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Is this a Nursing Strike?

"Hey, so all of the sudden my three month won't eat. He won't take my breast and if he does it's a very short feed. He screams if I even put him in the position. I have milk and it's leaking out- even shooting out now because I'm so full. I tried a bottle with a slow nipple- he took some and then started crying. He has NEVER been like this before. He loves breastfeeding and his weight is great - 20 pounds at 3 months. He is an awesome eater and I'm worried. Should I call the pediatrician? He's arching his back, do you think he has reflux? I'm worried because of the lack of wet diapers. He needs to eat and I feel like I am going to burst!"

While, their might be a few things happening here, the first thing to start with is your baby's refusing to nurse which is called a nursing strike. 

A nursing strike is when a baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed. You might think a baby is weaning themselves but if they are younger than 12-18 months, that is unlikely. In addition, most babies gradually wean off breastfeeding before they stop completely. 

During a nursing strike, sometimes it is obvious why they stopped and more often, it takes detective work to figure out why.  Stay calm. Since his weight is great, you have a cushion of time. He's not going to starve or dehydrate if he doesn't nurse for a half a day or a day.  You, on the other hand will be very uncomfortable, so express milk to prevent engorgement and plugged ducts. You may need to pump several times to bring relief.

When a baby is refusing to breastfeed, you will make faster progress if you accept that there is a very good reason (in his mind, anyway) to NOT breastfeed. Don't fight that and don't force breastfeeding. Take a longer term view stay optimistic and keep trying.

So, if a baby has a very good reason, why do babies go on nursing strikes?

Babies strike for many reasons. What often happens is that something startled or bothered him while he was nursing and he got scared. He's afraid it will happen again. Therefore, if he doesn't nurse, it won't happen and he won't be scared! 

Think back and see if you can remember what might have happened just before he started refusing. Was there a loud noise? Did he bite you? Did you yell?

If you can figure out what it is, talk your baby through the event. Apologize if you did something that scared him. Explain what happened and try to coax him back onto the breast by reassuring him that it won't happen again. That you are his mommy and will protect him.

Maybe he's sick?

If he has an ear infection or a sore throat, nursing may be painful. Sometimes babies gag on a forceful letdown of milk.  Sometimes there's a new smell they don't like, like a new detergent, soap or deodorant. 

If he will not nurse, just keep him skin to skin. Try breastfeeding again when he's sleeping or drowsy. Try taking a bath together and see if that relaxes both of you into breastfeeding. Keep snuggling skin-to-skin, and keep offering without any pressure! Your attitude should be one of coaxing or seducing them back to breastfeeding. Making it their choice, not your will.

New or Old Patterns?

You may find settling into a favorite position helps or you may find just the opposite. Try different and unfamiliar positions to break the pattern.

If it continues more than 12 hours, offer a bottle or cup of breastmilk. If he refuses milk for more than a day, it's probably a good idea to see the doctor to rule out injury or illness.

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