Breastfeeding and Nursing Strike Causes

Breastfeeding and Nursing Strike Causes

A nursing strike is when a baby has been breastfeeding well for months and then suddenly loses interest. A nursing strike can be the baby’s way of saying that something is wrong.

Nursing strikes do not usually mean a baby is ready to stop breastfeeding (wean). Weaning usually happens gradually and is permanent. A nursing strike is almost always temporary. It usually lasts 2–4 days.

What are the causes of nursing strikes?

Many things can cause a baby to stop nursing. Common causes include:

  • Mouth pain from teething, an infection, or a cold sore.
  • Pain from a certain nursing position.
  • An ear infection.
  • A cold or a stuffy nose that makes breathing difficult during feeding.

Sometimes a nursing strike is related to the baby’s environment. Environmental causes include:

  • Stress.
  • Overstimulation.
  • Loud or harsh voices.
  • Inability of the mother to nurse on demand, such as due to house guests, a family crisis, a move, or a new job.
  • Strong reaction by the mother to a bite during feeding.
  • The mother smelling different than normal.
  • The mother being separated from the baby for a period of time or making a major change in routine.
  • The mother making less milk due to supplemental feedings.
  • Pacifier overuse.

Sometimes the cause of a nursing strike is not known.

What can I do to help my baby?

  • Pump at the same times you usually breastfeed. This keeps up your milk supply. It also prevents over-filled breasts (engorgement) and plugged ducts.
  • Try another feeding method temporarily. For example, give your baby your milk in a cup, dropper, or spoon.
  • Keep offering your breast.
  • If your baby gets frustrated, stop and try again later.
  • Offer your breast when your infant is sleeping or very sleepy.
  • Try various breastfeeding positions.
  • Focus on your infant during feedings. Comfort your baby with extra touching and cuddling. Make nursing a pleasant experience.
  • Nurse your baby in a quiet, dim room with no distractions.
  • Keep track of your infant’s wet diapers to make sure he or she is getting enough milk. Your baby should wet 6-8 diapers every 24 hours.
  • It is normal to feel frustrated and upset, especially if your infant is unhappy. Do not feel guilty or think you have done something wrong. Be patient and give your baby lots of extra attention.
  • Work with a lactation specialist to find positions and breastfeeding strategies that work best for you and your baby.

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your baby has a fever.
  • Your breasts are engorged and painful.
  • You think pain or illness may be causing your baby’s nursing strike.
  • Your baby has trouble breathing while nursing.
  • Your baby is not producing at least 6 wet diapers per day.
  • Your baby is not producing 3 stools per day.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child who is younger than 3 months has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.


  • A nursing strike is when a baby suddenly loses interest in breastfeeding. It does not necessarily mean a baby is ready to wean.
  • A nursing strike is temporary and usually lasts 2-4 days.
  • It’s important to keep trying to nurse your baby. With patience and persistence, you should be able to get back to your breastfeeding routine.

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