Ep 126- Breast Refusal and Nursing Strikes
This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way. So join us for another episode.
Welcome to the Milk Minute podcast, everyone. Hi, we’re happy to be here. Happy to have you here. Welcome back. Yes. Welcome. Today we’re talking about breast refusal and nursing strikes, which is very super stressful when that happens.
Yeah, absolutely. So we wanna give you some tools to help get baby back to the boob today. And figure out kinda maybe what might have caused it so we don’t do that again. And maybe not, maybe not. Yeah. Sometimes kids are just weird. But you know, I did wanna tell you a funny story before we get into anything that has nothing to do with breastfeeding, but is just gonna make you be like, Maureen, your life is not real. Oh, okay.
I’m ready. It’s been a while since we’ve caught up, so I’m excited. So I was recently working at a summer camp that I help run with a friend of mine and we were not home for the better part of two weeks. My house is old. It’s like an old farmhouse and I don’t have screens in every window. I just don’t, it’s on my to-do list, you know, and I left the bathroom window open, which has no screen.
It’s fine. You know, nothing really bad is gonna happen. But when I came home, there was a bird on the window, a little house wren, and I was like, that’s weird, cuz it’s not like leaving when I’m in the bathroom. It’s just like yelling at me from the window. Oh no. And it was like flying around and then I noticed it had a nest in my son’s pile of bathtub dinosaurs.
No! With four eggs. What? So now we have a bathroom bird. You didn’t move it? No, because it’s like, look, it doesn’t take that long. We have birds that nest in the like eaves under our house a lot. Takes like a total of a month for them to like. A month? For them to hatch their babies out. And their babies grew up and leave. What if a snake comes in your window to eat the eggs, and now you have a snake in your bathroom?
That’s like less likely to happen. But also if it does, it would not be the first time a snake was found in my house. Oh, oh. But listen, so now, so now, because I just, I, well, I thought about moving it and then I was like, well, if I move it and then what if she doesn’t go back and where would I put it?
There’s just like the side of my house. There’s nothing to put it. There’s nowhere to put it. And I felt bad cuz I didn’t wanna kill her babies that she might hatch and they’re cute. And they’re native songbirds and they’re important for the environment. So now we have a bathroom bird, and if you’re really quiet and you’re like, don’t like use the blow dryer or anything, she just sits on her nest.
What? Mm-hmm. So you’re like taking a dump, making direct eye contact with a songbird. Thankfully, the way the nest faces I don’t have to stare her down while I’m pooping. Poor gal. Can you imagine realizing that you’ve gone and laid your eggs in the wrong spot and now you have to watch Ivan take a dump once a day. Smell Ivan taking a dump. Do birds smell?
Yeah, they can. Yeah. But it’s just like, so now we have like three modes of operation. One is if you’re quiet, the bird just stays there and it’s fine. Two is that you’re not like you have to shower or something and you scare the bird away. And the third one is, if you go in, when the bird is already gone, like going to eat or poop or something, then when she returns, if you’re still in there, you get just like yelled at by a bird.
Okay. But what happens when the baby birds hatch, and then they start trying to fly around your bathroom? I, so here is my plan for when they hatch. It’s pretty obvious when they start to fledge when they’re ready for that. So when they are ready to leave the nest, I am going, I’m going to essentially like gently move it to the top of the window and then let them.
It, it only takes like a day after they, it’s really fast. I’ve watched this happen a lot of times. So when they look like they have enough feathers to fledge, I’m gonna do my best to move it to like the top of the window so it’s kind of obvious where they should fly out. And if they fly in my bathroom, I’m gonna pick them up and throw ’em out the window.
Oh my gosh. I don’t know. This is not like I didn’t plan for this. Oh, nobody asked my consent when they turned my like dark moody plant filled vibing bathroom into a bird nursery, a hatchery. Yeah. Oh my gosh, Maureen. I cannot, you’re gonna, what if that bird goes and tells all the other wildlife, like, Hey, she leaves the window open.
Come on in. I guess I’m gonna get a fucking screen. Yeah. Oh my, how do you not have bats in there? You know, I haven’t had any issues with bats flying in the window. They get in the attic though sometimes. But yeah, I don’t, I haven’t had any trouble with the bathroom window. I don’t know why. Oh gosh.
Okay. All right. Well, does she have a name? Not yet. Although I have been considering naming her Susan. Cause it, it just seems right. I don’t know why. Okay, well then it has to be named after Susan Manso, the IBCLC at WVU Hospitals. Cuz she would enjoy that story very much. Okay. Shout out, Susan. Now you have a bathroom bird named after you.
Susan it shall be. Oh my gosh. Well I got a bike. Ooh for yourself? Yeah. You ride? And so member of the interview with Sonya Looney, the professional mountain biker breastfeeding extraordinaire? Sure do. Also a vegan. Mm-hmm. We’ll link it in the show notes if you haven’t heard it yet. So I am not a biker. Well, I guess I am now and it’s been bothering me ever since that interview that I don’t even own a bike.
Yeah. And that I haven’t ridden a bike since eighth grade and I was just feeling I am ashamed that I’m afraid of biking. Aw. And as an adult, I just don’t like existing with fears that I feel like I could probably solve so I went for it and I bought a bike and it’s like a hybrid. Did you go to that place over there?
I did. I went to Wamsley Cycles right down the hall. Is it Wamsley? I, in my head, I say, Wamsley, Wamsley. Wake me up before you go, go. That’s Wam if you didn’t know that. Yeah. So I got a hybrid commuter bike. It’s a Trek F three and it’s very lightweight. Nice. And I’m gonna be working up to commuting to work.
