result to a bunch of weird-to-crappy circumstances that were out of our control. But it’s still not fair to say that *I* chose to wean either of them, or that I really had any choice at all.

Noah and I never had it “easy,” but I still nursed as long as I possibly could before my crap supply (and his patience for it) finally completely gave out at five-and-a-half months. Ezra, on the other hand, was a more emotionally difficult weaning, because things HAD been so great! Just perfect! I conquered everything that went “wrong” the first time and I WAS WINNING AT BREASTFEEDING.

Then the biting started. I did everything — EVERYTHING — the books and websites and my lactation consultant told me to do. He bit to the point of leaving me black-and-blue, so I swear I wasn’t being a baby about some light little lovebites. It HURT and made me dread nursing. He did not care one bit about being removed from the breast and told “no biting!”, or if he bit again and I ended the feeding — the only loser in that scenario was my supply. He started eating more solids and crawling and cruising. He got really distracted and wouldn’t stay latched on for more than a minute or two at a time, no matter where I nursed or how quiet I managed to make the room. (Which wasn’t always possible anyway, what with a three-year-old banshee running around during the day.)  I kept repeating to myself that HE WASN’T WEANING, because HE WASN’T A YEAR, and totally believed all the things I read about just needing to power through this “developmental phase” and we’d be back on track to nursing for many more months.

He nursed for the last time sometime in the 10-1/2 month range. I was quietly devastated, but mentally, I just couldn’t keep doing it. I couldn’t keep dealing with not knowing how the next feeding would be received — would he reject me outright again? bite me? take forever and a day to focus on even getting an ounce or two and then I would need to pump anyway and give him a bottle and what was I supposed to do with Noah during this whole extended production?  But I didn’t want to “give up” or “fail” so I kept trying, especially since I was soooooo upset already about the possibly of weaning that I couldn’t fathom how terrible I would feel once he actually, you know, weaned.

And I won’t lie: It didn’t feel good at first, once I stopped directly offering the breast. Because BAM. That was it. Over and done. Everything you describe, oh my God, YES. I was so disappointed and sad and stinging from the rejection — it was so EASY for him! Look, he doesn’t even miss it at all! What the HELL, child?

But then it…stopped feeling like that. I don’t think I’ve thought about the weaning thing in ages, until today! It just…was what it was, you know? I glad I did everything I could — just like you are.  I gave him plenty of time and opportunity to change his mind — just like you are. I no longer second-guess or blame myself. I moved on and focused on new non-boob-focused ways to bond with my babies and to enjoy the benefits that came from NOT being the primary source of food and tied to the pump multiple times a day.

And I’m not sure how much longer Ike will nurse — my supply took a nosedive once he started solids and I’m doing everything I can to boost it back up, while ALSO dealing with the super-distracted phase and his desire to be moving around ALL THE TIME.  And pumping/teas/supplements just aren’t cutting it the way they used to. (At least he isn’t a biter!) I always thought the newborn days were the toughest for breastfeeding — I never realized how difficult it can be later in the game too, after you think everything is established and hunky-dory.

Obviously, I hope your story ends the way you want it to — in fact, I hope in the time between you sending in your letter and this column, your daughter sprouted those pesky teeth and/or just got over the mysterious strike and is nursing again JUST TO MAKE YOU FEEL SILLY.

BUT. If she isn’t, and if this strike does turn into a permanent resignation from nursing, and if you decide that pumping is the pits and you want to stop that too: IT WILL BE OKAY. It really, really will. You did nothing wrong. You are a good mama and you gave her a wonderful start and it’s okay if food/formula take over from here. Sometimes it just…happens and we don’t know why. Sometimes we do know why but all the sage advice and wisdom and resources in the universe just aren’t enough to make it work.

And please know that as huge and heavy as this is hanging on you now…it won’t always feel like that. As your daughter grows you will gain an appreciation for how BIG her life is, and that however long you nursed her for is actually only a tiny blip in the big picture. Even if you nursed her well into toddlerhood, it would STILL just be one small part of your lifelong role as her mother. And you’ll be able to treasure that one small part without guilt and what-ifs, because it was lovely while it lasted, but everything that came after is just as wonderful.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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34 Responses to “Babies on (Nursing) Strike!”

