Breastfeeding Strike

Why is My Baby Refusing the Breast?

At some point during your breastfeeding experience, your baby may decide to refuse the breast when offered, even at their typical or expected feeding time. This is often referred to as a “Breastfeeding Strike.” Most nursing strikes present after 3-4 months of age.

Many older babies (infants past 8-10 weeks old) may start changing their feeding pattern. What seems to be breast refusal is actually the baby letting you know they don’t want to nurse now, but will be ready soon enough.

If you offer the breast and the next time baby nurses happily, you can relax. This may have been an incidental one-time refusal. However, if baby repeatedly fusses, pulls away, cries, hits the breast, turns their head away, or any other behavior that prevents you from latching the baby on, you may be dealing with a strike.

Here’s what you’ll need to know to deal with this bump in the road:

  • Nursing strikes can last from 1-2 days, or as many as 9-10 days. Typically, the baby will go back to the breast after only a few days.
  • To keep your milk supply up during a strike, you should pump at your typical feeding times, for example every 2-3 or 4 hours.
  • Continue to offer the breast. Don’t force the baby; stop if there is crying or fussing that is not resolving.
  • Take the baby away from distracting environments and noisy places. Try to create an environment that is dimly lit, quiet and calm for you and your baby.


What caused my breastfeeding baby to “go on strike?”

There are several reasons baby might temporarily refuse the breast:

1. Change in the milk flow.

2. Changes in your body scents, perfumes, deodorants, soaps or creams.

3. Pain in the baby’s mouth from incoming teeth.

4. Baby has ear pain or ear infection.

5. Baby is becoming ill with a cold or other virus.

6. Baby is getting more comfortable with bottle feeding.

7. Changes in your breast milk taste.

Be patient with the baby and with yourself during this frustrating time. Continue to maintain your milk supply, as most babies pass through these phases quickly most of the time. Call your pediatrician if your situation is not resolving.

Still feeling anxious about baby refusing to nurse? Reach out to a lactation consultant on our team for more personalized support just for you.

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