Breastfeeding: Nursing strike after a night away

I have a four-month-old who has been nursing great. He rarely gets a bottle and never from me. This past weekend we left him overnight with my mom so we could go out for our tenth anniversary. He only missed two feedings. When we got home on Saturday he was not very interested in nursing. Sunday was no better and yesterday he refused to nurse and screamed when I would try to feed him. I'm not giving him a bottle and figure he will nurse when he gets hungry enough. I was planning on trying to give him some cereal this evening to get him full so he will at least sleep without waking up so much. Do you have any suggestions or will this just pass? My next problem is I am speaking at a conference and I was planning on leaving him again, but if it is going to cause problems with nursing I will take him with me a try to figure something to do during the conference.


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

I'm sorry you're having such difficulties right now. Your baby's behavior upon your return home is not uncommon. He missed you, and there's a good chance he was protesting. A nursing strike can make both you and your baby miserable. I'm hoping by the time you have received my letter you will have already coaxed your little one back to your breast.

If you are still working on getting your baby to breast, it is very important that you not withhold food, hoping your little guy will get hungry enough to nurse. Regular nutrition is too important at this age.

When a baby refuses to nurse, spend some time wooing him back to your breast. If possible, find a quiet place where the two of you can spend some one-on-one time. Take a warm bath together, carry him in a sling as you go about your day ... climb in bed with him, cuddle, stroke him, offer your breast, and become reacquainted. Take it slow. If he is not interested in nursing, don't push him. You can also offer to nurse when your son is sleepy, or as you are carrying him in a sling.

If your baby is not at your breast, you need to express your milk as often as he would typically nurse. Your milk supply may begin to dwindle if you go several days without nursing or expressing. But even more important, your milk will begin to taste salty as your breasts involute, and salty breastmilk doesn't appeal to babies. Taste your milk. If it does already taste salty, most likely you can still turn the situation around by beginning to regularly express your milk. Within two to three days you will probably notice it is back to its normally sweet taste.

You can offer your son your expressed milk in a cup or bottle. It is very important he continue to receive milk, even if he isn't at your breast. If you decide not to express, you will need to begin substituting formula for breastmilk feeds. Whether a baby is breastfed or fed formula, solids should only play a small part in their diet during the second half of their first year of life (accounting for about 25 percent of daily nutrition.)

I think it would be easiest (on both you and baby) if you brought your little one along with you to the conference. Perhaps you can bring along a family member or friend who can watch your son during the times you'll be busy. In between sessions and lunchtime might be times you can spend together, as well as in the evenings. Moms and babies really are happiest when they're together. Best wishes!

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