Monday, November 4, 2013

Coping with a Nursing Strike

Note the date. I have come back in time...
The Strike

When Alex was 11 months old, he went on a nursing strike.

He had always been an incorrigible biter.  One day, once he had all his front teeth, he chomped down hard.

He wouldn't let go.  The pain was horrible and I couldn't get him off.

I screamed in pain and surprise.  Terrified at my shriek, he let go and wailed.  We both cried, and then we got over it - or so I thought.

The next time I tried to feed him, he bit me again.  This time, before I could react, he cried and pulled away, and refused to eat.  We repeated this unpleasant scenario over and over again that day, until I was horribly sore.  I suppose the memory of my scream was just so upsetting, he couldn't handle it.

The strike stretched on into day 2.  We were both miserable.  In the middle of a nursing strike, there are a few things you are likely to run into:
  • Pain.  Even this late in our nursing relationship, I became painfully engorged.  I didn't own a pump, but on Day 2, I went and bought one, frantic to relieve the pain.  Pumping both relieves the pain and maintains your milk supply.
  • Worry.  Baby needs to eat and drink, and when he refuses, mama gets worried and rightly so.
  • Doubt.  Is nursing over?  Are we weaning?  This is not how I wanted to wean! (A nursing strike is rarely permanent).
  • Rejection.  I was completely unprepared for the emotional side of a nursing strike.  My head knew that Alex was rejecting my milk, not me.  But, nursing is such a close and tender relationship, and so much a part of the love between a nursing mom and her baby, that the rejection hurt me deeply anyway.
How we ended it

There are a lot of wonderful resources available to help with a nursing strike.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

La Leche League, International
Mayo Clinic

Those pages are full of wonderful suggestions to get things going again.  None of them worked for Alex and I, though.  Here's what did work:  I took that breast pump I bought to relieve engorgement, and I put a little bit of milk in a cup.  I gave the cup to Alex and let him drink from it.  When he got a taste of breast milk again, he started to cry, and crawled over to me, up in my lap, and began to nurse.  I hardly dared breathe, lest I disturb him, but he seemed to decide he'd had enough, and our strike was over.  He was breastfed for 6 more months after that with no more issues.

If you have dealt with this problem, please share how you solved it!

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