Help, my baby won't nurse! Is it a strike? Is your baby weening? Is your baby too busy? There are lots of reasons that a baby may appear to refuse to nurse. The Good Letdown Babies are all at the busy stage of their development and, with the exception of Ella who would hook up to a boob pump all day if she could, they frequently don't nurse the way they used to. Several of our friends have experienced strikes or busy babies refusing to nurse as well. Here are a few tricks we are finding helpful!
1: Dream feeding. What is dream feeding? This is catching your baby mostly asleep, slipping a nipple in his/her mouth and nursing when they are not busy. This is part of how I sneak extra milkies to Chase when he is too busy to nurse. Babies are interested in the world around them, they are learning and growing, working on gross and fine motor skills...they just don't have time to nurse sometimes...it helps if you nurse your baby to sleep as this actually constitutes a significant source of nutrition for your baby but if your baby doesn't nurse to sleep, then dream feeding may be helpful. I usually just climb into bed with Chase and pull him close (pull his ever present fingers out of his mouth) and offer the breast. He ALWAYS takes it and nurses quietly in his sleep.
2: Most of us have heard this but nurse in a quiet, dark place. Keep a mental "log" of about when baby SHOULD want to eat and take baby to a quiet place, offering the breast gently and casually. The lack of stimulation should help. Sometimes it helps to let baby have a little down time in the quiet dark place with you before offering the breast. Just follow baby's cues and keep track of what works best.
3: DON'T force baby to the breast. EVER. This will create negative associations and we definitely don't want that!
4: Be prepared for increased night nursing sessions. At night when they are sleeping and not so busy, they will regain their appetites. This is called reverse-cycling. Being understanding and open about it is the best approach. If you cosleep, it's even easier.
5: Gymnastics nursing may help. Change up positions...lay on your back and let baby come and nurse, let baby sit on your lap to nurse, ditch your standard hold and try something new to catch baby's attention.
6: Some babies come to breast, nurse a moment or two and then move on because they don't have time for you. Most day time nursings won't be as long with a busy baby anyway. Try offering gentle breast compressions so baby will get more milk in these drive-by daytime nursings.
7: Try a nursing necklace, or several that you rotate, so baby will stay interested and have a way to continue playing and exploring while nursing. This has the added benefit of also protecting your boobs and chest from busy hands and fingers.
8: Nursing in public is a special challenge during these times. If you won't be able to find a quiet dark place to nurse your distracted baby, it's probably best to limit your outings for a little bit. Nurse baby before you head out and try to be home within a couple hours so you can offer the breast again. I find that sometimes Chase will nurse in the car if he won't nurse at the mall, playground, children's museum, or wherever we happen to be.
9: Learn to nurse in a baby carrier. You all know we LOVE babywearing here at TGL. There are so many benefits for mom and baby, not the least of which is access to breast. Learning to nurse in your favorite carrier may be great for your distracted baby. I frequently offer Chase some milkies while he is hangingout in the Ergo. He often falls asleep if I nurse him this way and has a nice, long dream feed while I cruise around with the toddler. You can nurse in many different carriers, just find one that works for you, try it at home to get your practice in, and then when you are out you will feel confident nursing your baby on the go. Your baby can still enjoy being part of the action while getting his/her liquid gold on the go!
10: Pump occaisionally to keep your supply up and deal with any discomfort from overful breasts. Set the milk aside in the fridge or freezer, or if you are offering solids and sippy cups, put the milk in a sippy. Don't give baby a bottle or sippy too often though or baby may end up with a daytime preference for bottles/sippies on account of how fast and easy it is for them. Chase sometimes gets a sippy of water or breastmilk with his meals now...but never just a sippy in lieu of nursing.
11: nurse your baby when s/he has just woken from naps, still in the nap room, before taking baby anywhere...Baby will still be nice and calm and will not yet be distracted by the wonderful world around them.
These are just a few things that have worked for us and some of our nursing friends. Remember that it is very unlikely your baby is weaning, more than likely s/he is approaching a developmental milestone and is too distracted by the amazing world to get down to business. A nursing strike is when baby flat out refuses to nurse, many of these techniques can help during a strike. Sometimes you'll never know what caused a strike, but it can be overcome. It's not uncommon for moms to think baby is weaning at around 15 months...this is a busy busy age and nurslings tend to cut back. Just follow baby's cues and do what you can to keep breastmilk in their diet and keep your supply up.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a big world for your baby. Often all these changes and experiences leave them feeling like they need to regroup. A lot of breastfed babies will do this at the breast. This is their homebase, where they feel safe, secure, and confident. Being available for on-demand nursing during these times is critical not only for their nutritional needs, but also for their emotional needs!
Please enjoy your amazing, busy baby, follow your instincts, keep offering the breast in a calm, casual, no pressure kind of way, and before you know it...you'll be reaching and surprassing nursing goals!