  1. Jen Mar 02 at 2:29 pm Reply Reply

    Just because the pediatrician said it doesn’t look like thrush doesn’t mean that isn’t the problem. When my older daughter and I had thrush, she never had the typical white coating in her mouth– just tiny bumps inside her lip that were really hard to see.
    I would treat for thrush since there is no downside to doing it– and if you have been having pain that can be the issue. But I would start with Gentian Violet and see if that helps– follow the Dr. Newman Candida Protocol- you can find it on kellymom.
    I would also give ibuprofen if she might be teething and see if that helps.

  2. Bethany Mar 02 at 2:53 pm Reply Reply

    One thing that wasn’t specifically mentioned by the OP or Amy, which the OP may nonetheless have already tried, is taking a bath with your daughter. Sometimes the relaxation of being in the warm water, and all snuggled skin-to-skin, and the boobs just being right there, but not in a high-pressure “please latch on! please latch!” situation, will get a baby re-interested. 

  3. SHannon Mar 02 at 3:09 pm Reply Reply

    If it might be teething-related, you might try giving her some pain relief (Tylenol, Advil) and trying about an hour later.  Maybe if she gets some relief she’ll consider nursing?  Also, were you ever able to “dream feed” her?  Might be worth a try!

  4. Lauren E. E. Mar 02 at 3:20 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with everything Amy said. I also want to let you know that my son weaned himself at 8 months. He actually sat up and pushed me away when I tried to nurse him. He just didn’t want to do it anymore. There was nothing else wrong. So, if you decide (or she decides) to be done with it, know that babies DO wean before a year, and you did the best you could. It’s hard and sad at first, but you get over it pretty quickly, just as Amy said. The last time I nursed him I knew we were done, and I just took it in, appreciated the great experience breastfeeding was, and then let it go, like a balloon into the air.

  5. crabbyappleseed Mar 02 at 3:23 pm Reply Reply

    My older daughter went on just exactly this type of strike, at about two months old. I. Was. CRUSHED. She was already extremely, severely colicky, did not like to be snuggled, and generally appeared to wish for my demise. The strike was the cherry on the icing on the cake. I did manage to get her back on the breast and we nursed for a year, but it took a LOT of effort. what worked for us (and I realize may not work for you, but just throwing stuff out there to see if any of it sticks): she loved our bathroom. In fact, during her bad fussy periods, we would bring her in there and lie her on the floor. So I would lie on the floor with her and keep just occasionally and oh-so-casually offering her the breast. That eventually stopped working. When I noticed she readily took the bottle, I started actually holding a bottle nipple over my own nipple, so she had the bottle nipple in her mouth and didn’t know she was nursing. Worked like a charm, but took a LOT of effort, because I had to keep a death grip on that nipple (my lactation consultant said if it worked, I should just do it, but I can see how it would have some safety drawbacks, for the record). We graduated from there to a shield, and from the shield, to just the breast. When we dropped the shield completely, I always had to drop everything adn nurse her the minute she showed an inkling of hunger (when she woke up in the night, I had my shirt unbuttoned by the time I got to her room, and lifted her directly out of the crib and onto the breast).

    It’s a lot of work. Here’s the other thing I really want to say: If you just can’t do all of that? You nursed her for seven months and that is awesome. And if you DO want to try all of that? You aren’t crazy. People will give you crap either way, regardless of what you choose. it’s YOUR relationship with your daughter, people who don’t support you can go pound sand.

    wishing you the best.

  6. Carie Mar 02 at 3:40 pm Reply Reply

    My guy went on nursing strikes every time he was teething until I weaned him at a year. What I found helped the most was to dab just a bit of orajel on his gums right before he nursed and that would numb enough that he would latch on. Good luck I hate nursing strikes.