Yay. That’s my goal. Morgantown is a hard place to do that, dude. It is. Hills! But we’re right on the rail trail and my house has access to the rail trails. So it’s like a three mile, one way. It’s not too bad. Or maybe it’s round trip. See, I don’t know. In fact you can do, as I was leaving the bike shop, I said, so not to be dumb, but when I go on the rail trail is Sabraton to the left or the right?
And they were like left. Okay. Thanks. I, you know what? Why don’t you start like in the fall when it’s just like a little cooler. Well, I’m starting by biking, like a child. Yeah. With the children around my neighborhood. Just making a lot of lefts you know, and my son has been super nice and supportive about it. Theo and I have not a whole lot of hobbies in common, you know, he’s like a go go nine year old boy.
Yeah. And he likes Minecraft and I hate all video games and I just like, he hates cooking and not really hates cooking, but he doesn’t have the attention span. Yeah. For hanging out with mom doing it. So I figure getting a bike would be something that we can do that’s active together. Sure. I’ve tried running with him and I think he’s just a little too young to run with purpose with somebody I don’t know.
So running can be kind of boring for a kid. It can and hard. Yeah, but so anyway, he was really excited that I got a bike. Nice. And he got a new bike for his birthday. And the other night he asked me to ride with him around the neighborhood and I did. And he said, you’re doing a really good job, mom. Thanks, Theo.
So yeah wish me luck. I did have to say I’m going to talk to the owner of Wamsley and tell them they need to have a female who works there. Oh. Because they have none. And I was trying to explain to the bros what was happening with my bike seat and my vagina and vulva, clit situation. My sit bones are here and my vagina’s here and. I, I, I just kept, and I’m pretty comfortable talking about my body.
Yeah. You know this, but I’m looking at the bro dudes. And I was like, there’s just a lot happening up front. And they’re like, all right, yeah. Front. And you’re like, no. And so I tried to explain it again. And I said, you know, those birds with the weighted beaks that you can balance on your finger. So it’s my, my little girl in the boat is the bird beak and I’m balancing my entire body weight on that spot.
And they were, they were like, where is that? That is the age old question. So yeah, I got a prescription bike seat. It’s not really prescription, but it says RX on it and it’s got the slit in the middle and I feel like there’s less upfront action, but. Did your labia like push through the slit? Like no, I don’t know yet, but like the sit bones definitely are sore.
And I think you get used to that, but like, I don’t know, after you have a baby, there’s just a lot more tissue. You can also, like, there are big cushy bike seats out there. They’re not, but not for commuters. They were really adamant on me needing this seat. You can put whatever freaking bike seat you want on that bike and screw the bros who don’t think so.
I want the one with a HEMI. A cushy leather seat. Seriously though. Oh, I don’t know. All right. Well, anyway, so Maureen’s got a bird. I’ve got a bike. We’ll put it and that’s where we’re at today. Put a bird on it. Okay, here we go. Okay, so let’s thank some patrons and then get to a question. All right. Today we wanted to make a special shout out to our OG patrons who have given more than $150 to support the podcast.
Yeah. We are just super grateful that anybody would do that. Yeah, it’s really amazing. Really, they signed up early on in Patreon and they told us that they believed in us and they’ve been supporting this project ever since. And we really just wanted to thank you so much for continuing to support us well, after you’re done breastfeeding and some like didn’t even breastfeed.
Yeah. You know, so yeah, just friends or supporters or whatever. Yeah, it’s really great. So shout out to Adam B from West Virginia, Molly R from West Virginia, Ashley R, Rebecca N from Philly and Karen Higgins, my mother. Yeah. Thank you guys so much. We really couldn’t have done this without you, so. Oh, and Kenny Bockelman, my father.
Oh, Thanks, Kenny. Thanks Ken. Let’s take a quick minute to thank one of our sponsors. And when we come back, we’re going to address a question from one of our patrons and it’s a really good one.
You guys, Breastfeeding for Busy Moms, my little breastfeeding clinic, isn’t so little anymore. I’m so excited that not only can people book with you in person here or virtually, but they can book with the other IB CLCs in your clinic. We also do accept some insurance directly. A lot of insurance will actually pre-approve you for a certain amount of visits, even prenatally.
So please head on over to BreastfeedingForBusyMoms.com and check out the services tab to see if your insurance is approved. Book with me or one of my IB CLCs. And we would love to work with you. You can do prenatal consults. What else can they do? Well, I often work with people who have supply issues.
We’ve got pumping troubleshooting. We’ve got preparing to go back to work, weaning starting solids. We really cover the entire journey. So if you’re struggling, stop struggling and just schedule with me or somebody on my team at BreastfeedingForBusyMoms.com.
Okay. Welcome back. Yeah. So this is an interesting question directed for me. So I’ll read it. This is from Maya K from our Patreon. And Maya says, I think often about the episode where Maureen came back from having Lira and described how she approached the early days of lactation. I seem to remember something about Lyra’s latch and a tiny mouth and would love to hear more about what to look for in those early hours of nursing, how to avoid injury, how to know when you need nipple shields, just how to avoid the early days being so damn painful and hard.
And then in parenthesis it says, and I was working with an LC, so like how to take advantage of an LC’s services. Hope that makes sense. Thanks. Well, thank you, Maya. Lots of great questions here. I’ll see what I can do to answer it. Yeah, so a lot of babies, including mine just have really freaking small mouths.
You know, some of us, some of us have larger nipples. Sometimes we get a little mismatch. And that’s okay. And really like, ideally you just want as much breast tissue as possible to be in their mouth. Right. So breastfeeding both of my children in the beginning was definitely painful. And the first time, I didn’t know what was going on. The second time I was like, okay, I see that we have a lip tie.
