misc.kids Frequently Asked Questions

Nursing Strikes

Collection maintained by: Beth Weiss bweiss@erinet.com

Last updated: 19 May 1997

To contribute to this collection, please send e-mail to the address given above, and ask me to add your comments to the FAQ file on nursing strikes. Please try to be as concise as possible, as these FAQ files tend to be quite long as it is. For a list of other FAQ topics and how to get the archived discussions, tune in to misc.kids or misc.kids.info.

Please DO send copies of this document to anyone who might be interested. The only limitations are:

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The contents of this document are copyright (c) 1992-1997, Beth Weiss, solely to prevent unauthorized for-profit use. This document represents many different opinions, but does not represent Baylor College of Medicine or its opinions in any way.

For a list of other FAQ topics, look for the FAQ File Index posted weekly to misc.kids, misc.kids.info, misc.kids,pregnancy, misc.answers, and news.answers, or see it on the web at http://www.ultranet.com/~pyewackt/kids/faqindex.html.

How this File Came to Be

I had a nursing strike problem when my son was almost 5 months old, which we did solve, and he then continued to nurse until he was 9 months old. This problem comes up fairly frequently, and so I've decided to compile a nursing strike FAQ file to help other nursing moms who run into a nursing strike.

There's a definite bias to which comments I've included and which I've deleted. I'm working on the assumption that all of the people who are concerned about a nursing strike wish to continue nursing, and that comments of the form "let him/her wean" will not be useful or desired.

It is possible to survive a nursing strike, and resume a positive, joyous nursing relationship. This file is compiled in the hopes that others' experiences and advice will help you to do so.

If you try something that isn't included here, please send me e-mail and let me know what it was and how it worked, so that other nursing pairs can benefit from your experiences.

I would like to thank all of the people who have contributed to this file. Some replies came directly to me, some were posted, and some were e-mail to other people trying to get through a nursing strike. I've edited some of the replies to remove names and other identifying prose.

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A Typical Description of a Nursing Strike

A post to misc.kids (late 1992)

Well, he didn't nurse again all morning (he usually nurses every 2 hours, if he's awake). Every time I put him to the breast, he arched : his back and started screaming. Finally, about 2:00 p.m., I got him to nurse by spraying milk into his mouth until he latched on.

This was another post to misc.kids (earlier in '92)

The only feeding he has never refused is his morning feeding, which he still takes eagerly.

This has gotten ugly

Okay, so here are a few theories that have been suggested to me by various lactation consultants and friends:

He's become accustomed to the bottle (getting them at the sitter's) and has decided he likes the bottle better.

He's teething. (If this is true, why does he still like his morning nursing?)

He's more interested in looking around. (Well, I've tried nursing him in all sorts of BORING situations. For one thing, he always seems to be interested in looking at something-- which is a very endearing trait, usually. For another, I would think that at some point he would be so hungry that he would choose eating over looking....) Even if this is the case, there must be a way to get him to eat!

I gave him a deep, psychological wound by crying out in pain when he bit my nipple a week ago (which was the second time in probably 30 seconds). (In my defense, I didn't *do* anything--didn't even move. I didn't scold, didn't yell. Just gave a loud, high-pitched "OUCH!") He hasn't bitten me since, though.

Problems with my supply. He knows he has to work too hard to get too little from the breast, and he's decided it's not worth it. (I think I am having problems with my supply, especially in the evenings--but his refusal to nurse isn't helping it any!)

He's decided to wean himself from the breast. (Isn't this a bit young?)

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Summary of really good ideas:

Individual Replies and Advice

If it's any consolation, I think almost everyone goes through a stage like this. With my son, it was clearly tied to one of the following: teething, restlessness--wanting to play or look around rather than nurse even if he was hungry (they often don't have any common sense at this age :-0), or bad tasting milk. All I can advise is to keep with it, and pump if necessary, to keep up your supply. Also, if you think it might be a problem with a late letdown on your part, perhaps you could get yourself "stimulated" to the point where you are on the verge of a letdown as soon as you put the baby to your breast? Good luck!
PS If I had it to do all over again, I would have kept my son on breastmilk exclusively until well past 6 months. I caved into peer pressure (so unlike me!) and started him on rice cereal (90% breastmilk) at 5.5 months. Even though he was ready developmentally, he was very happy with just breastmilk and from everything I've read since, if you're already feeding your baby the perfect food, why muck around? Anyway, just my unsolicited $0.02!

My son isn't quite as bad, but it's been bad. Everyone has been looking at him for at least 2 months, and says 'teething'. I've found that I can hold him upright and rock him to almost asleep, then move him to the breast when he's really almost asleep and he'll nurse. He doesn't get any bottles, although he will drink water from a bottle or cup. I don't offer it very often, but if I'm having one, he wants some.

Okay, so here are a few theories that have been suggested to me by various lactation consultants and friends:

He's become accustomed to the bottle (getting them at the sitter's) and has decided he likes the bottle better.


He's teething. (If this is true, why does he still like his morning nursing?)

Teeth seem to hurt less in the morning. (I don't know why) Have you tried putting teething gel into his mouth a little while before trying to nurse.

He's more interested in looking around.


I gave him a deep, psychological wound by crying out in pain when he bit my nipple a week ago (which was the second time)

Also possible, if so, he'll get over it, if nursing doesn't become an unpleasant battle.

Problems with my supply. He knows he has to work too hard to get too little from the breast, and he's decided it's not worth it.