  7. Susan Y Mar 02 at 3:57 pm Reply Reply

    So much yes to the “babies don’t self wean before a year” part of your post. I put myself through the wringer trying to get my son to keep nursing when he was showing signs of being done and completely uninterested. Supplements, milk boosting foods, kept offering and offering, he slept right next to me. I was lucky to get a great sleeper who decided sleeping overnight was more exciting than nursing, my supply dwindled and at just over 10 months he shut his mouth closed like a steel trap and turned away from my breasts. I cried and cried and cried for a few days, felt like a failure, STILL KEPT TRYING for a week, and he still kept giving me the stink eye. Finally, I opened a bottle of wine and got the heck over it. That may not be the issue here so keep trying all that you can as long as you want but I agree with Amy, sometimes these things just happen. Kids, I tell ya!

  8. Kari Mar 02 at 4:14 pm Reply Reply

    A friend of mine had trouble with nursing when her cycle was starting back. Her son did the same sort of thing. You didn’t mention your period, but I thought of it because you said your boobs hurt from pumping, and when I was used to pumping, mine hurt so bad around ovulation.

    Regardless of what happens, great job! Pumping at work is no joke and you are to be commended.

  9. yasmara Mar 02 at 4:15 pm Reply Reply

    My first baby went on a nursing strike when he was 7 months old too (might have even started at 6 months, I’ve blocked out as many memories as possible). In our case, it turned out to be permanent. I tried for a MONTH to get him to nurse again, and he WOULD NOT. Every trick in the book…and they all failed. My husband was super supportive of breastfeeding, but finally, he had to stage a mini-intervention and help me realize it wasn’t working and no amount of trying on my part was going to get it working again. We switched over to 100% bottle (and fairly shortly after that 100% formula, since my supply dried up quickly & I wasn’t able to pump enough). 

    I won’t sugar coat it – it took a LONG time for me to get over it. But guess what? He doesn’t remember any of it and didn’t suffer any harm from it (he also turned into the world’s stubbornest child, so maybe it was a sign of things to come!).

    If none of the really excellent suggestions en up working, allow yourself some time to grieve, but try to get past it – your baby would much rather enjoy closeness with you with a bottle, not struggling to nurse if she really doesn’t want to.

  10. c Mar 02 at 4:38 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter did something similar for three or 4 days and I found that she would nurse if I walked around carrying her while she was nursing. Luckily she went back to being her regular boob-focussed self because (A) I was an emotional wreck and (B) its really hard to hold a baby like that for any given period of time.

    I really hope that your little one comes around….I’m sure that you’re just beside yourself right now.

  11. Emily Mar 02 at 5:17 pm Reply Reply

    good advice all around. And just realize that ‘special time’ doesn’t have to come from the boob. You can cuddle and kiss and caress while holding a bottle. Because you’re not ready, I hope you get more nursing chances, but ‘bottle’ does not equal an end to the cuddle time by any means. I had to give up nursing before I wanted and I still held my baby for every single feeding (with a few sweaty exceptions like when she was starving after a run, but 98% of the time, all cuddles). In fact, at 17months old, I still get awesome cuddle time first thing in the morning with her sippy of milk. It’s all in the choices you make on the atmosphere whether the milk is coming from you or a bottle.

  12. Cara Mar 02 at 7:07 pm Reply Reply

    Just to add to the chorus of ‘it’s the teething’ – I really think it’s a good chance it’s that because she’s not interested in solids yet and their whole jaw can actually get swollen around teething, making latching painful. My comfort nurser wanted to be on my breast constantly, but if tbe pain was bad she wouldn’t latch or get a good suck. We found Tylenol didn’t work as well for the swelling as Motrin. So, I’d add to the suggestion of dosing her a bit in advance that you also try different meds to see if she gets more comfort from one than another. Also, if she uses frozen waffles or a cold teething ring, maybe offer that first and then ask her to nurse once she’s numbed a bit? Finally, to continue the chorus, if she really is done that is just fine in the long scheme of things and you’ve done a great job.

  13. Katie B Mar 02 at 9:22 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter was also not a comfort nurser, and 7 months was our hardest breastfeeding time. She was more distracted, she had (finally) started teething, she was taking bottles while I was a work that were fun! and exciting! because she could hold them herself and sometime Dad would read her a story. 

