Strike it Up! I Wanna I Wanna Feed You Breast Milk – Stop This Nursing Strike

On October 12th, two days after he turned 12 months old, my little boy stopped nursing. He went on a nursing strike.

Cold turkey.

Like he was completely done. Full-on nursing strike.

After nursing him his normal four or five feedings that day, and then putting him down for bed at 7pm, he woke up screaming bloody murder (a different cry, not an “I’m waking up to say hello” cry) at 11pm and refused to nurse ever since.

For those keeping a count (read: my boobs) that would be 23 days ago.

The Mint Chip Mama - Nursing Strike

Happily nursing in August.

What Does A Nursing Strike Look Like?

For the first two days he latched for a second and then stopped because he was hysterical. Then he just turned away absolutely hysterical. Then he wouldn’t even try. Good times. The more hysterical he became the more hysterical I became. I feel like I’m running around like a chicken without a head.

He also refused the pacifier that night and has since hysterically cried himself to sleep for every bedtime and naptime because all of his soothing methods flew out the window. According to the doctors (I took him to three pediatricians and a dentist) he is in no pain and should just be left hysterical so I don’t start a pattern. It’s been awesome.

Why do I think this is a “nursing strike” and not that he is actually done nursing? Because I think he was teething, or in pain, or saw a ghost, I don’t freaking know.

But according to lactation specialists and every webpage on the interwebs, this is not how a baby stops nursing.

Is it Self Weaning?

Weaning happens gradually and usually begins around 18-24 months. I experienced this first hand when my daughter weaned herself a few years ago. That was the perfect wean and my grand idea was to do it again the same way. But as my father once said – Man plans and G-d laughs.

Yes, yes, I am so completely happy that I successfully breastfed these last twelve months and am not saying there is anything wrong with stopping breastfeeding after a year. What I am saying is I am not ready to stop and it is extremely upsetting that I don’t know why this happened and I can’t figure out how to fix it. No one asked me! I’m not done. I am not ready! Plus, is something going on with him that I am missing causing him to stop?

The Mint Chip Mama - Nursing Strike

A seaside suckle in July.

I have been a wreck, constantly living in a state of limbo where I don’t know what to do with myself. In addition, I am sure my hormones are also going crazy. No doubt they are partly to blame for me not knowing which way is up the last three weeks. My packed away pump came out again because if he does plan to cross the picket line at some point I want my milk to be there for him. Alternately, I have not been pumping more than once or twice a day because I’m afraid I will have too much of a supply if he is, in fact, just not that into me anymore.

This Is Nursing Strike Hell

Either way, I am in hell. I miss nursing. I miss the quiet intimacy and sweet snuggling. At first he wouldn’t even snuggle with me which was excruciating, but now I am getting my snuggles back. In fact, he just fell asleep on me for the first time in months. It was absolutely delicious. Folded in half, his little head on my chest, his little hand on my tummy. I could have stayed there like that for hours. But I got cold, because I was trying to do skin to skin with him to lure him back to my milk jugs. I try this suggested method all day long. If you have twenty five cents and like peep shows, drive by my house. It’s like Vegas in here.

Loss of Control

As I was sitting there in the kangaroo cuddle position, I was thinking about a concept in my friend Donna Ellenbogen’s Family Wellness Solutions model called “loss of control”. In a nutshell experiencing any type of loss of control – sucks because you lose control. You cannot control the situation. And this freaking sucks. You feel helpless.

I was thinking how twelve months ago in true “loss of control” fashion this little folded boy came into the world breech, breaking my water & resulting in an emergency C-section. If you knew me then you would know I would have done anything not to have had a C-section (a view I still hold especially after having one!). But he had other ideas. In fact I did everything to avoid it – from lying upside down on an ironing board at night, to flipping in the pool for hours while my daughter was at school, to making my mom burn moxibustion next to my toes. But he had his own convictions and wouldn’t flip. Of course later we learned the cord was around his neck, so good thing he didn’t flip.

Loss Of Control Nursing Strike Or He Is In Control?