I see that we have a recessed jaw and that’s when you notice when the chin and the nose do not line up in the same plane, like if you put your finger on your baby’s nose and chin, your hand would like tilt back down. And that’s okay. It’s, it’s pretty normal and it usually comes forward, but you might like wanna do some more of that stuff we talked about in our tummy time tongue tie episode with Michelle.
Like the tummy time and the guppie hold and all of that. And really what it meant practically for me is I just had to be super mindful of our latch in those first couple weeks, knowing that how small and restricted her mouth was, could really easily cause me injury. So that meant just like making sure, taking that extra second to make sure our position was really good before latching. Making sure her face was in the right spot.
My breast was in the right spot. All of that. One time I had a patient whose nipple, only one nipple was too big for the baby’s mouth. And it was just very different from the other nipple, which is still fine. Mm-hmm. And so she would latch baby on the other side and then pump the other side to keep the supply going.
I think I saw her on day 11 and I said, so what’s going on? And she said, well, I’ve never latched baby on this side. And I was like, well, let’s see. And I was like, oh, okay. Yeah. And I was like, well, let’s try today because every day babies grow and change so much. And so we, we had to really kind of cram it in there and do the flipple technique where you kind of flip the nipple into the mouth.
Yeah. It’s like you wait for baby to open their mouth and then you put your areola on their lower lip and then you kind of like fing, like I don’t, you like flip the nipple, that’s pointing toward their nose down into their mouth. Right. And it’s kind of like an imaginary shoehorn that you’re using to get that thing in there.
And. Baby softened it up, was able to then take it. And sometimes they’re just super tight from birth. Yeah. You know, they’re super contracted. You can listen to our episode with Dr. Rosen on pediatric chiropractic care. Sometimes babies might have a little bit of tightness from birth, depending on the type of birth you had.
Where they, you know, where after an adjustment they’d then be able to open their mouth to accommodate a larger nipple. But if you’re in that situation, just remember every single day your baby grows and changes. And every single day you can do tummy time and doing tummy time on your chest, like with baby wearing is modified tummy time.
Mm-hmm. So if your baby’s not quite ready for the floor, you can just have them on the chest and recline on the couch. All of that does make a huge difference in your baby’s latch. So definitely keep trying. Don’t think, well, we can’t do it today. So tomorrow and forever, we can’t do it. Yeah, no, there’s, there’s always tomorrow.
And as far as nipple shields, personally, I try to avoid them unless we have actual injury that we have to protect while it heals. Sometimes I recommend them for clients who cannot get a latch any other way, but that’s like less common than somebody comes in, they have some horrendous nip stuff going on where I’m like, wow, you have cracks and cuts and bleeding.
And I’m like, Hey, you know, it’d be great if we could heal this? So like, let’s use a shield while you nurse, until that feels better. Or if there’s just like so much pain and you’re like, dude, I need a break. Think of it like a band aid, use it temporarily. It comes off. And that’s kind of the ideal use for nipple shields.
Let’s see. Did I answer it all? And, oh, and she said how to, when working with an LC, how to take advantage of their services. So basically anytime you are having to do any kind of an intervention, like a nipple shield is an intervention or pumping one breast and direct nursing the other is an intervention.
You should be working with an LC who has the ability to follow up with you. So not just like the one at the hospital, I mean, unless that one can follow up with you and it’s the same person and they know your history and it’s not gonna be confusing. And also it’s helpful to have somebody I think who can come to your home in those situations.
To help you navigate maybe a different and more adventurous nursing position using your bed and your couch and your recliner to see if we can’t get a better position that’s less painful. Or we can get their mouth opened a little bit more because you’re just not gonna be able to recreate that in a lot of the traditional clinics.
I have a clinic where I actually have a bed here and a couch here and a chair here. So we can try to recreate those spaces in your home. But home visits are, are great for those initial first few days. Absolutely.
Okay. In today’s episode, we have two kind of separate issues with a similar solution.
So that’s kind of why we’re tacking on nursing strikes and breast refusal together. They’re not exactly the same thing though. I gotta say something real quick that I just remembered that we didn’t put on our list is a forceful letdown. Oh, yeah. So sometimes when people have been pumping and bottle feeding, they accidentally pump themselves into a crazy oversupply and their boobs are like a fire hose.
And baby has learned that it’s very stressful to be on the breast when they are getting fire hosed by a letdown constantly. Yeah. So when baby first gets on the breast and your letdown happens and it like fire hoses on them, they get super stressed. It’s like a sink or swim situation.
And so anytime you go to put them in that position, they’re already bracing themselves for this really disruptive experience. Some babies don’t care at all. Some babies will just suck it right down and it’s not a big deal, but other babies do take issue with it. And so we can, first of all, you need to work with somebody to correct your oversupply.
Yeah. If you think you have one. And then second of all, you can try things like upright positioning or the scissor hold on your breast to kind of tamp the flow of the let down until the letdown is over and then remove your hand. So baby can continue to nurse normally. Yeah. And you know, that’s actually another good time to sometimes use a nipple shield because it’s almost like a barrier between the milk shooting out, except it’s a hot mess.
It is. It’s a hot mess. Slippery. It’s hard to keep it on and it’s crazy, but it might help you just making one feed, less stressful for baby, you know, one feed every once in a while. Or especially that nipple shield from haakaa that like, looks like a bottle nipple. This is basically the only time I’m like, yeah, let’s use that. When your baby has a strong bottle preference.
You can basically fill that up with milk and put it on your breast or your breast will fill it for you if you have that strong letdown and then you’re basically just putting like a bottle nipple on your boob. You know, and at the very least that changes the association with breastfeeding to one that is not stressful for a baby.
