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Thread: Nursing Strike or Weaning?

  1. #1

    Default Nursing Strike or Weaning?

    My son is just over 9 months old and has ben breastfed from day one with little to no problems. Then about a week and a half ago we seem to have hit a sort of perfect storm in our nursing journey. First, last Monday my son caught a stomach bug and was throwing up for hours. During this ordeal be bit me so hard I bled. I know I yelped and scared him. For the next 1-2 days he nursed a little but also refused quite a bit as well. I spoke with the doctor and she said he likely just didn't feel well and he would come around. She was right and by Thursday he was back to nursing. Unfortunately, Thursday I caught the stomach bug myself. We nursed Thursday, but by Friday my supply had taken a hard hit from the dehydration and poor food intake. Starting Friday, possibly from the frustration, my son stopped nursing. It has now been a week and in that time I have successfully gotten my son to nurse once, for a partial feeding. I offer the breast at every feeding and my son doesn't just reject it, he screams as if I am doing something horrible. At this point he gets a bottle. I have been pumping for all feedings during this time, whereas before I was only pumping while at work. I have always worked and he has always gotten a bottle during the day with no problem going back and forth between breast and bottle.

    There are a few things I know. I know he has been teething and is cutting a new bottom tooth. I know nursing position has nothing to do with it as I have tried all sorts of positions. And worst of all, I know my supply has not returned from the illness. I am pumping as much as possible and taking fenugreek, but i'm producing less than half of what he's eating.

    So if this is a nursing strike, how long will this last? And will my supply come back when he finally comes back to the breast? Is it possible he is weaning? He's too young in my opinion, but I don't understand he level of crying when I offer the breast.

    I'm concerned, and exhausted. My breasts are sore from the constant pumping and I feel like my feeding relationship with my son is being destroyed. Every feeding starts with him screaming because I had the audacity to offer the breast, and either ends with him finishing the bottle and screaming because he wants more, or forcefully throwing the bottle because he's had enough. He no longer snuggles into me, no longer falls asleep on me, and fights me when I hold him after a feeding, even during middle of the night feedings.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Nursing Strike or Weaning?

    Hi lalacru, sorry you are having such a hard time!

    So this sounds like a pretty classic nursing strike to me. The thing with strikes is that sometimes they end and sometimes they don't. So of course if the strike never ends, eventually your child will have weaned from nursing.

    It might help to know what was going on nursing and bottle wise right before the problems started. How many times in 24 hours did baby nurse and how many bottles did baby get in 24 hours? Also how large were those bottles? I am curious if the scales were tipping over to more bottles than nursing prior to the problems. It won't change your strategy now, but it might be helpful in understanding more about what is happening. Because the other reason (aside a strike) that a baby this age might refuse to nurse is that they have been gradually habituated to bottle feedings and away from nursing. This is something that is more likely the more often and the longer baby has received bottles. We hear about "nipple confusion" when a breastfed baby also needs bottles, like it is something that either happens right away or will never happen, when in fact that is not the case, it is usually a gradual process and can happen many months after a baby starts getting bottles.

    Also, how much milk in bottles is baby getting now each day compared to how much you are able to pump? Is baby eating solids at all?

    I am going to suggest some trouble shooting.

    My breasts are sore from the constant pumping
    This should not be happening. If pumping is hurting, that indicates something may be wrong- either the pump itself is malfunctioning, or the flanges are not a good fit, or you are pumping too long or at too high a setting. If you have to pump at a painful setting to extract milk, again that indicates something is up with the pump itself.

    I know my supply has not returned from the illness. I am pumping as much as possible and taking fenugreek, but i'm producing less than half of what he's eating.
    How is your hydration? Good hydration is vital for milk production and it can take time after a stomach illness to rehydrate properly. Fenugreek is not the only galactagogue, also it can cause stomach issues if taken at effective levels and may not be the right choice if you have been ill. So, If you do not think it is helping you might try something else.

