What to Do for Your Partner When Baby Won’t Breastfeed

And it's a lot more than just saying "It will be okay."
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August 9, 2017
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A strike can be a disruptive tool to gain attention, but it’s only usually only done by angry adults who chant and carry clever slogans on sticks. And when your baby goes on strike, it’s equally disruptive, noisy, and challenging. And, no, you can’t call in scabs. Babies generally engage in what’s called a “nursing strikes.” That’s when they suddenly don’t want to breastfeed anymore. It’s hard to understand why anyone would go on strike against boobs. So, what do you, the man, do when your kid suddenly decides they don’t want the milk? You support your partner and cross the picket line.

What A Nursing Strike Looks Like

After what’s called the “honeymoon” period between your baby and their two new best friends, your kid may suddenly start not digging the lactation. This will usually happen a few months after starting breastfeeding, somewhere between month three and eight. Your partner might report that your baby looks hungry, and acts hungry, but gets fussy when approaching the breast. This makes her feel rejected — and it’s more devastating than any prior break-up she’s experienced.

The good news is that a nursing strike will generally only last for a couple days. It’s rare that a strike goes on for a couple of weeks. And if that happens, management will likely cave to their demands.

What Causes The Strike

The cause of your baby’s nursing strike could be a ton of different things. But the underlying problem is babies aren’t coordinated enough to make tiny signs explaining their demands. Tracking down the issue is half the battle, so here’s are a few common causes:

  • General Pain: Not to be confused with Major Payne (Damon Wayans’ best work), a baby experiencing pain in the mouth due to teething or thrush may not want to eat. Same goes for if they have an earache or are just feeling down post-immunization.

  • Weird Mom Changes: Not like what happened in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. The change is anything from the way your partner smells, to the way the breastmilk tastes, that might put your kid off. Is it the curry you 2 ate last night? Or didn’t eat. Either way, it may have something to do with curry.

  • Stress: Your baby is a ball of white-hot perception right now. So anything new, shiny, or loud will be a distraction from the boob. They can also sense if your partner is stressed.

  • Feeling Sick: Ever tried to breath, eat, and drink at the same time? Interesting trick. Now try it with a cold. Nope.

  • Running Low On Milk: Many factors can cause your partner’s breasts to slow down production. Less milk means more fuss.

What You Can Do To Help

To be honest, the ball is really in mom’s court. You could take over for her, but that would be creepy and/or miraculous. That said there are things you can totally do to help out. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Make A Feeding Environment: Help her and your kid get comfortable by creating a nursing area that is dim and distraction free. Make it quiet, or add some gentle, non-modulating white noise with a fan or white noise machine.

  • Work On The Stress: If your partner needs more time, or space, make sure she can get it. Ask about what’s stressing her out and see if you can take on any extra for a little while to help her out. Remember to smile.

  • Be A Nursing Coach: Mom is busy, so you can do the homework and give her the TL;DR version of nursing strikes. Did she know changing the way she positions the kid while breastfeeding can be a solution to a nursing strike? Do some research. Bookmark the pages (in a book or browser) and drop them in her lap. By now you should be an expert on how to do this without being patronizing.

  • Just Listen: This is a crazy frustrating thing to deal with. She might just need someone to listen patiently while she cries and freaks out. Give her hugs and encouragement and let her know this happens to everyone. Except you. Because it literally can’t. (Maybe leave that last bit out.)

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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