When Breastfeeding Goes From Good to Bad

Sometimes, nursing challenges can appear out of the blue, when everything has been going great. You and baby may have had an adjustment period at the beginning, but then it was smooth sailing. Or perhaps things were fine from day one.

And now, all of a sudden, your baby is fussy while feeding. Or maybe you’re having some unexplained pain. And dare I mention the dreaded “nursing strike,” which is when an infant just decides to stop drinking your milk for no apparent reason?

Here’s how to troubleshoot the challenges that take you by surprise:

Nursing Strikes: If your baby suddenly refuses to nurse, it may seem puzzling but there really is a reason for it. It could be anything number of things. Some babies will not nurse when suffering from a sore throat or ear ache because the sucking action exacerbates the pain. Others will go on strike because of extreme stress or emotional upset. One of my boys quit cold turkey when I spoke out in frustration and anger during a nursing session that wasn’t going well; he literally turned his head away from my breast for two whole days until I lovingly and gently coaxed him back! Babies have also been known to strike during big changes in the household, like grandma moving in or a relocation. And sometimes a nursing strike is simply a sign that your baby is ready to wean, but always look for other causes first.

Nursing Pain: What could be the cause of pain that appears after a period of comfortable nursing? The most likely things you’ll want to look for are infections like mastitis and thrush/yeast, hormonal pain caused by early pregnancy or your cycles returning, and possibly even your baby entering the teething phase. Sometimes, a plugged duct can appear after a long time of pain-free nursing. And although not as common, some mothers experience soreness or irritation when they switch soaps or perfumes or even laundry detergent.

Unexplained Fussiness: A baby that was nursing contentedly can exhibit periods of fussiness from time to time, and it might take some detective work to get to the bottom of the cause. Is your baby teething or hitting a milestone? Is your baby in pain or discomfort from an illness? Is your baby going through a growth spurt and getting frustrated with slow let down or feedings not being amped up to meet demand? Has the taste of your milk, or your supply, possibly changed due to medication, diet or even pregnancy? Does your baby have a sensitivity or allergy to something you’re eating (yes, onset can be delayed)? Or perhaps your baby is just growing up and more easily distracted during nursing sessions.

To get answers to these types of questions, I would recommend talking with an experienced friend, a trusted lactation consultant or health care professional or even visiting helpful and supportive sites like Kellymom.com.

The sooner you get to the root of the problem, the sooner you and your child can return to a trouble-free nursing relationship.








This post was previously published at the Eco Sprout blog, which is no longer online.

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  1. This great advise! I never really had any issues with my son. When he was a baby he would spit up a lot when he would eat. Even when burping him he would spit up. I was told by his pedi it was OK as long as it wasn’t projectile. He’s my first nursing babe so it was a little concerning to me. He outgrew it of course.

  2. Oh man, my son was SO gassy!! In theory Im wondering if it was what I was eating?! Looking back I should have changed that and will probably with my next if needed. With my son we gave gripe water all the time (love that it was natural) and did tons of gas exercises constantly!! It was pretty crazy the farts that came out of this kid lol!