    And will my supply come back when he finally comes back to the breast?
    This is hard to say. It is almost always safer to not wait and hope when it comes to milk production. What have you tried for improving output when you pump- hand expression, massage, breast compressions etc? Again also very important pump is working correctly and fits you. Appropriate flange size can change.

    but I don't understand he level of crying when I offer the breast.
    Every feeding starts with him screaming because I had the audacity to offer the breast, and either ends with him finishing the bottle and screaming because he wants more, or forcefully throwing the bottle because he's had enough. He no longer snuggles into me, no longer falls asleep on me, and fights me when I hold him after a feeding, even during middle of the night feedings.
    It sounds like your baby is really going through something. It may be he is still not feeling entirely great after being so ill. Has baby been seen by a doctor? Sometimes there really is something up physically that you may not even be looking for. Any major changes in routines or anywhere in baby's life that might by causing a little stress for baby (aside from the illness.)

    I assume you have seen the kellymom back to breast article. There are many ideas on there and sometimes it takes trying some things multiple times. http://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/nb-...ack-to-breast/

    Since baby is so resistant, maybe foregoing offering and trying a more subtle strategy might help. Did you guys have a favorite nursing chair or spot you could just hang out in and see if baby shows any interest in joining you? Can you walk around the house topless? Etc.

    What happens if you let baby have some milk in the bottle before offering to nurse?
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; February 10th, 2017 at 09:36 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Nursing Strike or Weaning?

    Thank you so much for your detailed response.

    Prior to the issue arising, baby was getting a small bottle every night (few ounces) to give the iron supplement and some probiotics, and then would finish with nursing. Then on days that I worked he would get an additional 2 bottles, very small at lunch (2 oz or so), then 5-6 oz at snack. Every day he would get his morning feed, dinner feed, bedtime remaining feed and overnight feed from the breast. And I work from home 1-2 days a week, and on those days and the weekend he would only get the small bedtime bottle.

    Now baby is taking in 20 oz-25 oz a day, and I only pumping about 10 oz throughout the day. Baby does eat solids at about 12 oz a day with some table foods mixed in. We've worked up to this amount over the past 4 months through breakfast, lunch and dinner. About a month ago we added a 3 pm snack, but at the recommendation of the doctor we cut this out when these issues arose.

    It's interesting you mention a potential problem with my pump, as I have recently noticed a humming sound when it is plugged in that it didn't use to have. Maybe its time for a new plug. I pump at a medium setting for 20 mins, which has been what I have done since I went back to work at 3 months. To help I have tried massage and breast compressions while pumping. I started with fenugreek earlier this week at the recommendation of my doctor.

    As for hydration I have been very conscious of my water intake because I know that is a common problem. I get about 80 oz in a day.

    I actually happened to have a wellness visit for baby this week so he was checked out by the doctor. They didn't see anything such as an ear infection or anything along those lines. She commented that he may not be feeling 100% yet and that it could be related to teething, but that she expected it to return with some time. I just didn't expect it to last this long, or to get the continued extreme response from baby. There haven't been any changes in baby's routine really. About a month ago I went dairy free because he has had a rash for a month-ish and they wanted to see if it was diet related (turned out to be a viral infection), but that's not really new to him as I was diary and soy free until he was about 6 months old.

    I will try the more situational suggestions. I have tried nursing in a few different areas, his room, my room, guest room, but haven't tried prolonged skin exposure since he's crawling all over the place. Maybe putting it out there for him to get used to again will help.

    And I have tried both nursing before and after bottles with no success. Just tonight he finished a large nighttime bottle (6.5 oz), and screamed for more. I offered the breast and he just seemed to get more upset. He didn't settle until we gave him another bottle (3.5 oz) which he downed and squirmed around until I put him to bed and he passed out immediately. Drinking 10 oz in one sitting seems really extreme to me but he always nursed a ton at bedtime, and I never really knew how much he got.

