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When Baby Goes on Strike

Many babies go on a nursing strike at some point.  It may last a day or two.  Causes are often related to teething or sickness.  Sometimes a baby goes on a serious nursing strike.  My friend, Kathleen, experienced one of these.  Here is her triumphant tale of surviving a 39 day nursing strike with her second child, Erik.  Erik was almost 9 months old when he abruptly stopped nursing:

We are fully back to nursing! It is so wonderful to have “our time” back. And he is so happy, too. He is just a happier baby overall, but I think that is also due to the fact that his poor little mouth isn’t killing him.

I was 99% sure it was NOT weaning because he stopped so abruptly. Alex [Kathleen's firstborn] truly weaned by tapering off nursing sessions over the course of many weeks and he was almost 16 months when we stopped for good. Having been through that weaning process helped me realize that what Erik went through was a strike and should be treated that way, even though it lasted so very long.

For the first couple of weeks, I really tried to encourage the breast again. In the last days, though, I did not push so hard. It seemed to make him more upset. I had lots of topless time with him, continued to take baths with him, wore him skin to skin in the carrier, and used the time we would usually nurse together (he likes before and after sleep) to have snuggle time – again, topless so he could latch on if he wanted. I would say, “That’s okay, we’ll nurse later,” and snuggle him even though my heart was breaking.

On the day that he went back, I noticed that the last of his top 4 teeth had poked through and I wondered if he’d go back. Getting him in a diaper and PJs before bed is usually a struggle but on this night, he was oddly subdued and very quiet and calm. He kept staring at my bare chest. I leaned him on the bed and said, “Do you want to try?” He was VERY hesitant, as though he thought it would hurt him and at first, he almost bit me. I said, “No, no, try again,” and helped him to latch as if he was a newborn. I gently but firmly coaxed him on and there he was, nursing again. His eyes opened wide as he remembered it. And we nursed that night for about 40 minutes.

On the next day, he fought me a bit (again, as though he thought it was going to hurt) but once he got going, he would nurse for 30+ minutes. By the 3rd day, we were right back to where we were over a month ago. In fact, he is a less distracted nurser now.

Not nursing made me feel as though I had been split in two and half of me was lost. But I did not accept that he had weaned himself. We went from nursing 8 or more times a day to NOTHING. I knew in my heart that we weren’t done. When I gave him a bottle, I would snuggle him and try to have close time with him then, and tried to have snuggle time that didn’t have anything to do with nursing so it took the pressure off of both of us.

I was honored to be at Erik’s birth and witnessed his very first nursing session.  He was a champion breastfeeder within minutes of his birth–one of the best I’ve ever seen.  I’ve watched from afar as Kathleen persevered through this obstacle.  She pumped faithfully to keep her milk supply and chose to feed Erik with an Adiri bottle which is shaped much like a breast.  With an active toddler to also parent, she could have easily given up.  Most of us would have.   

Personally, I think Kathleen was trying to break this mom’s 40-day record!

 
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