Yeah. You’re switching it up a little bit. Yeah. So do you wanna start with nursing strikes? I do. So nursing strikes can come out of nowhere and depending on your baby’s age, we’re looking at different things potentially. So, you know, for example, sometimes when babies are teething, they’re in a lot of pain and they don’t want a nurse because it’s just too painful.
That’s not gonna be the cause of a nursing strike in a three week old. Right. You know? Yeah, yeah. I mean, and you know, sometimes we have like ear infections or sickness or, you know, gas or all kinds of stuff can cause this. So I guess maybe let’s go in order of like youngest nursing strike to oldest nursing strike.
So I would say in the younger kiddos, it can be a lot from mouth sores. So from birth injuries. So if some kid is pretty much not latching really well in the first couple weeks I look in their mouth and sometimes on the roof of their mouth, they have a giant canker sore, yeah called Bednar’s aphthae, which is kind of like a butterfly pattern where the hard palette meets the soft palette.
And that can be from bulb syringe suctioning very aggressively where, you know, like when you had braces and like you would nick your gum on one of the braces and then sure enough, two like two days to a week later, you have a giant canker sore there. Yeah. That’s just what it’s from. So it’s from injury from bulb syringe or deep suctioning or, you know, any kind of resuscitation efforts and that’s just a good place to look and it’s very painful.
And you know, typically in that situation, I would try to sit baby in a more upright position to feed, to take the pressure of the suction off the roof of the mouth. Yeah. I’ve also done some syringe feeding in that case or cup feeding where we’re like we need to give baby a little bit of a break.
And then come back to it. It can also be from repeated rubbing from pacifiers. So like the really long soothe pacifiers, if your baby had neonatal abstinence syndrome or had to go through a painful procedure where they were sucking on a pacifier as pain relief, mm-hmm, you know, sometimes that excess sucking can cause that and sometimes aggressive bottle feeding even, but really more likely like repetitive friction.
Yeah, absolutely. And then I think kind of the next, most common thing around that early first couple months is probably like gas, pain, constipation, stuff like that going on, where just being in the breastfeeding position is painful for them. Not that breastfeeding is painful, but like laying them down is uncomfortable.
And if you’re finding that it’s more one side than the other side, because we’ll see this where it’s like the baby refuses to nurse off of my left breast but will nurse off of the right I’m looking at going to the chiropractor, looking at OT, something like that and looking in the ear on that one side, because sometimes they have a one sided ear infection where when you tip baby on that side to nurse, from that breast, screaming, screaming like lots of fluid shifting.
Yeah. It’s just very painful for them. So any one sided preference with a strike I’m absolutely seeking additional care for evaluation. Yeah. And that ear infection problem can really cause nursing strikes like at any age. Right. A lot of the time we see ear infections in those like 10 month old’s and one year old’s and you know, you’ll be like, oh man, maybe you’re sick.
You have a fever. Okay. Now you’re not nursing because it hurts to open their mouth like that. And then you might notice like, oh, you’re rubbing your ear. Okay. You know, but sometimes it’s really hard to tell there’s no other symptom. And so let’s move forward then to I would say around the time where you’re starting solids. We’ve included solid foods, but then sometimes people forget that baby has different developmental priorities at that time where they wanna keep like, wandering around, getting into trouble, crawling away, looking at other things in, in the world.
And they’re not gonna be feeding like newborns. Yeah. And a lot of people who were feeding on a schedule will continue to try to feed their older baby on a schedule and it just pisses the baby off. It just gets stressful. It’s stressful for you. Yeah. It’s stressful for them. And they’re like, I’m not hungry.
I wanna go mess some stuff up. Yeah. In your living room right now. Yeah and I’ve definitely seen too sometimes we have that happening and then baby gets over hungry and then they’re screaming, cuz they’re too hungry and they still don’t want the boob cuz like their little brains are just on fire. You know, and, and you know, and I have parents calling like what is happening?
My baby’s broken and they hate my boobs. In that situation, I treat it just like one of my toddlers tantrums where you have to calm them down and get them neurologically back online before they can figure out what’s happening. So skin to skin, chest to chest is always gonna be home base.
So you can put ’em skin to skin and just rub their back and rub their hair until they calm down and then try to feed again. Yeah. And, and around that age too, and older, we also have babies being much more receptive to environmental changes. Did you just go back to work? Did baby just start a new daycare and then didn’t eat all day and then didn’t want a nurse when they came home?
Did you move? Did you get a divorce? Some big things like that, that just interrupt their normal routine can sometimes trigger a nursing strike. And you know, at this point in my life, I can talk about this, but it was very hard for me to talk about for a long time. When my first husband moved out, Theo stopped nursing. I mean, just completely stopped, just would not do it. And I didn’t realize at the time that it was a nursing strike, I didn’t even know what nursing strikes were. Sure.
So I just thought, oh, I guess he’s done and I just like switched to formula cuz he had already had a little bit of formula because, because, because. I didn’t really know what was going on and he was already having solids.
So I was like, I guess this is it. We’re just done. And so in addition to not having a husband anymore, I then had to stop breastfeeding and I felt like none of it was a choice. Absolutely. So it just then I didn’t realize, I could try to start again. I mean, there was so much, I didn’t know. So if you’re in that situation, please reach out to somebody.
So you at least know what your options are. You know, it always feels better when it feels like you have some control over the choice. Yeah. And yeah. And I also, it’s hard for me to say that because then I have to admit that Theo was affected by the fighting. Sure. You know, and he was because he’s alive and he’s a human with ears and eyes and yeah.
And it sucks because nursing is supposed to be quote unquote, the thing that’s like relaxing for them, that calms them down. And that was the thing he chose to stop doing. And at that point I was like, oh no. How has our relationship changed to the point where he’s not coming to me for comfort anymore?