Hmm. Keep drinking those fluids. I can't tell what your supply is like from here :-)

He's decided to wean himself from the breast. (Isn't this a bit young?)

I think it's a bit young.

I don't have any other ideas, sounds like a list I'd make up. My son was away from me for 7 hours the other day (first time, but it was *important* for me to attend a meeting without him). He ate 1.5 jars of baby food (we never feed him baby food), acted OK, even seemed to nurse (my friend said she got letdown, although she's nursing a toddler and preschooler). But he did NOT wet his diaper the whole time he was there. He also hadn't nursed for at least 2 hours before we got there (he probably felt my stress). I was certainly worried about him.

Good luck, stick to it, try and relax. My daughter went to nursing only once a day or sometimes twice and I kept my milk. If/when he starts to nurse more, your supply will go back up.


I think the teething theory is very likely. My daughter teethed early (first tooth at 3 months), and it was difficult as she couldn't yet hold anything to get to her mouth to relieve her soreness. She often had difficulty nursing while she was teething. Apparently, the pressure created brings more blood flow to the area and causes pain.

Cold helped her. We would wrap an ice cube in a wash cloth and she would suck on it. If we had her do this prior to nursing, it often seemed to help. If it's any consolation, the first teeth were the worst, then it seemed to get better.

The thing that makes me think of teething in your case is the intermittent nature of it - it will hurt the baby for a while, and then be better.
I hope this helps, and that your problem is short-lived. I know how frustrating it can be. Nursing problems would leave my daughter and I BOTH in tears. But, here she is at 20 months, still nursing! (just twice/day now.)


I'm not an expert, but I did nurse my two babies, for 14 months and 9 months respectively. Your situation sounds really frustrating, and I KNOW how upsetting it can be when your baby seems hungry but screams instead of eating. It's horrible, and I believe that it's especially excruciating for the mother because of hormones. Be assured that NOBODY else reacts the way you do. I guess that's Nature's way of making sure mothers never abandon their babies.

Anyway, when my babies screamed and arched their backs, it was frequently because they were tired. Could this be a problem for your baby? Growth spurts can cause extra tiredness for a few days now and then. Having the baby checked for ear infection was also a good idea. Unfortunately, the infection can't always be detected the first time the doctor looks. I guess it has to get a bit worse before it really looks red in there :-(. Once I took my baby to the doctor three times before the infection was visible - then it was really bad. :-(((

Around 4-5 months of age, babies tend to go through a major change in feeding habit, and nursing breasts go through a major change in letdown response. The change in my babies involved eating less often, wanting "real food" (rice cereal, fruit, etc. - they really wanted it!!!! This was indicated by pointing and reaching at our food, grabbing at our forks, watching hungrily when we ate, and accepting with gusto any baby mush that was offered.), and especially not being able to nurse in "public". They would have a bit of trouble settling down to nurse even in a quiet, dark room, but if there were people or noise forget it. Didn't matter how hungry.

The change in nursing breasts was pretty subtle, but at about this time, I remember that I was less aware of the letdown response, and my breasts would not get real firm as they used to when they were full. I still had plenty of milk, but it just felt different. So just because you don't sense a strong letdown sometimes, it may actually be happening anyway. Neither of my babies ever cared for bottles much, they preferred the real thing, so I kept nursing the first until he weaned himself at 14 months, and the second until I weaned him (so that I could take medicine for migraines) at 9 months.
Good luck. I'm sure things will improve soon and you'll settle into a new routine. =======================================================

She might try nursing him when he's sleepy, or even letting him go to sleep, and then rousing him just enough to nurse.
Good Luck. (Has she tried calling her local La Leche League leader?) ======================================================

In addition to the resources of the net, you should probably talk to your local chapter of La Leche League. They can give good info, and maybe even put you in touch with someone who has gone through the same thing.... ======================================================

I have a feeling LLL may recommend trying to get rid of bottles all together. He could take his milk from a cup, and that way if he wanted to suck, he'd need to rely on you.

I wouldn't feel too bad about his not wanting to nurse during the day. At least, he still wants you in the morning, and for comfort. And a little breastmilk is still better than none.

I hope everything works out for you -- I'm keeping my fingers crossed! ======================================================

I hold my baby in the feeding position and give him a pacifier. After a few seconds I gently take out the pacifier and give him my breast. This usually works very well. He is now almost over his nursing strike, so we can both enjoy feeding time again. =====================================================

Sounds to me like teeth. Or it be an ear infection; has he had a cold lately? Whatever it is, it was probably exacerbated by your completely understandable reaction to his biting. Actually, the fact that he bit you makes the teething diagnosis more likely. Anyway, regardless of the problem, what you need is a solution to help him get over the nursing strike.

It's unlikely he's ready to wean at this young age, and it sounds like you're not ready either. The standard advice for nursing strikes is to try to nurse the baby when he's sleepy; also carrying him around the house in nursing position (if you're strong enough to do this). Pumping when he refuses would probably help too, to make sure that when he's ready to nurse again, there is some nice yummy milk for him.

If you are comfortable with it, this would also be a good time to call La Leche. They have an 800 number (1-800-LA-LECHE) that will refer you to someone local. Nursing strikes are something that La Leche leaders are experienced at dealing with. (I'm not a La Leche member, but they have helped me with some nursing problems.) ======================================================

I don't know if you remember my desperate query of a couple of months ago, when my daughter was about your son's age. She was absolutely refusing to nurse (from a bottle, in her case) and I attributed it to teething. I got great responses, but it turns out she wasn't teething - she's now almost 8 mos. old without a tooth in sight!

