Nursing Strike at 4 1/2 Months?

Kathleen Tackett's picture

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
Our 4 1/2 month-old boy, Sam, has been breastfed since he was born. My wife went back to work at 3 months and we out of necessity we started feeding him breast milk from bottles. We occasionally give him formula as well. But over the last week he has been reluctant to breastfeed and for two days has refused to breastfeed completely. He obviously likes the bottle because it is easier to draw the milk from.

We would like to keep him on breast milk until at least 6 months, but if he refuses to breastfeed my wife is afraid her milk supply will dry up even if she pumps several times a day. Are there techniques for getting a 4 1/2;month-old to nurse again? (We have tried wetting the nipple with milk.) And/or is it possible for my wife to continue pumping for a few months and we bottle feed him the breast milk?

Thanks in advance for your assistance,
Phillip

ANSWER

Hi Phillip,
It sounds like you are experiencing a nursing strike, and I hope that the problem has resolved itself by the time you receive this response (My computer has been in the shop and I just got it out today, so I'm way behind on correspondence).

Most of time when babies go on nursing strikes, their frustrated parents are never able to figure out the exact cause and the babies resume nursing on their own after a few days. Older babies and toddlers (nine months or older) who go on strike are often just weaning themselves, and there is really nothing you can do to change their minds. Babies younger than six months rarely wean themselves, so when they go on strike they almost always can be persuaded to take the breast again.

My article "Nursing Strike" has lots of info about possible causes and solutions for dealing with this situation. In the meantime, while you are trying to figure out the cause, it is a good idea to keep up the milk supply by pumping until the baby decides to start nursing again.

If worse comes to worse and the baby absolutely won't start nursing again, it is certainly possible to pump and feed the baby breastmilk in a bottle, but this requires regular use of a good pump, and is rarely necessary when a baby this age goes on strike.

I hope this information is helpful,

-- Anne, IBCLC