Nursing Strike in Babies – Why Do Babies Refuse to Breastfeed?

7 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

nursing strike in babies

Being a mommy, it must have been a challenging time for you to get into breastfeeding mode, and finally, you established a sweet nursing schedule with your little one. But one fine day your baby refuses your milk which upsets you and you get worried. You don’t understand why it is happening. This period is known as a nursing strike in babies. Nursing strike in babies is a period where they refuse to breastfeed no matter what

A nursing strike can happen due to many reasons, but the good news is that you can get your back into their breastfeeding schedule with a few tips and techniques. In this article, we explain the various causes for a baby refusing to feed and how you can work with your baby to recreate the feeding pattern without stressing yourself or your baby. pregnancy pillow

In This Article

What is a Nursing Strike?

A nursing strike, commonly known as a breastfeeding strike, is the time when your baby suddenly stops breastfeeding. This usually starts when a baby is at least three months old. This is not a happy moment for both the mother and the baby. But it is important to give some time to the baby. With time your baby will get back to you for breastmilk.

Nursing Strike vs. Self-Weaning- Is it the Same?

Nursing strikes and self-weaning are not the same. The best way to find that your baby is on a nursing strike or self-weaning stage is to go by age. If your baby has not turned one yet, then it is not the time to self-wean. You can be fairly sure that your baby is on a nursing strike. That is the easiest way to differentiate between nursing strikes and self-weaning.

In weaning, a baby may stop breastfeeding intermittently and start again. The baby is interested in breastfeeding but only for a short period of time. But, during the nursing strike, the baby will not feed at all.

[Read : Weaning Baby From BreastFeeding]

Top Causes of Nursing Strike in Babies

Causes of Nursing Strike

Babies refuse to breastfeed for many reasons. We list them below.

  • Change in the taste of milk due to diet or hormonal changes causes frustration in babies.
  • Sometimes the babies get frightened by a loud noise or when mothers shout after a bite.
  • There is also frustration in babies if the flow of milk is too fast or too slow which makes babies refuse to breastfeed.
  • When mommies smell different because of using different products the babies feel uncomfortable and refuse to breastfeed.
  • Sometimes congestion also makes babies uncomfortable for nursing.
  • Also, a sore throat or any wound in the mouth makes it uncomfortable for nursing.
  • Sometimes, a blocked nose may make it difficult for your baby to breathe during breastfeeding which forces him/her to refuse breast milk.
  • This also happens when the baby gets more comfortable with bottling feed.
  • If a baby is teething, the baby may refuse to breastfeed as they experience itchy gums.
  • During ovulation also, the milk supply reduces, which irritates the babies and hence they may reject breastfeeding.

[Read : Oversupply Of Breast-milk – Hyperlactation]

How Long Does Nursing Strike in Babies Last?

A nursing strike may last for 1-2 days or can go on for 9-10 days. But it is important to keep pumping the milk every 3-4 hours to keep up the milk supply. It may seem like a bump in the motherhood journey, but you must be patient to deal with the same. Keep offering your breast to the baby. But if the crying continues then do not force feed. Try to change the environment. A calm and quiet environment with dimly lit lights may pacify your baby.

Top 10 Tips to Resolve a Nursing Strike in Babies

Tips to Resolve a Nursing Strike

Once your baby stops breastfeeding it can sometimes be challenging to make him/her nurse again. Some of the tips to resolve nursing strikes are discussed below:

1. Check For Physical or Health Issues

Any issues with your baby’s health and wellness can interfere with their feeding pattern. The baby may have an ear infection, bladder infection (usually baby passes urine when he/she is breastfeeding), teething, or something that might get stuck in the mouth. All of these can contribute to a nursing strike. Taking your baby to the doctor at the earliest and getting the necessary treatment done will resolve this issue.

2. Are You Wearing a New Perfume?

Babies can be quite choosy and picky. If everything else seems to be fine and your baby has gone on a feeding strike, check if you have started using a new perfume. Chances are that your munchkin hates the smell and consequently is refusing to drink milk.

