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Thread: Nursing strike--will it ever end?

  1. #1

    Exclamation Nursing strike--will it ever end?

    I have a 4.5 month old who has been on a nursing strike for about three weeks now. Whenever I try to feed him awake, he is on for a second and then pulls off and screams. I tried waiting him out once but 9 hours went by without him nursing more than a few minutes to take the edge off! I started giving him two bottles of ebm at night so that my husband could feed him and I could rest, plus the occasional daytime bottle when I go out. I don't know if that caused the problem.

    I currently feed him right when he's going to sleep for a (typically 45 minute) nap and right when he wakes up, and he nurses for 3-4 max minutes each time before falling asleep/waking up and rolling away. I pump each side after to fully drain the breast. However, this is incredibly time consuming and hard on my nipples--nursing about 8-9 times during the daytime and pumping 5 times. He wakes at night to nurse every 2 hours as well (less if he's had bottles).

    I've read plenty on the subject--he's not really cuddly so skin to skin doesn't help. What's also frustrating is that he doesn't seem to have any hungry signs--the hand sucking, rooting, smacking his lips--he does this all the time, even after a big bottle feed. He always wants something in his mouth (though not my breast when he's awake!). I know this sounds like teething but he's been doing that since 3 months of age, and his gums look and feel normal.

    I don't know what to do--I have to pump because I noticed a drop in supply when I started letting him snack before and after naps. Soon my husband is leaving for a job at sea and I will be all alone with the baby and I can't devote all this time to nursing and pumping. I am so frustrated that I'm on the verge of letting my milk dry up and giving him formula.

    He has 2-3 bms and about 8-10 wet diapers a day. His weight gain is good.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    21,120

    Default Re: Nursing strike--will it ever end?

    Welcome!

    Can you tell us how much you pump when you empty your breasts after nursing? I am kind of wondering if the issue could be a fast letdown related to milk oversupply. Fast letdowns often result in rapid feedings (3-4 minutes is fast, but also not that fast considering that your baby is 4.5 months old), and can also lead to a baby resisting nursing because nursing from a firehouse isn't much fun! Fast letdowns can contribute to bottle preference because the flow from the bottle is sometimes easier to control than the flow from the breast.

    Basically, if your baby is nursing well, nursing 8-9 times a day should be enough to maintain your supply with no need for pumping. Just nurse on demand, and everything should be fine. Even if that means that your baby seems to be "snacking" rather than "eating": many babies prefer frequent small meals to infrequent large ones.

    Don't get too discouraged, mama! Your baby's weight gain and diaper output is good- that means everything is going well on a basic level.

    Oh- and anything else you can tell us about nursing would be good. Is it ever painful, is it more frequent than you expect, are you leaking a lot, feeling engorged or "full"? All those things would be informative.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  3. #3

    Default Re: Nursing strike--will it ever end?

    I pump 0.75-1.5 oz on one side after he finishes. I can only offer 1 breast per feed as his attention span is so short anyway. I definitely don't have OALD--he's much happier in the morning when I'm full and he nurses the best then. Other times during the day he does the fast suckle and then pulls away frustrated because he's impatient. He generally only does the open-pause-close kind of suck for about 30 seconds after my letdown and then gets bored. But with a bottle he'll suck the whole thing down in 10 minutes happily. I've cut out the bottles entirely and now deal with much more nightwaking.

    I would love to nurse on demand, but like I said he doesn't have any "demand" signals except during a nightwaking after a very long stretch, so I feed him whenever I think he'll tolerate it. He's a fussy baby anyway so it's really, really hard to read any cues--tired, hungry, etc. This means I just have to guess a lot.

    I was prepared for the frequent round the clock nursing for newborns, but I honestly thought things would be easier by now. Most of my friends at this age fed their babies every 3-5 hours. The baby would show hungry signals, the mother would offer the breast and the baby would take a full feed on both sides and come off milkdrunk. That's how I thought it would be by now. I haven't seen my son milk drunk off the breast for months, only after a bottle. I feel frustrated that I can't satisfy him like a bottle can!

    My nipples are getting pretty sore with all the pumping. I suspect his latch has gotten lazy as well from the bottle, but I can't get him to open wide. If I do latch him correctly, he'll scoot off so he doesn't have to open his mouth as wide. SO I just tolerate it And I'm never engorged, my breasts are always very soft.