    The teething was the one thing we could help with, and it did help us get over her super-distracted hump: as others have said, Tylenol and/or Advil (can be used together, call your pharmacist if you want detailed advice on dosing), baby wash clothes from the freezer, soothers/pacifiers from the freezer, and “dream feeds” when I was really desperate to get a nursing session that day – I’d wake her up before I went to bed to nurse, and she would usually take a tiny bit and go back to sleep.

    I hope some of the (many good) suggestions you get from Amy and the commenters help – you are doing a good job, and whatever the outcome, you and your babe will be ok!

  14. Robin Mar 02 at 10:11 pm Reply Reply

    Okay, this is a totally random suggestion, but just in case it helps … have you tried nursing *while walking*? This has worked for me for both my babies when they refused to nurse. I would try it when your baby is sleepy, and walk him around sort of in nursing position, maybe shushing a little, and when he’s comfortable and calm, just sort of quickly pull down your shirt, latch him on, and pick up your walking speed a little. It’s super ridiculous and awkward, but somehow the movement of the walking seems to override the automatic nursing objections. Good luck!

  15. sam Mar 02 at 11:00 pm Reply Reply

    As a semi expert in boob yeast, I have to disagree about the nursing pain. While it does feel itchy/burny to have yeast in your breasts, there is also stabbing pain deep into the tissue. Put a washcloth/towel damp with regular white vinegar on your nipples. Hang on for 30 seconds. If you are in a lot of pain, it’s probably thrush. It hurts during and after nursing, and it hurts A LOT. Is the flat tip part of your nipple a red/pink that isn’t normal? Another sign of yeast. I HATE YEAST SO MUCH. If it’s yeast, go to Kellymom.com, but also cut the sugar out of your diet. Yeast lives on it. I hope you get her nursing again, strikes are so hard.

    • RRD Mar 05 at 2:24 pm Reply Reply

      I 100% agree with this.  I had thrush for MONTHS with baby showing no signs and it HURT.  Stabbing pain through my breast while I was nursing and even when I wasn’t.  Also, same baby self weaned at 9 months, almost cold stop.  Just was not interested in being stuck in a chair at the boob when there were so many other things she could be doing. 

  16. Kate F Mar 03 at 9:35 am Reply Reply

    Just a note to say thrush can definitely feel stabby. I had it for two months (uuuuugh) when my son was tiny, and it was like knives inside my breasts when he nursed. I kept trying violet gentian and getting plugged ducts, and finally sucked it up and got the meds–pills+probiotics for me, mouthwash for him–and it was gone in a week.

  17. Summer Mar 03 at 11:29 pm Reply Reply

    Oh girly, I feel your pain. Literally. I could have written this letter. Lucky for my little one, I was one stubborn mama to get him to nurse for as long as he has. My problems started with flat nipples. The only thing I could do was use a nipple shield for the first 4! months. What a pain in the patootie. During which time, I also got thrush. And for me, I did have the stabbing pain in my breasts, along with my nipples feeling like they were going into a pencil sharpener every time he latched. He started what I guess was a nursing strike at 6 months, once solids were pretty well established. Which made my supply dip, of course. I pumped and pumped and got less and less. He was down to only feeding morning and night and having pumped milk/formula for every other feed. By 7 and a half months, he wouldn’t take the breast anymore. He would cry no matter which way I tried it. I blamed everything, teething, solids, me giving him formula, and myself, of course! But in reality, it was all fine. He is a perfectly healthy boy in the 90th percentile in weight. And now, at 8 months, he wakes up once a night(in a 12 hour stretch, I’ll take it!) and he nurses. And I love it, and he goes back to sleep like the little baby that he is. :) Bottom line, don’t be hard on yourself. It may just be time, no matter what anyone else says. You will know.