So, what's the problem. We don't really know - but it sounds very similar to yours. She sometimes gets through 24 hours on as little as 8 or 9 oz. of formula, which is about half of what she "should" be drinking. We've tried three different formulas, those silly straws that fit inside the bottle, several kinds of nipples, feeding her in a quiet place, distracting her, holding her, letting her hold the bottle herself, etc. etc. etc.

FINALLY we've accepted, after many trips to the MD where we were assured that her ears are fine (did you check this- refusal to nurse can be a symptom of ear infection) and that she is nowhere near dehydrated, that this is just her, and we've relaxed about it. Now, some days she hardly drinks, and some days she drinks 24 oz or so (a LOT for her) and we're all much happier.

I'd advise making sure nothing is physically wrong, and then just letting him call the shots. YMMV, and I *know* - this can make you absolutely crazy! ======================================================
I would keep at it, but ... I would not give him bottles. I'd make sure my supply was up (fluids, rest, pumping) and attempt to nurse him at normal intervals in peaceful, out of the way environments. I went through something like this and I remember how upsetting it was. I started to nurse her in her room. with semi-darkened lights, and sometimes music. She always had nursings that she enjoyed so it was never a total strike. In retrospect I think she was going through a phase of being highly interested in whatever was going on. We nursed until she was almost 2.


I hope things have gotten better. If not, the Womanly Art has a section on nursing strikes ( it sounds like this is sort of a nursing strike). You might try calling your local LLL leader too. They have lots of experience dealing with nursing strikes.

I would suggest concentrating on those feedings that are enjoyable to both. Try to get nursing back to a special mother-son time.

When my daughter was nine months, I had to go to mandatory training that took 7 weeks. When I got back, I went about the task of re-introducing her to the breast. It took a long time, and we continued to supplement with bottles up to 16 months, but I believe it was worth it (and I'll bet she does too! Although I do believe child-led weaning is best, I just couldn't handle it while I was pregnant. So my daughter reluctantly gave up nursing.)
My first baby weaned herself at 3 months. She much preferred the bottle. Since it was what she wanted, I weaned her then. I missed it, but the antibody protection was gone then and I couldn't see forcing the baby to nurse for MY benefit when she clearly didn't want to.

Baby number two was also weaned at 3 months because I went back to work then. I noticed that the nanny feeds him much less formula than I (he's 8 months now). In fact, she stopped giving him bottles at all until I noticed and told her that it was important. Still, he drinks much less for her than for me. My son is very aware of the world now. I take him to his room and feed him where it's quiet and dark while my husband watches my older child. However, the nanny feeds him downstairs with all the noise/distractions of an active household. He gets too interested and drinks very little. Perhaps your little one is having trouble taking his bottle with all the distractions around. Also, at 6 months my babies were eating a lot of solids and aren't really that hungry for their formula. Finally, the sitter may be offering the bottle too soon after/before the solid meals and they may not be hungry yet. Allow at least an hour between a solid meal and the bottle. ======================================================
Something else you might want to check out as a possibility...is that he might have an infection. With my daughter, (now 8 months) she would start crying at dinnertime (solids) and then refuse her bottle. Turned out to be an ear infection.

Also, I stopped nursing her at 5 months, because it just go to be such a hassle - too trying for both us. We started to regularly give her a bottle a day ...to prepare her for daycare. She started to prefer the bottle and would sometimes put up a fight...arching her back ..etc. Also, she loved to look around and didn't like that she couldn't see anything when nursing. From 3-5 months, I would put a picture on a pillow by my back ...which gave her something to stare at when she nursed. This helped, but together with the bottle fight, and the "likes the left side better than the right", was just too much.
It so happens that my son weaned himself from my breast at six months. I did not force him to make this decision. I believe he preferred drinking from the bottle, so I don't think it is too soon.

My bond with my son is very strong and he is about 2 1/2. I think you may somewhat hurt your bond by forcing him. He is starting to be independent and you have to accept it.
My daughter gave up nursing the same time your child seems to be doing. She also used the same tactics which he seems to have adopted. She did it over the course of 2 months.

Since I did not express my milk for her daytime feeding, she used formula and because of that I only nursed her 3 times a day, morning, after work and night. She gave up the after work nursing almost immediately, then the morning feeding and finally the night time feeding.

At 4 months of age, she was cared for at home by my sister, at 5 months, I cared for her while we settled in our new house and at 6 months she started day care. So I don't think that changing providers had anything to do with it.
She also started to crawl at 6.5 months, pulled up at 7.5 months, cruised at 8.5 months and walked at 9.5 months. My husband and I believe that nursing was too confining for her.

I didn't fight her about the nursing issue because 1) She took anywhere from 24 to 32 oz of formula a day. 2) She took 8 oz of juice a day 3) Since I work full time, I didn't want to spend a majority of whatever time I had left with her getting frustrated with her and vice versa.

I felt very rejected, I wasn't ready to give up nursing, but I respected her wishes.

I am sorry I have no advice for you as to how to make him take to nursing again, but I sympathize with you and wanted to let you know that it is not uncommon.
Well, I'm just guessing, but maybe you're eating some type of food that's passing its flavor into your breast milk and he doesn't like it. That would only be a possible explanation if the bottles you give him are of formula rather than breast milk. I didn't pick that up from your post.

