So I have officially weathered my first nursing strike. I would hear about them at La Leche League,
or see a thread posted on a message board. I would read them with a question mark over my
head and nothing to say since nursing has been a dream since we started having
the babies under chiropractic care from infancy.
I found out what a nursing strike is in a big way last
week. With our fourth child, the one who seems to be filling in any remaining gaps I had in regards to labor, and now breastfeeding. I was in denial at first, then in despair,
and now I am feeling relieved and grateful for the experience and for coming
out on the other side with a renewed dedication to breastfeeding.
What a nursing strike is: A baby
who has been nursing well for months that starts refusing the breast. To quote a La Leche League pamphlet, “A
nursing strike is a baby’s way of communicating that something is wrong, and
most babies who “go on strike” are obviously upset about it.”
What a nursing strike is not: The
end of breastfeeding. With patience and
persistence, most babies will come back to nursing.
Here is our chronicle.
Day One: It started with a bite from our baby in the
middle of a feed. I made an “ouch” face
and then broke the latch and pulled baby off the breast. I was with the other kiddos and they laughed at
my “ouch” face, and the baby laughed…not quite the same reaction I was having
to the incident!!
It continued like that the next time I put her to the
breast, but being late in the day, we were able to avoid any more nursing
sessions until bedtime. Bedtime arrives
and we have more biting. I try a little
“reset” and we are able to nurse at bedtime.
Day Two: Baby would bite at the beginning of the
feed. Bite and turn around to see if her
siblings had noticed, and see if they were laughing. So my suspicion that maybe she is teething
starts to come apart. Ah ha – maybe it
is an entertainment or a newfound skill of being able to control an
interaction. I did what our pediatrician
had told me to do, and which had worked with the other kiddos – I had only
needed to do it two or three times and the biting stopped. He had told me to tap the mouth, say no
firmly, and then try to nurse again. The
kiddos commented that I should not be hitting the baby!
No success with that attempt…another day without really
being able to nurse her during waking hours.
I was only able to get any sizeable amount of liquid in her at night
when she was asleep. In her sleep, she
wanted to eat, not mess around. In this
instance, it was a relief to have a learned behavior to fall back on.
Day Three: The biting continues. Now my breasts are sore. It is more of a joke than ever. I am able to get baby to nurse when she is in
a sitting position, but not enough for her to get the fluids I know she
needs. She only nurses a minute before I
get bitten and I need to pull her off the breast – after three times, I am
I am in denial. I
figure we are seeing our chiropractor that afternoon – I have faith he will
have some answers. We go in for our
weekly visit. He checks both of us and
cannot find a physical or emotional reason on either of us. Now I am starting to freak out.
I get a suggestion from a trusted source to flick the baby
on the cheek with my fingers when she bites.
This again throws all the kids into a panic that I am “hitting” the
baby, besides the fact that it doesn’t work.
Even after the reprimand, I get bitten the next attempt to put her to
the breast (within a minute). I am
definitely NOT interested in flicking this sweet child all day long, so that
idea is out and I tell Bruss I think I am getting ready to quit and wean.
I start expressing milk into a sippy cup so that I know that
she is getting some fluid during the day.
At my mom’s suggestion, we also start counting her wet diapers and make
sure we are offering water when she isn’t drinking out of her milk cup.
Day Four: We run
into Debbie Gillespie, the IBCLC we know at Modern Mommy. I explain our situation and ask her for input. Since the biting is at the beginning of the
feed, she says it’s probably not teething.
She wonders if maybe the baby is doing it for attention and maybe
exercising a little “look at me!” She suggests
telling Angelika, “Ouch! Hurt Mommy!” and take her off the breast for ten
seconds before trying to nurse again.
Try that when we get home – not working. Even though the baby asked for the breast three
times, each time she bit me – HARD. More
night feeding – this time after the baby has cried herself to sleep – second
night in a row that Bruss has to take her for a car ride to get her to sleep.
The trust is broken. I
do not trust her not to bite anymore. It
broke my heart to have her cry herself to sleep, at the same time, I was
relieved that she nursed in her sleep and at least I do not feel like a
Day Five: I have been contemplating what has been going
on. If the biting is not teething and really
driven from the desire to illicit a reaction from siblings and me, then maybe
we are better nursing off on our own. I
go into the bedroom, use the old standby of going skin-to-skin, and try again. Baby wants nothing to do with the breast,
goes so far as to arch her back and roll around as far away from me as she
can. This is not what I expected. I really want to quit now. I keep going back to the thought that this
really can’t be it. I can’t really be
weaning our baby when her toddler brother is still nursing, can I? I bring to mind the mantra, “I can do this
for one more day. I only need to do this
one more day.” I express more milk into
a sippy cup and we head off to teach class.