  18. Beth Mar 04 at 10:43 am Reply Reply

    Around 9 1/2 months my son stopped nursing during the day. He would do it at night, and maybe first thing in the morning, but flat out refused everything else. I tried EVERYTHING suggested by La Leche for days- and nothing worked.
    I kept pumping during the day, but after a while my supply dwindled and I just had to give it up. It was totally devastating to me, especially since we had problem after painful problem in early nursing and I was so proud that I had made it through that, and I was determined to make it to my goal of one year. But my son, he had other ideas. And at some point I had to stop feeling guilty and try to enjoy our life again without hooking myself up to the pump all the time while he sat in his baby swing and stuffing Fenugreek down my throat and trying to figure out how to fix “the problem”. In my case, I really don’t believe there was anything else I could have done- he was finished and that was that. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty, either for continuing to try, or for making peace with it and letting it go. It’s hard to believe it now, but someday this will be a blip on the radar. Best wishes.

  19. SW Mar 05 at 10:42 am Reply Reply

    Hey there — my daughter was exactly like this.  She would go through periods (sometimes a couple of weeks at a time) where the mere sight of my boob would have her screaming.  It was around the same time, and I never did figure out what was up.  It was around the same time I went back to work, so I figured she just liked the bottle better.  My supply took a huge dip when I started pumping, and that didn’t help matters either.  I’m sure it was harder for her to get what she wanted from me quickly but then her not nursing made the supply problems worse.  I was SO devastated.  I had a huge freezer stash going and I just sat there watching it dwindle.  But here’s what I wanted to say.  In our case, it got better.  I don’t know what did the trick.  I think for us, it was just repeatedly offering the boob but at specific times of the day when I knew she wasn’t cranky and tired.  So the evening/before bed time session that I loved, I dropped for a while and just added an extra pump.  On weekends, when she wasn’t tired from daycare, I’d try more often.  And I don’t know, eventually she just went back to it.  We weaned for real at about 14, and at that point, we were mostly down to the morning and evening nurse.  This isn’t to say that you absolutely have to keep trying or anything like that.  I just wanted to say that in our case, it did get better with time. 

  20. MR Mar 05 at 11:58 am Reply Reply

    This really really sounds like teething pain. I have found that even ibuprofen doesn’t always help with teething pain. But ice works! Put an ice cube in one of those mesh teether bags or twist it up in a washcloth and let her suck on it. My LO usually goes through 2 or 3 ice cubes and then is a completely different baby (if she still tries to grab for the cloth or bag even if there isn’t any ice left, give her another cube – you’ll know she is done when she drops it and tries to go play or something – oh, and put a bib on her! It will melt all over her clothes, but it is worth it). Do this and then try to nurse her. If it is teething, it makes a HUGE difference.

  21. Kathleen Mar 05 at 1:22 pm Reply Reply

    All of the above – do what you can, and if it doesn’t work, move on. (Not trying to be trite or dismissive, here: actually aiming for supportive, but short.)
    But I have to add – going one step beyond the “what about your period” commenter:  My daughter made  me go out of my mind trying to figure out her nursing issue was,  at seven months.  I eventually realized I was pregnant. There really were none of the normal clues, since  I had had so few, so irregular and such light periods since she came along. By the time she was 10 months and I had a confirmed pregnancy test, it all made sense.  
    Hoping the best for you and yours!

  22. Sarah Mar 05 at 5:33 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter stopped nursing suddenly at 7 months for no good reason. She, too, wasn’t even eating solids foods either. I ended up exclusively pumping for an entire month. i offered her the breast every day and she would never take it. Up until then, we had a wonderful nursing experience from day 1. I was completely devastated, but after one month of pumping, I gave up. So I don’t have any advice, but maybe it helps to know that it’s happened to other people as well.

  23. A Mar 06 at 12:13 pm Reply Reply

    My son went on a nursing strike around 9.5 months. He had just gotten in the two top and bottom teeth and he bit down HARD and I screamed! I thought he had bitten my nipple off! Apparently I traumatized him and he refused to nurse for almost a week. I was really worried because he had always refused to take a bottle and even on the strike he refused it. So no bottle or breast. My doctor said to just give him as much watery food as I could (applesauce, any purees, etc). and keep trying, that no baby would willingly starve to death. He did come around but that week was pure hell, me pumping to keep up my supply, offering the breast and a bottle any time he looked hungry, not feeding him for a while to see if he was REALLY hungry he’d nurse or take the bottle, constantly being worried that my baby was starving to death . . . he did go back to the breast eventually. And back to biting. Sigh. We made it another 2 months and I threw in the towel, I was just tired of being bit all the time. But he did eventually stop his strike.