I know when I began to breast feed my daughter, the hospital personnel told me to try to avoid excesses of garlic, since a lot of babies don't like it and it passes into the breast milk easily, and to avoid "high-allergy" foods like strawberries and tomatoes, since apparently some babies are very sensitive to these substances in breast milk.

Another stab in the dark might be a new perfume or laundry detergent? I know there are some scents that just turn me right off and almost choke me. I imagine babies might react in the same way at times.

Again, these are just wild guesses but I hope it might help you and your child out.

Oh, I do know how you feel! My daughter (now 9 months) went thought the same stage. She started to fight me on and off from 3 months to 8 month. It was so frustrating. I don't know what finally cured it. Maybe it's just she's older now and needs to eat more so she has a better attitude. Already an attitude problem ;-) ?

Up until this month, She only took 2 4oz bottles of breastmilk while I'm at work. My Mom who takes care of her during the day would, sometimes, even have trouble getting her finish that. She definitely has a small appetite. My pediatrician told me not to worry since her weight is 80% tile. She was taking about 20-23oz of breastmilk per day and he said that's fine. He said his minimum requirement is 16oz per day.

Do you know if you are having let-down trouble? I noticed my let-down takes a lot longer now than when she was first born. It used to be instantaneous, now it can takes up to a minute or more. Some- times what she would do is she would eagerly suck away, finding nothing, then start to get fussy or start to bite - ouch! So what I did was to get my let-down going first before I nurse her. This requires someone else holding your baby while you go to your room, relax and stimulate your nipple.

I would also try to nurse her while she's asleep. She would fight me less then. If your baby likes cereal, then try to mix it with breastmilk to get more nutrients into him.

You said your baby is 6 months, so have you gotten your first period yet? I didn't get mine until my daughter was 8 months and I notice my supply did drop after that.

Other than that, just hang in there I guess. I know how frustrating this can be. I've been there. I was ready to give up breast-feeding! I'm glad I didn't as she eventually grew out of it (knock on wood).
My son went on a nursing strike once - no where near as severe as yours, though, so I don't know if this will help.

I, like you, was pumping twice a day and my son was getting two bottles a day. I figured I'd try to make nursing as easy for him as the bottle is. So, as soon as I could get him latched on, I'd start squeezing my breast (as if I were hand-expressing.)

I'll never know if this helped end the nursing strike or if it just ended of its own accord.
Maybe teething. I think babies suck less hard to get milk from a bottle. Also, I think babies suck less hard when there is more milk in the breast -- like first thing in the morning. Babies can remember associatively too. So, once he's had a bad experience he will remember it when the circumstances are similar.
Also an ear infection (which may not have a fever) can have the same symptoms.

I saw your message about nursing on misc.kids. My son did much the same thing, though a bit younger. He refused to nurse, yet would accept bottles. It was fairly obvious (at least in his case), that he found the bottle a good deal easier. Like your child, he was quite insistent about refusing (they learn how to make their opinions felt very young!). The problem solved itself as the reduced consumption caused reduced output, until my wife's supply dried up. Then he went over to 100% bottles. It did him no harm, I can assure you, he is now nearly 3, big, alarmingly bright and very affectionate.

Our opinion was that he did it purely because the bottle was significantly easier.

I also wanted to mention that I did finally get through to LLL when I was going through my situation. They did tell me to *not* offer my baby a bottle in lieu of nursing (I assume they meant only when I was there to nurse, and not during daycare). They told me that if I was concerned about his fluid intake, to offer him a cup to drink from when he refuses to nurse, so that if he wanted to suck the only thing he'd have to suck on would be me. This sounded rather harsh to me, but it may work for you. Just wanted you to know. ======================================

Maybe the milk tastes different from before Thanksgiving. Also, maybe he's not latching on correctly, or maybe your nipple is clogged or partially clogged.

The taste problem seems the most likely, but it also could be that he's getting lazy & doesn't want to for the milk when he knows he doesn't have to. This might mean considering weaning him, but if that's not acceptable, try putting formula in the bottles for a day or two, so he realizes Mommy tastes better, even if she means more work. (my son took quite awhile to accept formula)
I hope this helps, keep us posted.

I had a similar problem with my son when teething started. I rubbed Orajel on his gums before nursing and that worked most of the time. There was only one other time that this happened, I finally gave him a little from a bottle and then he nursed just fine. You do not mention if he is getting solids or not. When we started our child on solids he nursing pattern changed. He wanted to eat not drink.
I went through that with my daughter when she was about 4 mos. (She's 4 years old now). Have you been eating anything different ? I had eaten some spicy food & garlic that the tastes of got into the milk and it bothered my daughter. Does he have a cold or sore throat ? Is he taking the bottle OK ? How long has he been doing this ? When my younger daughter (now 14 mos) did this it was because she just didn't want to nurse anymore. I tried for over a week & finally had to wean her. Have you tried giving him a bit of baby food ? sometimes they need something solid. I know when mine is hungry she wants real food first, then milk. When we started her on solids (around 4 mos) she would want to eat first... then nurse about 1/2 hr later. When they get to the point where they need more than just milk, they will start waking up at weird times & get 'fussy'. Have you tried a bit of rice cereal or some fruit ? Might make all the difference to have a bit of solid stuff to tide him over ?
On the off chance that you and the LLL leader haven't already ruled these out: Anything about you that smells different--new bath soap, deodorant, anything, even if it doesn't seem different to you? My daughter went through a phase where she hated the smell of Vitabath and there was nothing to do but go out and work up a sweat to make me smell like mommy again (sigh....and I was getting tired of smelling like sweat and sour milk :-) ) Did the doctor look inside his mouth? Thrush, coxsackie virus (though this usually comes with a fever) or a canker sore can make nursing more painful. There's something, I don't know what it's called, that makes the roof of the mouth pretty tender (happens to me every few years) and I can imagine taking the breast under those circumstances, would be painful. It's not surprising that he would take a bottle--my impression is that it's a different style of sucking and the nipple doesn't flatten out nearly as much as the breast does. (I saw a picture once of how the breast looks when it's inside of a babies mouth--almost frightening--it looked more like a tongue, it was so flat)

