Breastfeeding: Weaning or nursing strike?

My 10 month old refuses to nurse, and if he does nurse, it is for no more than a minute. He seems upset, acting first as if he wants to nurse and then pushing me away. How do I know if he is weaning himself, or just going through a phase?

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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

Although each baby is unique, it is unlikely that your baby is weaning. Babies under one year of age rarely wean themselves. Typically, babies reduce nursings over a period of weeks or months, rather than weaning abruptly. It is likely that your baby is in the midst of a nursing strike. Some moms feel rejected when their baby suddenly refuses the breast, and others see this as a perfect opportunity to wean.

Nursing strikes can last from a few days to a couple of weeks. Most babies can be gently coaxed back to the breast in a few days. Some techniques that have proven helpful are lots of skin-to-skin contact with your baby, nursing at night or when he's sleepy, and offering the breast as you walk or rock him. Sometimes expressing a little milk onto your baby's lips will be enough to encourage him to nurse.

If you do plan on resuming breastfeeding, it is important to pump or express your milk as often as he was nursing. This will keep your breasts comfortable and your milk supply intact. This milk can be offered to your baby in a cup.

If after a week you are unable to persuade your baby to nurse, and you are not yet ready to wean, contact a Lactation Consultant in your area to explore other causes of sudden refusal, such as thrush. My best wishes!

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