Why Baby May Suddenly Refuse the Breast
Learn why babies stop nursing—and how to get your baby breastfeeding again.
It's very rare for babies to wean themselves off the breast. So, if your baby suddenly seems reluctant to breastfeed, it might be what's referred to as a nursing strike. It signals that something is different-though not necessarily wrong-and has caught your baby's attention. Don't take it personally! Comfort your baby, and keep offering your breast. Before long, your baby will start nursing again. If they don't, reach out to your WIC breastfeeding staff for tips and support.
What might be the cause
Many moms are confused when their babies go on strike. Some common reason why babies may go on strike are:
- Your baby is not feeling well. It could be from a cold, ear infection, stuffy nose, upset stomach, injury, teething, thrush, cold sore, or other reasons.
- Your baby is upset. Maybe there is a big change in nursing routine, you were apart for a long time, or your baby's environment is uncomfortable.
- Your baby is distracted. Perhaps there are fun things happening nearby.
- Your baby is getting less milk from you. Supplemental bottles may cause milk production to drop, but there are other reasons for low milk supply as well.
- You smell different. This can be from a new soap, deodorant, or perfume.
- Your baby bit you while nursing. Your baby may pause breastfeeding if a bite caused you to react strongly, like a loud "ouch!"
What you can do
Don't worry. With your gentle persistence, the refusal will end. If your baby is less than 1 year old and has been breastfeeding well up to this point, chances are they're not ready to give up breastfeeding. Here's what to do:
- Keep putting your baby to your breast. Try this when your baby shows hunger signs or seems sleepy, and just after your baby wakes up. If your baby is frustrated, stop and try again later.
- Give your baby extra loving. Give your baby extra cuddles, touches, and comfort. Hold your baby skin to skin, and keep your baby close.
- Pump or hand express your milk. Do so at the times your baby used to nurse. Feed your milk to your baby. That way, you will keep making enough milk and will be less likely to get plugged ducts or engorged breasts.
- Try different nursing positions. A different breastfeeding position can make your baby more comfortable.
- Nurse in a calm, quiet spot. Babies may strike when they are older, as they begin to notice the world. They may snack instead of nursing for long sessions. Try breastfeeding away from TV sounds and bright lights.
- Keep your routine. Keep your baby's routine as regular as you can.
- Visit your baby's doctor. Make sure there's not a medical cause for your baby not wanting to breastfeed, and ask for advice.
Above all, keep trying to breastfeed your baby. Your baby will most likely be breastfeeding again before you know it. Need help? Ask your WIC breastfeeding staff.