And what is he replacing it with? Yeah. At 10 months old, you know? And a lot of those are things I’m never gonna have answers to, but I just want to let you know that if you are going through anything like that, you don’t have to go through it alone and you absolutely have options. And most of the time nursing strikes only last up to four days.
Yeah, they figure it out so you could stick it out and keep letting them try to nurse in low pressure environments to just take the pressure off of you. Yeah. And we have a few more things to list here, but I, I did wanna talk about the nursing strike my son went through. My daughter has never done one.
Great. Awesome. Can’t say I did anything different. But it’s kind of related where at the time I was just like, why is this happening? I don’t understand it. He had just a 24 hour nursing strike. And thankfully I had read some breastfeeding book and like remembered, you know, the like one page on nursing strikes.
But I realized when I was trying to like work on the outline for this episode. And I was like writing and like divorce and moving and blah, blah. I was like, none of that’s ever happened to me. Except when I thought about it I was like, oh, you know what, though? Griffin had that nursing strike right around the time that I would say was peak stress relationship for me and Ivan.
Like we had a really rough time in the year after we had Griffin. We were not treating each other well. We were not sure we were gonna stay together. Like it, it was really rough. And I feel like it really peaked around that time. And I was like, well, okay. Maybe it did have something to do with that.
I don’t know. Maybe we had a really crazy fight that day. I can’t remember most of that. You know, I was barely sleeping. And also why would I wanna remember all those awful fights we had? Right. You just compartmentalize it. You’re like it was fine! Exactly. It’s way down in a box. But yeah, like thinking back I’m like, well, that does make sense.
And it, and I remember just like laying in bed with him and he hadn’t nursed all day and he was falling asleep and I got him to take his first bottle ever when he was like half asleep and I was just crying because he took a bottle and not a boob. Yeah. And then I think I finally got him to nurse at like 4:00 AM or something.
You know, but it was really stressful. And, you know, I wonder, I don’t think there’s research on this about what’s neurologically happening with kids during peaks of stress like that. Yeah. Because it’s hard to catch it and it usually is a little bit transient. Well, the behavior is transient, but whatever.
I mean, there could be permanent differences after that point, who knows. But you know, I hesitate to like, even say it because I don’t want anyone to blame themselves. Yeah. You know, because you’re in the most vulnerable time of your life when you’re postpartum. And so in retrospect, I was very hard on myself.
Like, why didn’t you just leave? Like, why did you expose him to that? Like why, why couldn’t you just not fight? You know, why? You know, why, why, why? And like you did this, you know, and it’s just like, wait a minute, hold on. We’re all doing the best we can in the most vulnerable time of our lives. You can only do the best you can today.
And if you feel like your child is being emotionally or neurologically harmed from your environment, you can at least acknowledge it. Yeah. And then even if you don’t have the power to change it today, right. And then you can maybe assume that your partner also has the kid’s best interest in mind.
Sometimes they don’t. But if they do, you could say, listen, this is starting to affect our child. And like, maybe we just need to take a break. Yeah. Just a break until we can figure this out in a way that is less whatever it is. Yeah. And there’s a lot of conversations you can have around that. Yeah. Anyway, is there like a support group or hotline we can put in the show notes for people that going through that?
I don’t know the well, I’ll see what I can find. Okay. Check the show notes. I’m sure I will have put something. Anyway, other reasons your baby might be on a nursing strike. Are you pregnant? Oh yeah, this is a good one. This is notorious. Yeah. Especially like if your periods are irregular and you’re like not really thinking about it.
Yeah. Are you pregnant? Pee on a stick please. Mm-hmm and then another one that’s interesting is sometimes new medications change the way your milk tastes and can change your supply depending what it is. So if it correlates with like, oh yeah, I started this new med like three days ago or something that might be part of it too.
Okay. Anyway most babies wean gradually. Most babies don’t just stop nursing one day. And that is at they’re weaned. Nursing strikes are mostly just a few days and abrupt breast refusal does not equal weaning. You can use it to your advantage if you want to wean early. Sure can. Like I did with Heidi. You’re like, oh, you’re done. Good job.
Yeah. But you don’t have to do that at all. In fact, I did not realize my options again at that time even though she’s three and a half, but at that point I have to say I was pretty like emotionally over it. Yeah, it’s fine. And, and like, it’s okay if, even if you’re two month old’s on a nursing strike and you’re like, you know what?
I was thinking about formula anyway. And I’m fucking done with this. Yeah, that’s fine. We’re done. Yeah. You’re, you’re allowed to be done. You’re allowed to change your plan, but if you would like to continue breastfeeding, you have some options. Okay. Yes. Can we? Can I?
I kind of was thinking we would talk about just general breast refusal and bottle preference. And then we can talk about how to get back to the boob, cuz they’re kind of the same. Okay. But I just wanna say really quick. Mm-hmm. If you are not sure what your options are and you’re not ready and, or you’re not ready to make a decision, you can pump. Yes.
To maintain your supply without latching baby, until you’re ready to make a choice. So you can buy yourself some time. Absolutely. Yes, you can. Okay. So switching gears a little bit, we have something that is slightly different from a nursing strike that we generally term as breast refusal. And this, let me paint the situation that we’re usually talking about with this okay.
So what does this look like? Maybe you just had a baby. Couldn’t get them to latch right away. So you offered a bottle and then baby never latched to the breast after. So pumping and bottle feeding was your option. And you know, possibly more supported by your postpartum healthcare team. Maybe you needed to bottle feed exclusively for a short amount of time, like, you know, surgery or a work trip or whatever.