    Hang in there, I hope your little one gets over this soon!

  24. Lydia Mar 06 at 4:50 pm Reply Reply

    Since you mentioned this was keeping you up at night crying: Be aware that weaning brings on some crazy hormone changes that aren’t really widely discussed. I was just chatting about this with my sister when we saw this article:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/26/weaning-depression-link-breastfeeding-postpartum-depression_n_1301233.html

  25. SB Mar 07 at 4:16 pm Reply Reply

    Sorry Amy but stabby boob pain can definitely be a sign of a yeast infection in the ducts. In my experience, a lot of docs dont recognise it and treat it, leaving it to get worse and spread further into the breast. And it is really painful and notoriously hard to get rid of. Only a combination of fluconazole (for me) and nystatin (for bub) worked for us. That got rid of glass-shard-in-the-boob pain that I’d been putting up with for TWO MONTHS. Also, clearing it up made me realize my baby wasn’t fussing and arcing and fighting during feeds because she was being difficult – it was coz her goddammned mouth hurt due to untreated thrush! After I treated it, she went back to being a sweet angel baby during feeds. If you’re at all unsure about your docs “its not thrush” diagnosis, seek a second opinion or self treat anyway.

    The Royal Womens Hospital in Melbourne has a great fact sheet and treatment plan for it on their website.

  26. Erin Mar 26 at 5:14 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have had the roughest road with nursing and my lo has been getting mostly supplement since about 1 week when I had an infection and fevers and she started to drastically lose weight. I did everything including pumping after every feeding and herbal supplements and SNS nursing and even drugs and nothing made a big impact on my non-existent. Now I am back to work and it is all I can do to get her on each breast a couple of minutes a couple of times a day. I wanted so bad to feel bonded to her through breastfeeding, but she really kinda hates it, she wants her food and she wants it now and my boobs just can’t do that for her.
    Anyways, my point is that your words meant so much to me because I have had this nagging guilt at not being able to EBF my baby, like there was something lacking in me and it meant I was a sub-par mother. It’s refreshing to be reminded that breastfeeding is really a short-term part of parenting and there are so many other gifts I can give her as she grows.

  27. Jenn Apr 25 at 2:21 pm Reply Reply

    Finally! Some awesome advice that is so real life that doesn’t make you feel like a failure. Kudos to you and your realism. Going through a strike and was already considering weaning. Stressed and emotional. Taking it way too personally but how can we not? There is so much “advice” out there that is passive aggressively judgmental, pressuring us into doing the “right thing”. I’m sorry but how can somebody else truly know what is “right” for MY relationship with MY child. Thanks for your kind words and making me feel like I can get through this knowing that whatever decision I make will be the right one.

  28. KR Jun 12 at 4:00 pm Reply Reply

    OP here, with a way-overdue update.  Baby never did agree to nurse again.  I pumped exclusively for a month and it was awful for me, for her, and for my husband.  Between the suckiness (no pun intended) of pumping and the passage of time, I finally made up my mind to just give it up.  

    And guess what? It was OKAY. I didn’t initially believe all the commenters who said the trauma of it isn’t so bad after all . . . but it’s true.  I was sad, and then I wasn’t.  Looking back, I actually feel really good (and not guilty! imagine that!) about some advantages to being done nursing earlier than I thought.  

    Many thanks to Amy and commenters for the thoughtful advice and for taking my feelings seriously – both things were so valuable to me in that time!