    At this rate we are blowing through my freezer stash pretty quick and I'm concerned that if this lasts much longer we will have to start supplementing with formula soon

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Nursing Strike or Weaning?

    Ok, thanks. I have a few more questions, sorry.
    Prior to the illness, did baby usually nurse to sleep or for comfort, or would you say nursing was more exclusively for food and drink only?

    Because here is what I am hearing. Bottles were infrequent, 3 a day total. And only one on the large side. And not even every day. Normally, this would not at all be considered "too many" bottles.
    But if I understand correctly, your baby nursed 4 times per 24 hour day, and 6 on your non-work days? So that is pretty low nursing frequency, generally speaking. But this was working for you both apparently, so no worries...
    until you got hit with this perfect storm of illness & teething and whatever. With 4-6 nursing sessions a day, rather than 8 or more, baby did not have as far to go to get to no nursing at all. So I wonder if baby was used to comforting some other way, or just was not a comfort nurser in general?

    Now I have no idea if this really has anything to do with anything. Certainly 9 month olds who nurse 12 times a day and nurse down for every nap and at bedtime and overnight several times and have never had a bottle have been known to have a nursing strike. But maybe there is information here we can use, as regards size of bottles and comfort nursing.

    Just tonight he finished a large nighttime bottle (6.5 oz), and screamed for more. I offered the breast and he just seemed to get more upset. He didn't settle until we gave him another bottle (3.5 oz) which he downed and squirmed around until I put him to bed and he passed out immediately. Drinking 10 oz in one sitting seems really extreme to me but he always nursed a ton at bedtime, and I never really knew how much he got.
    I think you are right- this is a ton for baby to be drinking at one meal. So what could be going on? I can think of two things, and they might both be happening.

    1) baby was ill and lost lots of calories and now really is very hungry! Or is going into a growth spurt, same result.
    2) baby is full, and something in him is wanting to comfort nurse to sleep, or anyway, be comforted to sleep, but at the same time, he feels/thinks/knows he cannot nurse (why we do not know) and so begs and begs for the bottle as a next best substitute.

    In the kellymom article, she talks about how comfort nursing often comes first. Since the breast is apparently not comforting to baby right now when he is awake, have you tried lying next to baby when he is asleep and putting him near the breast? Maybe expressing a drop of milk or putting a little expressed milk on your nipple for him to smell? Just another strategy to try. Also if baby is loving to explore his world, and that world in on the floor, you could try getting down there with him, again, topless, and see if he shows any interest. I know it sounds funny but you never know.

    Also just to be sure, rule out weird stuff. I have heard of strikes caused by a bit of food trapped painfully in the teeth or top of mouth and reactions to mom's deodorant or lotion.

    10 ounces per day does sound a bit low, how many times a day are you able to pump? I do think it sounds like there might be something up with your pump. If it is relatively new, you should be able to contact the manufacturer for trouble shooting suggestions and maybe even get a new one, or new parts.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Nursing Strike or Weaning?

    Baby has never been a comfort nurser, really just nursing for food/drink and stopping when done. He is always put to bed awake and falls asleep on his own. Of course there were exceptions if he woke up in the middle of the night, then he may nurse to sleep, but that happened infrequently. He does get a pacifier for sleeping, which may be why he didn't need to nurse to sleep. But he only gets this when going down for a nap or down for the night.

    I have not tried laying next to him while he's asleep as he sleeps in his crib, and I put him down awake, but it may be something I can find a way to try.

    Presently I am pumping 5x a day, when baby eats. Essentially when I used to be nursing, I am now pumping.

    You've given me a lot of things to consider and try, I really appreciate it!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Nursing Strike or Weaning?

    Unfortunately when milk production has taken a hit, sometimes milk needs to be removed from the breasts more often (temporarily) to get it back to where it was. Even if you can add one or two more pump sessions a day it may help. But definitely get your pump checked out too.

    Good luck. Strikes are really hard!

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