My guess is that, if he'll nurse during the night when he's sleepy, that it's something that is moderately uncomfortable--enough so that he's aware of it when he's awake, but not when he's been sleeping.

I just remembered one other think that caused this reaction in my daughter--when I had been out for the evening and my clothes and hair smelled of cigarette smoke. She hated that smell so much she would cry whenever a smoker held her. The only thing I could do was shower (no Vitabath) and wash my hair and change clothes--after that she nursed happily.
If the problems have just started with your antibiotics (sorry I couldn't tell from the post), you might taste your milk. It could be the taste is a little off and your son won't eat it until he's really hungry.

He's getting to be about 5 months old, right? A lot of babies decide they really don't like nursing about that age. If there is some minor problem, his age may make it more of a major problem. (So far as I know, the age problem really doesn't get much better.)

If its teething pain, you can rub a little Orajel on his gums and see if he sucks better afterwards. I would also expect teething pain to get worse before it gets better, so if he starts acting up with a bottle too, teething is a candidate explanation.

Also, babies have associative memories. That is, when the circumstances are similar, the baby will remember an association -- particularly pain or other emotion. So one bad experience can have after affects for some time. Changing things associated with the bad experience (like for example, the way you smell) may help.

I remember similar episodes with my daughter. She is such a sunny tempered baby that she's never done the nursing refusal. If she isn't interested in nursing, she's really just not all that interested in eating (anything or way) just then. (A great baby or what? :) ) Anyway, my recent experience isn't too much help.
If it's teething, try one of those local anesthetic gels, such as Baby Anbesol. It takes only a tiny amount to relieve pain almost instantly. Last night, my son got upset as he started to nurse, and the Anbesol did the job. It would be great if this was the problem. Tylenol helps, too, but takes longer. It would be worth giving him Tylenol fifteen minutes before nursing as a sort of general pain test, in case it's something other than teething. Also, attempt nursing him in an upright (for him) position, if possible.

Do you need to use the pump to get a letdown? I always get a letdown before I start pumping, because that makes pumping go better for me. Not that my letdown is anything spectacular--friends warned me about milk shooting out 12", and all I ever got was a *slow* trickle. (I was a little disappointed!).

What I think is that the bottle should require more struggle to use. I've heard that you can buy a "blind" rubber nipple and put an extra-small hole into it yourself. It's terrible if the baby decides he prefers the bottle because it's easier. This is just an idea, though, I don't know what the "pros" would say.

Has your sinus infection affected your milk supply? =======================================
My son is 6 1/2 months old now. I breastfeed for 5 months exclusively, then started back to work. I had trouble pumping enough milk at work for my son the next day, so after about a week started supplementing with formula during the day and breastfed in the mornings and evenings (I got about 1 bottle for the day, and sent two bottles of formula). I quit pumping after about a week and started nursing in the morning and evening, then to once a day. Over Thanksgiving, I had to quit nursing altogether (I was soooo sick with the flu I couldn't have managed!). It was my plan to quit that weekend anyway.

But, on to your question. My son seemed to do very similar things as your son when I tried to nurse. He wasn't interested, screamed loudly, acted as though this was the worse torture in life. I felt so bad, and I know my husband waited as long as he could to comment ("Seems like he doesn't want to nurse - notice how fussy he gets?" Like I didn't notice....). I didn't offer him a bottle at those times. But as you know, if they don't eat then, they wake up in the middle of the night hungry. My son was happiest nursing first thing in the morning. I think he was too hungry and is very mellow when he first wakes up to be bothered of the source.

I had feelings like I was starving him, that I couldn't produce enough milk to feed my baby, etc. But I didn't dwell on it. I think he was going through one of those nursing strikes I had read about and tried not to take it too personally.

He is on formula 100% now. I couldn't handle the pumping at work, wasn't having letdown, was tired and just try to feel happy that he was 100% breastfed for 5 months, then partially until 6 months old. I am somewhat getting used to the smell of formula (yuck!) but wish my situation was such that I could have stayed home till my son was 1YO and breastfeed and that he would cooperate.

I hope all works well for you. My sister-in-law nursed her daughter for over 1 year, and my niece has such a nipple fetish! She asks about your nipples, are they big, etc. It is cute to a point, but I'm glad I don't have to deal with that.

Good luck. Hang in there if you are still planning on breastfeeding. I wish I could have, but I think my son is happy and healthy and I can actually relax about it now. Guess it's time to start that diet (breastfeeding was such a good excuse - I NEED all those extra calories, not safe to lose a bunch of weight - stuff stored up in those fat cells can be transferred to breastmilk..) Bummer.

