Breastfeeding, Nursing Strike

A nursing strike is when your infant has been nursing well for months and then suddenly loses interest in breastfeeding. The infant begins to refuse the breast. A nursing strike can mean several things are happening with your infant. Your infant is trying to tell you that something is wrong. Infants can react to situations that are different, which can cause a nursing strike. During these times, some infants will continue to breastfeed without a problem, some may just become fussy at the breast, and others will refuse the breast entirely.


  • Mouth pain from teething, a fungal infection, or a cold sore.

  • An ear infection.

  • Pain from a certain nursing position.

  • The mother smells different to the infant because she has changed her soap, perfume, lotion, or deodorant.

  • A long separation from the mother or a major change in routine.

  • Being interested in other things around him or her.

  • A cold or stuffy nose that makes breathing difficult during feeding.

  • Reduced milk supply from supplementing with bottles or overuse of a pacifier.

  • Responding to the mother's strong reaction if the infant has bitten her.

  • Hearing arguing or people talking in a harsh voice with other family members while nursing.

  • Reacting to stress, over-stimulation, or having been repeatedly put off when wanting to nurse. This sometimes occurs when the mother is dealing with a family crisis, a move, having extra company, or starting a new job.


  • Draw out your milk manually or with a breast pump on the same schedule as your infant used to breastfeed. This may help to avoid engorgement, avoid plugged ducts, and maintain your milk supply.

  • Try another feeding method temporarily to give your infant your milk, such as a cup, dropper, or spoon. Keep track of your infant's wet diapers to make sure he or she is getting enough milk (5 to 6 disposable diapers per day or 6 to 8 cloth ones).

  • Keep offering your breast to your infant. If your infant is frustrated, stop and try again later. Try when your infant is sleeping or very sleepy. Getting your infant back to the breast can take patience and persistence.

  • Try various breastfeeding positions.

  • Focus on your infant. Comfort him or her with extra touching and cuddling. Make nursing a pleasant experience.

  • Try nursing while rocking in a quiet room, free of distractions.

  • Try to get your milk flowing before offering your breast to your infant by stimulating your let-down reflex. This way your infant will get an immediate reward with milk.

  • Call your infant's caregiver if an illness or injury seems to have caused the strike.

  • Call a lactation consultant if you need further help.

If your infant is on a nursing strike, it is normal to feel frustrated and upset, especially if your infant is unhappy. Do not feel guilty or that you have done something wrong. Remember that a nursing strike is almost always temporary. Your infant should resume breastfeeding within 2 to 4 days.