  29. Elena McFadden Nov 27 at 3:00 am Reply Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this.  My baby is 10 months 3 weeks and stopped nursing a day and a half ago.  I did cry after he bit me.  And he did wake up from a nap to a babysitter yesterday. He eats so much solid food he’s really gone down even on his formula (I had insufficient milk production, he never got more than around 8 oz a day, and has been around 5oz since I went back to work) so god bless the little guy my mommy instinct tells me he is just done but the web rants about how this is impossible before age 1 were making me pretty guilty and crazy.  So thank you, thank you, thank you, you have set my heart at ease this evening.  Thank you.

  30. MJ Jan 02 at 4:10 pm Reply Reply

    Wow, this is what I needed. My DD is on her 3rd strike and she’s only 4.5 months. I feel better after reading this! I think it’s teething/jaw pain. We overcame the first strike w a nipple shield. The 2nd one w skin to skin and a pre-feed bottle and then switch to breast. Strike 3 has been harder. The holidays and travel made it hard to do skin to skin. Pumping is a bear and us controlling my life!
    The Tylenol timing has not worked out, but I’m going to try the ice cube suggested above.
    It has been 2 weeks since since she did a full feed latched on. I’m going to dedicate another week and then move on to bottles/formula.
    While I really miss nursing and gave gone throught emotional gamut, I feel more at peace stopping if it doesn’t work out.
    Thanks all for sharing your experiences!!

  31. Harriet Feb 16 at 6:34 pm Reply Reply

    I’m not sure how old this post is, but having spent hours scouring the net for ‘what is wrong with me’, this is the first article I have read that makes sense – and doesn’t make me feel like a complete failure. In fact, the supportive words have made me quite teary.

    My 8 month old is on day 3 of her nursing strike, and I’ve been tearing my hair out. She has occasionally refused the odd bedtime feed over the past month, but all of a sudden just stopped feeding. Whenever I put her near my breast she bursts into tears and pulls away like I’ve put a gun to her face. It’s so upsetting.

    We’ve been really lucky with breastfeeding and never had any issues until now. My daughter was having 3 breastfeeds a day and has an enormous appetite for solids, which is the only difference to this post. However everything else sounds the same. She’s teething – top tooth cut through a few days ago – and has a grotty cold with it. Plus potentially a mild ear infection as she’s rubbing her ear a bit. 

    I’ve also had my first period this week since giving birth, so like many of the commenters here, know that it might be any number of things causing this strike. I’m hoping it’s not permanent, but am starting to realise that if it is, then I’ve done everything I can.

    Thank you all for sharing your experiences – it’s helped me so much.

  32. Kelley Feb 25 at 11:22 pm Reply Reply

    I am so glad I found this post!  My 7-month-old is on day 6 of a nursing strike, and I am beyond devastated.  This is my third baby, and I nursed the other two to at least a year.  She is probably teething, and also probably had an ear infection over the weekend, but just before that started, she bit me two days in a row nursing and I told her “NO!”  She cried at my response, and now it is like she is scared to death of my breast.  She literally screams bloody murder when it comes anywhere near her!  I work full time, further complicating things — we only nurse once a day during the week (and I pump the rest of the time), but I rely on it exclusively on the weekends.  I refuse to give up hope and have tried so many things so far — tonight I even resorted to putting yogurt on my nipple for her!  That worked for a brief moment until she figured it out; maybe she is just really smart (LOL).  I am determined to keep giving her breastmilk for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether she ever nurses again, but I have been so upset at the prospect that I have seen my last day of actual nursing.  This is supposed to be my last baby, and I was going to nurse her forever.  I know she will be fine no matter what, but I’m not sure I will be!  This post helps some — to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel regardless of what happens.  And I’m also encouraged to read the posts from some who were able to recover from a prolonged nursing strike.

  33. Nicola Jun 21 at 8:21 pm Reply Reply

    I’m so happy I found this post! My 7-month old baby is on day 3 of his nursing strike (will nurse before nap and at night) and I am at a loss. I know he is teething (gave him tylenol tonight) and totally distracted (we nurse in a dark room). My question is about bottles. My guy hates them. He goes to daycare and will only take the bottle from two ladies. We have introduced the sippy cup but he isn’t doing great with it. Anyone else in this position?

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