Now here we are once again. My little hoodlum is dictating something I can’t do anything about and I hate hate hate it. I feel so rejected. But also, I don’t understand how something so loved by him can be cut off so abruptly. Doesn’t he miss it as much as I do?

The Mint Chip Mama - Nursing Strike

I have been thinking a lot about other women who wanted to nurse but couldn’t, and how they must feel. It is horrible! This little person who you just made, grew, and hatched – whether via a painful method or a really painful method, basically tells you to go F yourself. It is not a nice feeling but one of rejection. One I can’t imagine feels any different at day one or day 367. It just sucks. Or I guess – it doesn’t suck…

So Where Does This Nursing Strike Leave Me?

Besides doing all the stuff I find on the internet and following all the advice I’m given, I’ve decided my only choice is to give myself a deadline and then call it. I’ve decided on waiting 40 days and 40 nights in the spirit of my ancestors. So on November 21st, 2014 I will pull the plug (of my pump) and reward myself for giving 150% in this effort.

Sadly, the only thing I have in the books to celebrate this occasion is the Retin-A cream for my stretch marks – which I couldn’t use while nursing. Couldn’t suck more than that (or not suck – geez, salt in my wounds!). If you see me that day, give me a hug. I will be a sniveling, hysterical ball of mess.

For the love of G-d, cross the picket line!

Published by Stacey Wallenstein

Stacey Gish Wallenstein created The Mint Chip Mama blog in 2013 to share her love and passion for giving children meaningful life experiences and helping moms like her navigate the challenges and benefits of raising children in the New York metropolitan area. Before becoming a full-time mom in 2010, Stacey spent the better part of the preceding decade as a high-end customer relationship management (CRM) professional for some of the most well-known brands in the hotel, luxury, fashion, and beauty industries, such as Harrah’s Entertainment, Chanel and Christian Dior, Inc. She managed customer loyalty programs for thousands of clients around the country and created social media strategies for a span of industries including healthcare services, restaurants, consumer packaged goods, specialty foods, local attractions and retail locations. After 13 wonderful years in Manhattan (the last three of which spent as a city mom), Stacey and her husband moved to Long Island in 2014, where they now reside with their three children (13, 9, and 7). There, she is a founding member of her local Parenting Center, which provides classes and coordinates events designed to educate and inform parents while fostering an environment of support and friendship within the community. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Stacey has been active in the New York area alumni organization for nearly twenty years, serving as a board member on the school’s University of Michigan Alumni Club of New York City. She also holds a Masters in Psychology from The New School in New York City. Please check out The Mint Chip Mama in the Press: The New York Post, Psychology Today, NY Metro Parents, New York Family, Parents Magazine, Newsday, News 12, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt: Kids, NerdWallet, Big Apple Kids Guide, and more! The Mint Chip Mama was also nominated as "The Best Blog On Long Island" for 2022 & 2023, one of the Top 20 New York Mom Blogs & Websites, and one of the Top 100 Mom Lifestyle Blogs on the web! For more updates, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Pinterest.

16 thoughts on “Strike it Up! I Wanna I Wanna Feed You Breast Milk – Stop This Nursing Strike

  1. I read this at 5am when I was pumping! Ha ha! I pump about 5 times a day (three at work) and one in the morning before he wakes up and before he goes to bed. He is 11 months old today and SO happy and proud of myself I have been able to breastfeed this long! I am planning on a month to introduce milk (mix with breast milk at first) but I am so ready to give up the pump! But plan to continue morning and evening breast feeding as long as he wants to. Breastfeeding is part of my identity now and am starting to think what it will be like when we are done. My timeline was a year (I may throw myself a party as well) but now I keep saying as long as he still wants to.

    Hopefully he is just going through a something. Good Luck!! There are times when Brandon is totally not interested and other times he totally is. Maybe boys are different?

  2. This definitely hits a nerve with me. My son didn’t latch in the beginning and it was devastating. Now I can’t imagine weaning him any time soon. I totally hear where your pain is. I hope the little guy crosses the strike line soon or that you at least find acceptance for the things that are out of your control. That’s the hard thing in life isn’t it? Good luck.