I have a few suggestions. One is teething. My son would get fussy when he was teething and the sucking seemed to make the pain worse. Another is that he just isn't hungry. Maybe he is going through a "slow" spurt--is he eating more solids now? Of course, it could be something you ate, but I never noticed that anything I ate bothered my son.

I guess my main advice would be the standard, if he is still growing well and is otherwise happy then don't worry, he'll eat when hungry. If you have checked for an ear infection then there is probably nothing medically wrong. Someone will probably send you advice about nursing strikes, I don't know much about that but the main advice seems to be keep trying and wait it out.
I'm sure it's frustrating to not know what is going on. My son at 15 mos still can't tell us what is bothering him, I wonder what they think of us big dummies.
I'm not sure that this is your problem, but at about 5 months I started having trouble with my daughter because she preferred the faster flow rate of a bottle (i.e. she didn't want to nurse because it was too slow). It coincided with me starting to get a reduced supply - after 5 months I could never pump enough and had to start giving supplementary bottle. Of course this was the beginning of the end and I dried up completely at about 8 months.

PS Of course, your problem could be a combination of several factors - one of which might be that your son is getting frustrated with the slower rate of breast feeding.

It may be a variety of reasons: - as one poster mentioned, it may be because it's easier to get milk from a bottle than breast. At the breast, he'd have to suck till letdown. It may be best if you institute "no bottles" at home. - too hungry; impatient; or not so hungry, not patient enough to suck - too many distractions - too hot - when you have a fever - does he have a cold? It may be the positioning caused him congestion. When my baby had a cold, she prefer lying on one side more than another. So nursing the other side is quite difficult. - it may be teething. Since with bottle, he gets milk right away, he may not mind the aching as much.

It may be just one of the phases he goes through. When my baby was about 6 months, she went through a stage where she's very easily distracted and doesn't want to nurse. Same thing - arched back, screaming when I try to nurse. I stop, wait, go to a darkened room and try. It went on for a couple of weeks, then went away. There was a couple of days when she'd refuse to nurse, and I just give her water till she's hungry enough to suck till letdown.
Another thing that helps is to nurse just when they're waking up, or while they are sleeping.

What to do? Keep your patience. Don't offer the bottle at home and offer water from a cup when he refuses to nurse. Can't really do much if he's teething. See to his comfort if he's congested. Don't worry. This too shall pass.

Could very well be teething ... Nursing does cause pain when a baby is teething - might try sticking your finger in there and seeing if those little gums are tender. Good Luck!

I am not an expert, and I hope you will get more expert advice too. More over, I did not pump, or rather failed in pumping, and gave it up, so my son got formula in bottles when he was in day-care. However, it seems to me from reading your post(s), that you may want to try to stop the pumping. For one thing it sounds pretty difficult (you get up at 4am to pump?). I had pretty good success with nursing when we were together and formula when we were apart. Since he is getting bottles anyway it seems that no confusion should occur and it will just be easier on you, which may help you deal with the situation. ==================================================

Having just gotten over such a crisis with my son (just seven months old), I can sympathize with you. It was hard to resolve. From everything I've been able to gather (LLL, Pediatrician, books, etc.), it seems that at around six months (though your son is not quite 5 yet...), the let-down reflex goes through some changes. It becomes harder for the milk to let down...it's a kind of natural way to begin to wean the infant. I used to be able to pump 6-7 ounces in 15 minutes or so at work, now it takes about 15 minutes or so for the let-down to get going. What finally resolved it for us was persistence! I think I agree with the poster who said you might consider a no-bottle-at-home trial. When I'm home, my son gets the breast and that is it. If he isn't ready to nurse, I try after a while.

Some random observations:
a) sometimes the trouble when my son refused the breast was due to the fact that he wanted to play. He just wanted to be up and to be tickled or sung to, etc., even though I was convinced that he was hungry and ready to nurse. So, at such times, I started to play with him at kept trying till he was ready to nurse again. It was also at this time that he started waking up again in the night to nurse. (I decided that that was a small price to pay for continued nursing even though his sleeping upwards of eight hours a night was a very NEW behavior.) He still wakes in the night and is eager to nurse.
b) my troubles with my son refusing the breast started also on Thanksgiving day (I'm sure it's just a coincidence, right?), and it was on that day that he bit me twice and seemed quite unsure of nursing again. Has your son bitten you recently? Naturally I considered this a nursing strike and just kept trying by offering him the breast.
There is one difference in my experience and yours. My son had started on cereal and baby food when all this happened. So I hope that some of this can still be of some use to you.
It has taken all this time just to get back to normal schedule. Though schedule in my house is when my son is ready to nurse. So be patient and don't give up.

5 months is still too young for weaning, esp. if you want to continue breastfeeding. I went through a similar thing with my baby, so I know how frustrating it can be. There were moments I was really tempted to wean her... So, if you want more encouragement, I'm here :).

What I did: - nurse in a very dark, cool room - nurse when she's half asleep - think tender thoughts before putting her on my breast (faster letdown) - have my husband take her away and then bring her back a few minutes later while I relax in bed :). - a couple of times I let her cry and arch her back, etc., but kept her in my arms. When she's cried hard and started to calm down, I offered her the breast. It worked. But I felt guilty about the use of "force". [I think it worked because she'd sucked till almost letdown, then gave up; when she sucked again, she gets the milk]

Actually, I think it may be a combination of teething and a growing interest in the surroundings and being mobile. She doesn't have nursing problems while teething the other teeth (I suppose you'll be happy to know that, though your baby may be different; It makes sense for the erupting front teeth to cause problems during nursing, cause that the part for suction and contact.)
For teething, give cold stuff (not frozen) for him to chew on to numb his gum. I never tried medication. Its OK for him to nurse less during this period. He can make up for it later.
I am very glad I didn't give up. It has made traveling with her so much easier. I feel sooo close to her during nursing sessions. So hang in there; patience, this too shall pass :).