And when you were able to resume directly breastfeeding, baby refused. Maybe you just returned to work. Baby’s taking bottles during the day and slowly over, you know, a couple weeks say baby becomes fussier and fussier at your breast. You know, you just got home from work. You’re totally exhausted.
You’re like, I don’t wanna fight you. I feel like we’re not, neither of us is having fun here. I’m just gonna give you a bottle and suddenly you realize like weeks later, your baby’s now exclusively bottle fed and you’re not sure how you got there. Does any of that sound familiar? It does. Yeah. That’s a lot of my patients right there where it’s like, they have milk, but their baby just won’t, it just cries and cries and cries at the breast.
I’ve also had patients where the minute they even get the baby in position to breastfeed, the baby will cry. So you, so they’ll try to bottle feed in a breastfeeding position. Sure. And baby is still like irritated by that position. Yeah. Which is very interesting. Yeah. I’m always like, what is happening? I, I get so frustrated when the answer that healthcare professionals have are just like, oh, well, that’s just a thing your baby does.
Or that’s just, that’s just how you are. And we’re like, no, but why? Well, and a lot of the potential answers are not ones that we want to hear, or that we’re not ready to hear. Yeah. And we can’t prove. Yeah. I, this just reminded me, somebody on our TikTok the other day mentioned that they had, like, they were having their fourth baby and they’d never breastfed passed the first two weeks.
Like what can, what can they do? And I was like, well, what happened? And they were like, oh, the nurse just told me I’m just one of those people who only makes colostrum. And I was like, well, what? That isn’t a thing. That’s not a thing. What? Like, don’t I, I just get so frustrated, like say you couldn’t smell and you went to the doctor, what if they were like, oh, you’re just one of those people who can’t smell.
It’s fine. And you’re like, wouldn’t you be like, check my brain? What? Yeah. I would like to smell. That doesn’t work for me. That’s how I feel. But like somehow it’s okay for people to say that to folks who want to lactate, they’re like, oh, you’re just one of those people who doesn’t make milk. I’m sorry, what? Mm-hmm. For what reason?
Right. And then also I’ve had babies with oral restrictions who refuse to nurse after a period of time. Sure. Because it’s just too hard. Mm-hmm. Because at that point, of course we’re either seeing weight loss or we’ve already introduced a bottle and because the bottle’s easier and babies are geniuses, they’re gonna take the path of least resistance.
And they’re gonna be like, I wanna live mom. Yeah. You know, of course, I’m gonna take the bottle that when you tip it, gravity just makes it drip into my mouth with minimal effort. Yeah. And man a lot of, a lot of healthcare providers and other people when they see that they’ll be like the baby’s just lazy.
And you’re like, actually, actually they’re smart. They’re smart because they’re choosing the easiest way forward that gets them the most nutrients. Yeah. They’re not lazy. The baby’s like screaming fix my underlying condition. Right. And they’re like, your underlying condition is that you’re lazy. Right. And it’s like, we’re like, dude, no, that’s not possible.
And like what? That pisses me off. Baby being lazy is a very complex thing. The whole concept of it really pisses me off because like that’s also something I think I had been told a lot in my life and now I’m realizing it’s not just laziness. It’s like my brain actually just couldn’t function in those ways that I was expected to in certain situations.
Mm-hmm and I’m like, oh, that’s ableism. Cool. Thank you. Love that. Well, and also babies do have personalities. Yeah. So I’m not saying that’s fine. I, I get it. I get that, but it’s like, There’s such, I don’t know. It’s just like, no baby wants to like waste away and die. That’s not like a want your baby has. Your baby is like neurologically programmed to live.
So they’re not gonna be lazy and then not eat, unless, unless there’s something wrong. Yeah. and that’s not laziness. Right, because that implies some kind of purpose and will like, you’re doing that on purpose. Like then yeah. Then that’s like a medical problem we need to address. We might almost need to put that in the title, breast refusal, nursing strikes versus lazy baby question mark? ?
No, I’ll think about that. Anyway, yeah. That’s a whole thing you guys. And also we hear, we hear the lazy white boy syndrome with babies. Oh yeah. So weird. Which I will say white baby boys do have more complications than other babies. They are in the NICU longer than other babies.
They have more feeding issues than other babies. For whatever reason that is not because they’re lazy. It’s not laziness it’s because they have more underlying stuff going on. It seems like a cop out, instead of saying, I don’t know. Yeah. You’re like this baby’s just lazy. Right? Ugh. Goodness. All right.
So anyway Most babies who go on nursing strikes will resume nursing when given the opportunity. For babies who are showing a strong bottle preference and possibly complete breast refusal I think getting them back to physiologically like nursing from your body can be a lot harder. Mm-hmm. And I just wanna say that up front, like our success rate with that is a lot lower.
However we are using a lot of the same tactics in both scenarios. So we’re gonna kind of lump ’em together here. Wait, which one are you saying is harder? Getting baby from bottle preference back to boob. Yeah. Yeah. And also, can we clarify what a nursing strike actually is? Mm-hmm. That’s no nursing.
Yeah, none. No nursing. So if you’re, if you’re telling me your baby gets a bottle a lot of the time but will nurse in the evenings only like when they’re sleepy, that’s not a nursing strike. That’s bottle preference. Nursing strike is like, I’m not eating mom. Sorry. Yep. I don’t want to do it. Which is weird neurologically.
It is super weird. Right? We’re always like what is happening, baby? Yeah. Okay. Should we take a quick break real quick? Yeah, right back. Okay. We’re gonna take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re gonna talk about how we actually get these babies back on the boob. Reminder, you can get our episodes ad free when you become a patron of the podcast and that link is always gonna be in the show notes.