We get home, from class and baby has fallen asleep in her abuela’s arms
and later, gets put straight into the crib.
I am a little bummed that my mom did not bring her to me groggy, so I
just go back to bed and decide to let it go because at this point, a good
night’s sleep is what I need to keep things in perspective.
Day Six: I do not even try to feed the baby. I consider calling my La Leche League
leaders, but I know the next meeting is in three days and I figure I do not
want to bother them on a weekend. By now
I am sure this is a nursing strike and they are probably going to tell me to do
the things I have been doing: skin-to-skin, change environment, change
positions, be patient, “one more day” mantra that I learned at
meeting…attendance does pay off (small consolation).
I decide that we both need a break since the breast is not a
“happy place” for either of us right now.
If Debbie (our IBCLC) taught me anything, it is that we need to keep the
breast a happy place if we have any prayer of nursing again. I take my mom to the airport, go to a baby
shower, and meet another mom who understands my sadness. She gives me a piece of cake to drown my
sorrows – perfect! Just what I needed!
I get to talk to the guest of honor who gives me some ideas
to try (role playing), and then I run into our IBCLC again (one of the benefits
of social calendar that includes events with your birth-/breastmilk junkie
friends). I ask her if we can set up a
home visit for Monday, and she says I do not need her! (Tears!) She suggests that we try Hyland’s
teething tablets, and offers to send me some reading via the Internet. I also tell her how the kiddos have objected
to the physical reprimands (and confirmed my gut feeling that flicking or
tapping is not for us). She suggests
pulling the baby’s nose into the breast to force her to open her mouth to
breathe and let go if she bites. She
makes the analogy that it’s like a game of “chicken” to see who can hold
out. I know that I can handle pain if I
know it’s going to end – this is something I can do.
I go home a little nervous that if Debbie does not think we
need her we may be sunk, and with a little more spirit since I have some new
ideas to try, and tell myself again, that I only need to do this for one more
day. “This” being expressing into a cup
to see if maybe, just maybe the teething tablets will do the trick and ease our
baby’s gums enough for her to nurse without biting.
On our way out that night, we pick up some Hyland’s teething
tablets and give the baby her first dose.
We are still continuing with the nursing during sleep – still the only
way the baby will take the breast without biting.
Day Seven: We use Hyland’s teething tablets again. Angelika is asking for the breast now. I am nervous to feed since there is pain and
emotion tied to the biting. I try once
and she bites. We play “chicken” – she
lets go! No laughing this time – just a
look of surprise before she goes back to nursing.
Baby asks for the breast again throughout the day. Each bite is responded to with a pull into
the breast. Baby releases and then
continues to nurse without incident – and she is nursing!! I can’t believe it!! By the fourth nursing session that day, there
is no biting. Just nursing. Dare I hope that this is it? We are nursing again?
Day Eight: Baby is asking for the breast again. Sometimes she bites and we play “chicken”,
but she is getting a full feed. We go
see our chiropractor. He looks in her
mouth and declares that she is cutting molars.
What! Did all this start with
teething pain that turned into a seven-day nursing strike? I try Hyland’s teething tablets again – this
time she just spits them out and we are nursing without incident.
Day Nine: Nursing is back on track. I only had to pull her to the breast once
today. Done. I am a nursing mom again. Relief!
Gratitude! Amazement at the
I go to our La Leche League meeting on that night. On the table is a pamphlet, “How to Handle a
Nursing Strike”. Argh! Where was this a week ago? I read it when I get home. It’s everything I needed to hear last week to
confirm what I was going through and to encourage me not to give up yet and
wean. I am also encouraged that I did
the right things – skin-to-skin, changing environment, trying different
positions, nursing during sleepy times, keeping track of wet diapers, using a cup instead of a bottle for breastmilk…all of
those are in the pamphlet.
I am lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it: I am a confident, supported mom. I am glad that I have been attending La Leche
League and that I learned the lessons that got me through the last week without
I am working on ordering this pamphlet and scanning it so that I
can share it with other moms that may not have the experience or support system
that I had to draw from. What would my
advice be to someone going through a nursing strike? Take it a day at a time. Own the mantra, “One more day – I only need
to do “this” one more day.”
It’s been a thirteen days since the first biting experience. We are now back to our regular nursing
relationship. We nurse in the morning,
throughout the day for nourishment, at naptime, for comfort, and then again at
night. The week-long nursing strike made
me put away books and gadgets that I had gotten used to having during our
nursing times and made me look at my baby.
It has reminded me just how precious this time is and not to take it for
What is your
experience with a nursing strike? Any
words of wisdom to share?
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