My husband noticed your article and brought it home for me. I am a certified lactation specialist with three kids of my own. The youngest is just over a year and I experienced a similar problem with him when he was 5 months old. In my case, after careful elimination of other possibilities, I realized that the relief bottles he received a few times a week were undermining our nursing relationship.

I can appreciate your distress since I was absolutely not ready to give up nursing yet. It was a very emotional time and filled with tears for both of us. He was angry and frustrated, while I was frustrated yet determined. I had to insist on complete privacy with no distractions while nursing. It was not easy, but persistence won and he continued to nurse until 10 months (which was still too early to wean in my opinion). During his "nursing strike" at 5 months I had to work with him quite a bit to coax him back to the breast without any interference from bottles. After about a week, he took to breastfeeding again. At that point he seemed to be able to handle a bottle when I was gone without getting nipple confused. In the end though, I realize that the bottles were the beginning of the end at the breast.

Enough about my experience. Babies take to bottles because the milk comes out faster and they don't have to work so hard. I realize in your case because your working that cutting out bottles is not feasible. Perhaps concentrating on nursing throughout the weekend and withholding bottles as long as possible might work. I looked through my reference material and this is what found in "The Nursing Mother's Companion" by Kathleen Huggins:

'A nursing strike is distinguished from weaning by its suddenness...Reasons for nursing strikes vary greatly. They may include teething, a cold, an ear infection, a painful herpes sore in the mouth, or a change in the taste of the milk. (This may have occurred due to the antibiotics.) They sometimes happen after a prolonged separation between a baby and her mother, or after a baby has bitten her mother and been frightened by her response. Sometimes, when a baby has become used to a bottle and its rapid flow of milk, her refusal to nurse is a response to her mother's dwindling milk supply (which may account for your delayed let-down). Some authorities believe a nursing strike may precede mastery of a major motor skill, such as crawling, standing, or walking.
Although some mothers decide to turn a nursing strike into final weaning, in most cases the baby can be coaxed to resume nursing. Strikes typically last a few days but may go on for as long as two weeks.
1) Try a change in position, or nurse in a quiet, darkened room. 2) So long as the baby refuses to nurse, pump or manually express your milk frequently throughout the day. Offer the milk in a cup rather than a bottle. 3) Try to determine the cause of the nursing strike. Check your milk supply, especially if the baby has been nursing infrequently or has become increasingly dependent on a bottle: Do your breasts feel empty most of the time? Is the milk slow to let down? Is the baby swallowing less? 4) Maintain frequent and close skin-to-skin contact with the baby without nursing. Offer the breast whenever the baby is sleepy.'

I'm assuming you are using a good electric breastpump such as Medela's Lactina with the double pumping kit. It makes pumping quicker, easier and more efficient. They are recommended in situations where you might want to increase your milk supply.

I hope this information is helpful for you and your baby.

My daughter was just as fussy about breastfeeding as your child on countless occasions before she was 6 months old. She started out colicky, teethed early (4.5 months for 1st 2 teeth), and now at 8.5 months wants table food (no baby food, mama). Some things which worked with her:

Feeding when baby is sleepy or waking up baby to feed. I think she was tense about being "forced" to feed after a long awake period and would often respond by arching her back and screaming. Many nights she would refuse to eat, fall asleep crying (no pacifier baby), and would wake shortly to eat peacefully.

Breastfeeding while lying down. She hated for me to hold her head, and I did feel awkward holding her sometimes. I also think that less tension is communicated from mama to baby in this position.

Relaxation for mother and baby - I have occasionally had letdown problems too, usually associated with travel anxiety, illness, or worry that baby isn't eating enough... Try to let your mind drift a bit and relax your shoulders especially (works for me). Also, it helps to let baby unwind a bit by rocking and singing. Sometimes she would refuse to eat, but a few minutes of rocking and singing in a dark room would have her rooting :-).
Hydration. Drink LOTS of water, milk (if allowed), juice. I had to drink about a cup or more every hour to be hydrated enough for a good letdown during the 4-6 month period.

Don't underestimate baby's memory. One unpleasant feeding experience can turn her off for a week these days. Best advice is to stay calm, stop the feeding attempt whenever trouble starts, and let baby's hunger be your guide. Occasional supplementation on bad days will not kill breastfeeding - if you pump well, you might do it after a failed feeding (especially if you let down anyway - typical 4-6 month old trick :-)) and give baby the milk from a bottle.

Sounds to me like you have a nursing strike on your hands. (I know, it has been lasting longer than you would expect a nursing strike to last.) My daughter went through this about a month ago. She would just scream when I tried to put her to the breast. This was just around the time we moved into my in-laws house for the interim. It usually happened when I was trying to nurse her down in the family room, although sometimes upstairs in a quiet bedroom. My MIL kept making "terribly useful" comments like "I think she wants a bottle" and "she may decide to wean herself". This may have been partially true, but we persevered and are back to a successful nursing relationship. I wasn't ready to give up yet, especially not when we were in an unusual and stressful situation.