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Okay. So how do we get those babies back on the boob? Well, I’ll tell you my go to which is lots of skin to skin. So cancel your plans. Breastfeeding has to be back on the priority list, just like when you first came home from the hospital or right after your delivery, if you delivered at home or birth center and you are going to spend the weekend or few days during the week, if you can muster it, just doing skin to skin.
And that means you can take a bath with baby skin to skin. Yes. You can try to latch in the bath with a new tactile experience. Consistency and calm is key. Absolutely. So when you think about reintroducing them to directly chest feeding, I want you to think about like, how do I make this experience more desirable than any alternative?
Like you know, do you wanna like listen to like calming music for baby? Maybe express some milk before they latch so they like understand that milk is ready and your body is more ready to let down. You can kind of take that milk and spread it around your nipple.
So baby just like has no option, but to taste that. You know, and, and like try just, just kind of casually whip it out. You know, baby’s hungry. Try. Baby’s not hungry. Try be like, what if we took a bath together and just have a little boob time? What if we walked outside and I put you in the carrier and the boob is just kind of near your face.
And if your baby is already bottle feeding, oftentimes I will say, just try the breast after a bottle feed. Yeah. Or, or in the middle of a feed sometimes. Right. Actually one of my favorite things is if you’re bottle feeding successfully start bottle feeding, topless and use breastfeeding positions, right?
Switch sides. Use the cradle hold, whatever it is you prefer to breastfeed in. Bottle feed next to your naked breast. And then like, you know, sometimes mid feed, you just be like, boo, here’s a boob instead of the bottle. And a lot of the time babies will just keep feeding. And when you are trying to get baby back to feeding from your body, instead of that bottle, make sure that you’re pacing those bottle feeds to how fast the milk comes out of your breast.
So for a lot of people that’s using like the classic pace feeding technique and a slow flow nipple, but also like pay attention to what goes on with your boobs, you know, cuz it might not quite be like that. And you just kind of wanna prepare baby for what to expect, like how they should expect milk to come out.
Yeah. And these things take time. Mm-hmm. So when we’re reintroducing the breast to baby, we are going to be super patient with ourselves. Yes. And calm, which means if you can’t not be anxious during this process, then you probably will be a person that needs to feed your baby first and then try to do this.
Yeah. And that’s fine, which is fine, honestly. And a lot of people are like, oh, if baby’s not hungry, they won’t take it. And I’m like, dude, if you’re not hungry, but every hour, I say, would you like a chocolate chip cookie? You will say yes eventually. Eventually. Yes. And, and that’s, you know, and it might take days or weeks of trying this.
So also think about what’s sustainable for you. Mm-hmm. Some days you just might not be able to do it. That’s okay. Yeah. Yeah. And happy experiences. Mm-hmm. Remember breastfeeding is supposed to be one of those things that’s like a good experience for both of you together. So if it’s become stressful, we need to remove the thing that’s causing the stress.
Is it the fact that you’re anxious about them getting enough food? Okay. So let’s give them food. Yeah. And then let’s chest feed, you know, or maybe the stress is behavior at the breast. Sure. So maybe they are pinching, kicking, biting, fish hooking you, and you know, that’s become so stressful that it cause you screamed when you, when they bit you and now they’re refusing the breast because you screamed.
Okay. Big deal. Let’s remove the behavior and work on that and then get back to more happy experiences. And then baby will forget all about it. Yeah. Or maybe the stress for baby is positional. And, you know, for some reason, the position that you have always fed in is very uncomfortable. Maybe it’s painful for them.
Maybe they had an injury. Change that up, you know, use a carrier, use the koala hold, use the football hold, whatever. Just whatever one you don’t usually use, try that. Who cares? You just basically don’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. Absolutely. Some other things to consider.
You can think about bed sharing. Obviously only if you’re comfortable with it, please use the safe sleep seven, but sleeping topless next to your baby means you can essentially attempt to feed at any point during the night, and they might just latch without fully waking up. So that’s really a great opportunity.
I would also like you to be evaluated for either low supply or oversupply. Mm-hmm. Just to make sure that’s not the issue because sometimes when babies have been bottle feeding and you’re back to work and there’s stress in your life, or you’re pregnant, your supply can do weird stuff. And so we just need to make sure that we’re working with somebody to make sure that’s not actually what’s happening.
Where the baby is telling you. I don’t wanna do this because I’m not getting anything. Yeah. A kind of interesting one you can use with older babies. Like, I probably wouldn’t necessarily try this before four to six months, but after that you can use peer pressure. Like go over your friend’s house, who nurses their baby and just like, be like, Hey, could you breastfeed in front of my son?
Oh, that’s a good one. It is. Cuz honestly like if you think about those like 10 month old’s, one year old’s, whatever that have a newborn in the house and just are, even if they hadn’t been nursing before, they’re like, Hey, I would like that again. Mm-hmm. It works really well as long as they are at an age where they’re aware of their surroundings and have some understanding of that you know, babies mimic what they see.
Right. And they get jealous. Yeah. That’s okay. They would also like to be experiencing what they see another baby experience. Mm-hmm and every baby nurses a little bit differently. So they might like the way that one’s doing it. That one’s got a nice nippily style. Yeah. And this can really work for either that bottle preference or a nursing strike.
You know, sometimes for the nursing strike, it just makes them like, forget all about it. They’re like, oh right. I can do that. That’s fine. Yeah. So we can switch up the place. We can switch up the situation. We can add a peer and we can also do the old bait and switch. Yeah, absolutely. And really just think about this as how many opportunities can I give my baby to try this and to think about it?
Like let your boobs hang out, right. Play with your kid topless if you’re wanting them to breastfeed they, you know, they have natural curiosity that often leads to a feed. Mm-hmm and you know, if this goes beyond four days for a nursing strike, you’re actually considering yeah. For a nursing strike. And you’re concerned that baby is not getting enough volume throughout this whole process.
