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By Planning Family

When an Older Baby refuses the Breast

Some mothers and babies run into breastfeeding problems, which for lack of a better expression has been termed a 'nursing strike'. Baby suddenly stops taking the breast although hungry - instead she will scream and cry and push all attempts made by her mother to nurse her. This nursing strike seems to typically occur around the third and later the eight month with some variability. Fortunately it is not as common but definitely a distress to the family concerned.

Probable reasons for Nursing Strike

• Overactive letdown reflex

• Decreased milk supply

• Baby may have a cold - breathing through the nose is difficult and this further puts baby off nursing.

• Baby may be teething - tender gums may hurt from the pressure of new teeth. If she bit you your startled reaction may have put her off nursing.

• Baby may have an earache - nursing may become painful.

• Tensed mother will further stress her baby who becomes too upset to nurse

• Baby may have thrush - this mouth infection can make nursing a problem

Overactive letdown reflex Vs Decreased milk Supply

• A good latch from the start is important as this can be a real reason why this problem comes about to begin with. Nursing strike can last anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks. Majority of cases do not run into weeks as the problem tapers off gradually after a week or two. In some cases it stops as suddenly as it starts.

• As the heading indicates the problem has to do with an abundant milk supply. When the baby goes to the breast, the baby will cry and pull back because of choking - too much milk too soon.

• Conversely when mothers face a decreased flow (which seems to occur around the third month), the baby will start to cry and pull off because he is not getting sufficient milk despite sucking.

Why Low Milk Supply

• Mother is on birth control pill - it is best to discontinue it.

• Mother is pregnant.

• You have been trying to train the baby to sleep through the night hence stretching out the feeds. It is advisable to feed the baby when he is hungry or when he is sucking his hand.

• You are using bottles more frequently and therefore decreasing time at the breast and thereby decreasing milk supply.

• Emotional shock or tension can affect milk supply.

• Mother is overdoing the chores and is left fatigued most of the time.

• Some medications may decrease milk supply.

• Sometimes, particularly around the third month, milk supply decreases for no apparent reason.

What Next..

• Nursing strikes resolve in due time without much intervention; so don't try too hard by forcing your baby as this can aggravate matters. Let your baby suck his fist when he wants to.

• Try the baby on the breast when baby is sleepy - this often works as he is too tired to reject. Help by using gentle compression to keep the flow going.

• Vary your nursing positions - your baby may prefer one you have yet to use.

• Nurse in motion - your baby may take to the breast when you are walking around with him in your arms

• If baby is using a pacifier let him suck it until he is calm and sleepy then try him at the breast

• If you have plans to continue nursing don't substitute bottle feeding right now. If his intake worries you give baby your expressed milk with a spoon or cup.

• Remember: even if baby is breastfeeding only 3-4 times in a 24 hour period he will probably keep healthy. Six wet diapers in a day (don't have to be soaking wet) is a good indicator baby is staying hydrated. If baby shows signs of becoming unusually sleepy and listless, there is no harm in consulting your doctor.

• Apply the same approach if nursing strike occurs when baby is even older, say at 8 months. There are more options then as older babies are eating solid foods as well. You can always mix in your milk with the solids. It is also consoling to know that nursing strikes tend to be shorter this time round than at 3 months.

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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