For us, it lasted about two weeks. (So you may be almost there. It seems like every time I get desperate enough to post to the net for help, the problem clears up overnight before I get to use all the great suggestions I receive.) It was intermittent, in that sometimes she would nurse just fine and other times she would scream bloody murder. Some contributing factors may have been: unusual level of activity around to distract her; teething pain; slight cold in the beginning, which made it hard for her to breathe while nursing.

Some things which helped: Try to nurse in a calm environment, in a common place (i.e. ALWAYS in your rocker.) Try to nurse before he gets really hungry. Try to nurse when he is just waking up, before he thinks about wanting a bottle rather than the breast. DON"T EVER give him a bottle yourself. I had been giving my daughter occasional bottles on weekends, to keep our bottles on weekends schedule. Now, if no one else is around to give her a bottle, she nurses. No exceptions. If he gets really upset during an attempted nursing session, back off. Try just cuddling for a while, get his thumb or pacifier in, whatever. Try again after 15 minutes or so. If he's REALLY adamant, wait the fifteen minutes then have your husband give him a bottle.

It's hard on your supply (at least it was on mine, since I have never been very successful at pumping). But tough it out for a couple of weeks, and hopefully things will clear up.

I've started giving my daughter cereal in the evenings, and now she won't nurse until after she has had her cereal. (I tried last night, because we got home late, and my MIL had dinner about ready. I was going to skip the cereal and just nurse her so we could eat. She would have none of that - she wanted her cereal!) So routine seems to be important too.

I'm not really sure what it could be, but I would suspect teething, or a sore throat. One possible test is to give Tylenol when the problem occurs, and see if it goes away. If it does, then you know to suspect a physical problem.
Of course it could be over-tiredness or over-stimulation (which is what happens to my daughter) and then I have no advice to give except to try taking him to a calm quiet dim place and trying to relax yourself.

Let them wean reply There have been a couple of posts recently from mothers who are upset that their little ones are "rejecting" breastfeeding in preference to bottles, cups etc.
These are my thoughts:-
1) These sounds like spunky, confident kids whose parents should be PROUD that they are making and expressing choices about their lives.
2) Is breastfeeding primarily for the good of the Mom or the baby? I admit that it's a joyful, sensual experience, but one has to draw the line when self-indulgence sets in.
3) Don't take it personally - it's a big deal to you, but to the baby, it's just FOOD, and not the most efficient way of getting it either.
4) Bonding doesn't end with breastfeeding, it's only a small part of it. I'd be interested in any information that shows that personality defects are negatively correlated with the amount of breastfeeding a baby gets.
5) It seems more plausible that undesirable precedents are being set by trying to overrule the baby's best attempts at communicating his/her needs.
6) I don't see why weaning should be an activity that is always initiated by the mother rather than the infant.
============================================================ ============================================================

Please don't take this as discouragement for nursing. But this sounds almost exactly what happened with me and my kids. Each of them (one is now almost 5 and the other is almost 3) quit nursing at about 6 months. They reached a point where they were just too impatient to wait for my milk to let down. It was also at a time when they were developing a great interest in solid food and didn't want as much milk anyway. All it took for each was a slight delay (60 seconds?) in getting the milk to let-down and they would howl with frustration and not want the breast. This was a cycle that was difficult to break, and as I said, it resulted in them being weaned early. I was disappointed in each case, because I loved to nurse them and anticipated nursing them until about age 1. So I hope you find some way to get around this problem. But if not, don't think that you are alone in having this experience. ============================================================

My daughter did this at 3 months. She started getting one bottle in the afternoon and refused the breast at the first evening sitting. She was, basically, voting to move from breast to bottle. I decided to let her have her way (the pattern for our continuing relationship :-)) and she weaned in 3 days (OUCH!). Once she started getting the bottles at other feedings, she became even more adamant about not wanting the breast and I was only able to sneak in a few more feedings in the middle of the night.

My guess is either you have less milk than you think because of the missed feedings. However, by pumping you can build the milk supply up, OR (more likely) having seen a bottle the baby is expressing a definite preference. You need to decide if you want to force the baby back on the breast by never offering bottles or if you want to go with the flow and wean. There may be one feeding a day or so that the baby will continue to want the breast (bedtime? middle of the night?) but it seems to me that your baby is voting for more independence.

It's a hard choice. I wanted to breastfeed longer, but when I realized that the main reason for continuing feeding was for MY benefit it made it easier (but no less sad) to allow the baby to wean. Soon, I no longer even held the baby for bottles - just put her to bed with the bottle for 2 naps bedtime and mid-night bottle. My daughter at 3.8 years now continues to be a very independent, strong willed little girl. Personality shows up so soon!


I'm sure this isn't what you want to hear, but this happened to me when my first son was about six months old. I didn't have illness to complicate the picture either. My son just decided that eating out of a bottle was a lot less "work." He was at the age where he was getting really interested in looking around, and liked that better than snuggling at the breast. I kept trying, but finally decided that he was ready to wean. The problem was that with his intermittent refusal to nurse, my milk supply went way down. Of course, that made nursing even MORE work (as it is when you're not getting a good let down) and he got even madder.

I'm sure lots of people will tell you otherwise, but try to prepare yourself for the fact that he may just be ready to quit, even if you aren't. I have also heard that some babies regain lost interest if you keep at it; for me it wasn't worth it. I too had a full time job, and it just got too stressful (which of course also affects supply.)

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