3. Avoid Pacifier

Do not use a pacifier to satisfy your baby’s hunger. Occasional bottle feed is fine, but it should not be a regular thing as it may lead to a loss of interest in babies to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a natural process. So, it is important to encourage your baby to quench thirst and satisfy hunger at the breast.

4. Don’t Force Feed

Give some time to your baby to latch. Do not force feed. The situation may get worse. Cuddling is very important at this stage. Skin-to-skin touch with your baby is important, which may help in solving the problem of nursing strikes. No need to hurry and keep patience.

5. Breastfeed During Sound Sleep

Often babies latch on when they are in sound sleep. So you can approach your baby for breastfeeding when they are in deep sleep. But if they reject, do not force.

6. Nurse During Movement

It is important to take your baby out during sunny weather and let them take the fresh air. It may help in resolving the nursing strike and bring back the mood in your baby to take breast milk.

7. Have a Warm Bath With Your Baby

Sometimes a warm bath with your baby will help to relax both of you. When the baby gets your breast easily available, they may get into the mood to nurse again.

8. Play music

Play some soothing music and sing along with that to encourage the baby to nurse. This can help to resolve the nursing strike. You can also sing the songs that you would routinely sing for your baby in their early days of life. This may remind them of the comfort of feeding and they may start nursing again.

9. Nursing With Other Babies

Sometimes you can invite friends to your home who have nursing babies. Seeing other babies nursing, your baby might feel like taking to your breasts again.

10. Skin-to-Skin Contact

You can also go skin-to-skin with your baby in a dark room. It might remind the baby of those initial breastfeeding days and he/she might return to your breast.

[Read : Pumping And Expressing Breast Milk]

How to Keep Up Milk Supply During a Nursing Strike in Babies?

women pumping breastmilk

When a baby goes on a nursing strike, the most important concern for a breastfeeding parent is how to keep up the milk supply so that the baby is not left hungry. As doctors suggest, it is important to express milk and keep it ready for babies during feeding time. Instead of giving formula milk, you can give pumped milk to your baby so that you don’t develop plugged ducts or mastitis, and your baby is also not fed any supplements.

Nursing strike in babies is common and is a passing phase. The babies even on nursing strike need to be fed. So, it is better to feed pumped milk so you can also opt for spoon-feeding your breast milk. Or if your baby is used to bottle feeding, then go for slow-paced bottle feed. It will give the impression to a baby that it is just like breastfeeding and avoid nipple confusion. Hand expressing or pumping is important during the nursing strikes because it will keep the milk supply as it is whenever the baby again returns to the breast for milk and there will not be insufficient breast milk.

A nursing strike can be emotionally challenging for both mother and baby. But it does not mean that it is the end of breastfeeding. It continues for a week or some days. But if it continues for more than that it is important to talk to your baby’s paediatrician. Also see if your baby without breastfeeding is eating properly, healthy, and happy. Then it is a sign that nursing strife is not adversely affecting your baby’s health.


1. How Many Feeds Does a Baby Refuse in a Day?

During the nursing strike, the baby can refuse feed any number of times. There is no particular number that a baby refuses to feed. That is why the alternative is to keep pumped milk ready for your baby so that he/she does not remain hungry.

2. Is a Nursing Strike Permanent in Babies?

It depends. A nursing strike usually lasts for 2-3days or can continue for 9-10 days. But if it lasts for a longer period of time then you be sure that your baby has stopped breastfeeding. It may be an emotional moment for you though. But take it easy.

3. At What Age Do Nursing Strikes Happen in Babies?

A nursing strike takes place only after a baby is 3 months old. It is not necessary that it will happen. It is seen in some babies, but not in all.

4. Can Pacifiers Cause Nursing Strikes in Babies?

Yes, pacifiers can cause a nursing strike. If you give your baby formula milk your breastmilk supply may reduce which can cause a nursing strike. So, it is better to give breast milk as much as you can to your baby and better to avoid formula milk.

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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