    I cannot see myself sneak-nursing him around naps for the next year! I can't take him in public longer than a few hours unless I have expressed milk. Nursing 11-12 times in 24 hours (including the night feeds) is just not feasible for me long term. Maybe better mothers can handle it, but I cannot. Do babies outgrow these strikes?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    21,120

    Default Re: Nursing strike--will it ever end?

    I think cutting out the bottles was an excellent decision. It really sounds like you are dealing not so much with a nursing strike as with some hardcore bottle preference: your baby just does not want to put in the work at the breast, and would prefer to wait all day for those huge 10 oz bottles at night. (And a 10 oz bottle is HUGE- most breastfed babies take in about 2-4 oz at the breast.) I don't think it's a coincidence that this is all hitting at 4 months, since 4-5 months is when a lot of moms feel that distractable-ness peaks. So babies often become fussy, distracted nursers during the daylight hours, when there are so many interesting new things to look at, and if they have been sleeping well, they often start night-waking in part to make up for any feedings they skipped during the day.

    I can totally understand your frustration with your baby's general fussiness and lack of reliable nursing cues- but those things are both pretty normal at this stage. Newborns often present you with reliable cues like hand-sucking and rooting, but by 4 months those behaviors tend to be more recreational than true signs of hunger. And fussiness- well, your baby is at the dawn of his ability to communicate. Fussiness is the earliest form of communication. He fusses, you respond by trying all sorts of things to comfort him. You burp him, nurse him, change his diaper... Eventually he gets what he needs! Maybe he even swindles you into giving him a bottle- in his mind, fussing worked!

    I know it seems hard to believe when all your friends were nursing their babies every 3-5 hours, but the level of demand you are experiencing is very normal, especially for a "high-needs" baby (like my kids). High needs babies tend to nurse frequently and to be fussy, demanding, persnickety, challenging, smart, and rewarding. Respond to your baby now, and he's going to grow into a confident and secure little person.

    I am sure your nipples are sore, what with the shallow latch and all the pumping. I think that in your shoes I would want to check out a few other possible explanations for what you're seeing. Thrush could cause soreness in mom and fussiness in the baby (since oral thrush can be painful). I'd want to see the pediatrician about reflux (which could explain the fussiness and frequent feeding, too), and a lactation consultant to explore possibilities like fast letdown and tongue tie. One thing I would not worry about, however, is not feeling engorged. At 4 months, it is normal to feel "soft" all the time. When you experience engorgement, it is because you are making too much milk. Soft breasts make just the right amount. But if you are concerned about supply, I suggest doing the following:
    - see the lactation consultant
    - count diapers (good output = good input)
    - review your birth control choices (hormonal contraception, including Mirena, can impact supply)
    - make sure you're not pregnant

    Hang in there, Mama! babies do grow out of these crazy behaviors, and someday you will sleep again.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  5. #5

    Default Re: Nursing strike--will it ever end?

    Even now eating lots of solids, at 13 mos old my son nurses every 3-4 hours. 5 hours with no food during the day when you are exclusively nursing is not a viable expectation. Sounds like a bottle preference to me too. My son loved big bottles at daycare, but luckily the ladies here set me straight. No more than 5oz bottles, and offer sooner if your son is so hungry he can eat 10oz. Two 5oz bottles 2 hours apart is even acceptable. Also make sure you are using newborn slow flow nipples. For a while I would pump a bit before nursing to make sure that milk was available as soon as my son started suckling.
    Carmen-Noel mum to James born naturally 8/28/2010.
    Mommy's little pumpkin head


    We love our amber necklace from @llli*expat-mum. PM her for the most beautiful effective teething aide we've found!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    10,440

    Default Re: Nursing strike--will it ever end?

    One thing that struck me,since you said your nipples are getting sore from the pumping....what kind of pump do you have? And do you have the right size of flanges? And when you pump (as this sounds like you are basically EPing) how often and how long?

    If you do not have a good pump, and the horns are wrong, those can cause severe soreness.

    That said, I EP for my fourth baby, because he has a cleft palate severe enough to prevent breastfeeding, and I do find pumping is not as comfortable as nursing to my nipples.
    Susan
    Mama to my all-natural boys: Ian, 9-4-04, 11.5 lbs; Colton, 11-7-06, 9 lbs, in the water; Logan, 12-8-08, 9 lbs; Gavin, 1-18-11, 9 lbs; and an angel 1-15-06
    18+ months and for Gavin, born with an incomplete cleft lip and incomplete posterior cleft palate
    Sealed for time and eternity, 7-7-93
    Always babywearing, cosleeping and cloth diapering. Living with oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD. Ask me about cloth diapering and sewing your own diapers!

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