A couple of weeks ago, Ben bit me quite hard while nursing, and it shocked/hurt me. My reaction (which wasn’t even a particularly big one) upset him so he stopped drinking, and the same thing happened a couple of hours later. Only that time, it triggered something bigger; something which I later discovered is called a Nursing Strike. I’d never heard about them before, and they’re apparently very common – but I’m sure that there are many other breastfeeding mums like myself who don’t know about them. So I’m here to tell you everything I know.
Let me start here – Ben is very much a booby baby. He loves breastfeeding, I love breastfeeding him, and neither of us want to stop anytime soon. So when out of the blue and all of a sudden, this happened, I knew it wasn’t weaning.
Self-weaning seldom starts before the age of 18-24 months, and it’s a much more gradual process. Feeds become shorter and fewer and further between. When a nursing strike occurs, it’s abrupt and unexpected, and even though it seems like the child wants nothing to do with your breasts, there’s a very good chance that they will start again once they’ve had time to process and recover from whatever it is that upset them. Now, what might upset them?
There are so many things that can trigger a strike. Things like:
– Hormonal changes (period, pregnancy…) which affect the taste of the milk
– Mother smells different (change in perfume, deodorant, soap…)
– Teething pain/discomfort
– Child is frightened by mum’s reaction to a bite during a feed
– Decrease in milk supply triggered by stress, illness, medication, hormone changes, etc…
There are several other reasons that a strike can happen – I feel like these above might be the most common. And aside from being common, it’s also easy for there to be a combination of them – and the more factors there are, the more likely they’ll cause a strike. In my case, there were 4 of these simultaneously: I was on my period, I had just recently changed deodorant, Ben had a new tooth coming out, and my reaction to his bite was basically the cherry on the cake.
Many people told me that he probably just weaned; that I need to accept and come to terms with it and that it’s up to the child, not the mother. And while this is true, and I’m a firm believer of letting the child lead, I just knew that this wasn’t weaning. After a full day of refusing feeds (but drinking from a bottle when offered), I got to doing some research and that’s when I learned about nursing strikes. And that’s when it all made sense. And the more research I did, the more certain I was that I needed to keep going.
I hate pumping, it frustrates me and I really struggle to express a decent amount of milk, but it was the only way I could keep my milk supply up during this strike. Now according to the research I’ve done, most nursing strikes typically last anywhere between 2 – 4 days, though they can take up to 2 weeks or even more in rare cases. Ours lasted 13 days. Thirteen days. They were tough, I’m not going to lie. But I’m so glad I stuck it out.
Throughout the strike, Ben would keep asking (signing) for milk, tugging at my top as he would when he wanted a feed, but then once I’d offer it to him, he’d turn his head away or even get upset. Even at night while sleeping, he would seal his lips and turn away. It’s quite heartbreaking (and frustrating) from the mother’s perspective too. You kind of feel useless and rejected and like you’re doing something wrong. You’re not. ❤️
There are many recommended things to try during a strike, such as:
– Offering a feed regularly, but never forcing
– Doing a lot of skin to skin
– Taking a bath together with your child
– Trying to nurse in a different place / position
– Trying to feed at night while the child is drowsy or asleep
Now in my case, I was determined to keep at it because it makes sense for me to, in the sense that I am home with Ben all the time and so it made it a bit easier. Some mums might wish to use this as an opportunity to wean if they were planning on stopping soon anyway. A lot depends on the age of your child, your personal lifestyle and routine, and ultimately whatever you feel is right for you and your baby. All I’m saying is that if this happens to you, there’s a good chance that your child will go back to nursing after a few days or so, so if you want to continue, you most certainly can.
Of course, whatever you decide is entirely up to you. I just don’t want other mothers to go through this shock and unwillingly wean their child and stop breastfeeding because they’re told their child has weaned, when it isn’t the case.
I really feel like there needs to be more awareness about this. Nearly every other breastfeeding mother I’ve spoken to has told me she’s never heard of nursing strikes before. So I’m hoping that by sharing this, maybe I can help some other mums out there, or at least raise some awareness about it.
Sending lots of love to all my breastfeeding mamas! It’s such a beautiful and special journey. I’m so grateful and blessed that mine and Ben’s isn’t over yet. We’re 14 months in and still going strong. 🙂
If you are going through anything similar or have experienced this and would like to share your story with me or ask me any questions, go ahead and get in touch with me directly through Instagram or Facebook, or leave a comment below! Y’all know I’m always up for a chat and happy to help in any way I can.
Until next time,
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