Please be watching the diapers. We need at least six wet diapers per day in a 24 hour period to make sure baby is getting enough fluid. So this is for baby six months and younger, most of the time that are exclusively breastfed, but also, you know, we can look at older kids too. Yeah. And you should be pretty familiar.
After the first couple weeks with how often you’re changing that diaper, you know, and if it feels like you’re not changing it as much, even if you’re not sure about the count you can go and look up those symptoms of dehydration for infants and see if your baby fits the bill. You know, don’t be afraid to reach out to lactation support to your pediatrician.
Sometimes it might be appropriate to offer a breast milk substitute or expressed milk, you know, might be appropriate to try cup feeding or syringe feeding during that nursing strike. Lots of options. And especially if the urine is looking orange. Yeah. And really concentrated, just like our pee, you know, if it’s orange and concentrated, I know I need to drink water, which is always.
Yes. Yeah, unfortunately I am kind of just a dehydrated bitch and I can’t change. Yes, you can. With Liquid IV. Speaking of, we’re gonna take a minute to thank one of our sponsors before we get to our favorite segment, the Award in the Alcove. Yay.
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They have a great nipple shield that actually changes colors. And it’s not clear, like all the other ones and you know how we feel about that. If you want to have your very own Ceres Chiller, please go to the link in our show notes and use code MILKMINUTE15 at checkout. That’s MILKMINUTE15 for 15% off your Ceres Chill products. Enjoy.
All right. I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. I hope you got some good tactical advice and at least kind of figured out where you are in the spectrum of breast refusal, bottle preference, nursing strike. At least now, you know, you don’t have a lazy baby. You have a smart baby. And we’re gonna give an award today to Alyssa P from Connecticut.
So Alyssa says I never had a breastfeeding goal, just like I never had a birth plan. In both instances my goal was to keep us both alive and mostly sane. My son, however, chose my breastfeeding goal himself. He stubbornly and actively refused a bottle for over eight and a half months. Even after I returned to work when he was 16 weeks old, he would hunger strike all day at daycare and nurse all night.
I was exhausted and at times beyond frustrated but I had no choice but to keep on trucking. We got to a point where I said to my husband that I desperately needed a vacation. And at that point I chose to change the way I viewed my journey. I figured nursing would be easy on a plane to conveniently feed the baby, especially on takeoff and landing.
So I was determined to keep going until we went on our trip. Here we are celebrating at the airport before our return flight with some much deserved beers. He’s turning 11 months next week and now I have made my own goal to breastfeed for a year when at one point I felt trapped by breastfeeding. Kudos to all the moms who do anything in their power to keep their babies fed, especially at the babies who are extra particular in their menu selections.
Awesome. You’ve done such a great job. Yeah, that’s incredible. And I love that you just changed your goals. You know, you’re welcome to change your goals as many times as you need to. Absolutely. Well, Alyssa, we’re gonna give you the Nocturnal Nourishment Award. Yeah. You’re getting the Nocturnal Nourishment Award since your baby would strike all day at daycare and then nurse all night.
Absolutely. And okay. Don’t normally give two awards, but something really special happened after we planned this episode that I just wanted to give like a quick shout out. Okay. You’re looking at me like I’m crazy cause I didn’t tell you about this before. So one of our patrons reached out to us, Katie, and she basically just asked the question that this episode is answering, you know she had a three month old who had not latched since he was two weeks old.
And so I was like, oh yeah, we’re gonna do this episode. Let me just like, give you a couple pointers. It might happen. It’s never too late. You know, whatever. Stay positive. Here’s like five things to try. And what I said after is I was like, Hey, and you know what? Just try, like without a plan, just go right now and try to latch.
You never know what’ll happen. Immediately that baby latched. You’re a witch! Yeah, she said she tried latching him for each feeding that day and he latched right away every time. What? See! I’m telling you; kids are weirdos. Don’t assume it’s the new reality. Just assume it’s a weird blip in the matrix.
Yeah. And so I just wanted to share that because that is such a success story and unexpected, right? Sometimes it’s not as hard as we made this entire episode to be. Yeah. Sometimes it just works. And you might be surprised. All right. We’re gonna give you the Low Pressure Latch Award, Katie, because you just made it look easy.
Yeah. That’s amazing. Good job. Yes. All right. So don’t be afraid guys. Don’t be afraid of rejection either. Just get after it and see what happens. Okay and we’re gonna close out with an apple review from Carly Marie Whit. The title is Learning So Much. I am learning so much. I’m five months postpartum and this podcast is teaching me more than my doctor and lactation counselor. Thank you ladies.
You’re welcome. I was just, we were just talking about this the other day. Heather’s was like, we basically created like 150 CEUs already. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, well, welcome to the conference. The Milk Minute conference. Except there’s no time limit or fee, so enjoy. Yeah. Enjoy. And thank you for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute podcast.
Absolutely. You know, the way we change this big system that just does not work to serve new parents is by educating ourselves, our friends, our family, and our healthcare providers about lactation. If you found value in this episode that we produced for you today, you can show us some love by joining our Patreon. And there’s different tiers available to you, depending on what you’re into.
So anywhere from $1 to $20 a month with a yearly discount and all kinds of merch and free handbooks and live Q and A’s quarterly and messaging features with us. Mm-hmm. And, you know, obviously for $5 a month and more, you can get ad free and early access to episodes. And we are happy to do that for all of you.
It’s the joy of our life. Absolutely. Thank you so much for supporting us and listening to our content. Have a great, fantastic low pressure latching day. Bye.