  3. I know how you feel, my first son was given a bottle at the hospital and after a few days of struggles (large nipple, tiny mouth,) He refused to nurse. I was pumping, but so tired and I only had a manual pump, so my milk went down fast. I would still try a few times a day to get him to latch, and it got to the point where I couldn’t hold him or he would cry. (So he’s always been a daddy’s boy, I wondered if that’s what started it.)

    I gave up trying to nurse him for about a week and then I could hold him again, and he was on a more regular schedule drinking mostly formula, when out of the blue 3 weeks old, he just decided that he wanted to nurse, and he just knew how but was holding out or something. My milk was almost gone so he had to nurse a lot (goodbye sleep!) and still give him formula, but after a couple months he was only on breastmilk and it was like he had always been that way.

    Now that he is 4 I can see how his personality was so obvious then. He and I clash, we frustrate each other =P. He resists change and we are both very stubborn. He had tantrums 5 days in a row when he didn’t want to go to pre-school, and then the next day he just decided that he would go but not participate. Of course he let his guard down and had fun, and it was all good after that. He is a fighter and whatever he does in life, it will be on his own terms.

    My second son was a slow and careful nurser, but when he was old enough for food, refused to eat any mush. At all. So I gave up trying since he was so good with nursing I figured that’s what he needed. One day when he was 10 mts old he just started eating whatever we ate as well. (unless it was mashed potatoes or something, he still is not fond of mushy food.)

    So just love your little one, and as hard as it may be, respect their decisions. Let them have the bit of control they are struggling for and only override them on the things that really matter. This is hard for me too!

  4. So glad I found your article. I had problems with my first child and breastfeeding, after having my second child and making it thru the first few crazy weeks of breastfeeding I was so proud of myself and my son that this was going to work then out of nowhere at almost 5 months he has decided he doesn’t want to nurse. I can get him to when he first wakes up and doesn’t want to see everything going on around him. I came home from work and he just would not nurse and almost a week later still wants nothing to do with it. It has been so upsetting and everyone around me acts like its nothing and I’m crazy so to read your article and relate so much makes me feel better. Hopefully your little one decided to breastfeed again as do I hope mine does.

    1. Thank you for your comment Alisha. For those of us dedicated to nursing any snafu is pretty devastating. I’m sorry your son is giving you a hard time. Keep pumping. At his age it is probably just a strike. My daughter did this too around your son’s age. After a few brutal days she came back. Sadly my son was just over it. I pumped for a month and tried non stop with him. After 6 weeks I just had to let it go. It is upsetting to let your baby be the decision maker when you are used to telling him what to do. I wanted to let him self wean. I guess this is in fact what he did. Minus the whole act of weaning! Circle back and let me know what happens. I’m with you sister!

  5. So he never started again? My daughter bit me last night and because we were both half asleep I over reacted and scared her. Now she refuses to nurse. I feel so awful because I know it is my fault, but I do not know how to fix it. I don’t want breastfeeding my last baby to end on a bad note. I also do not know how to make sure she is getting the milk she needs. She will not nurse or take a bottle and is miserable. She can’t sleep without nursing and is hungry.

    1. Hi Shanna, so sorry this happened to you. The advice I was given was to make the nursing environment as warm and nurturing as possible to try & “nurse” him back (sorry). I tried taking a warm bath together, snuggling as much as possible, spending my day topless (a little odd, a little cold..). To be honest although none worked in the end I felt this process helped wean ME. After trying everything I gave up knowing I gave 150%. Let me know if any work for you. It is beyond stressful & feels just horrible. I’m with you my friend.

  6. Ladies, I know exactly how you all feel. This is my third child and I breastfed my first for 18 months (she took boob and breast just fine), I breastfed but mostly pumped for my 2nd (she just really preferred the bottle) and for my third, my son, he LOVES,like ADORES the breasts and is all about nursing, we have to fight to get him to take a bottle when I’m working. Anyways, all of a sudden, starting 2 days ago, he refuses to nurse, cold turkey, just like you! I was able to nurse him at 5 am Sunday morning b/c he was still half asleep but that’s it. He won’t even let me “assume the position” and will arch his back and flail away screaming. I even tried the bottle and he wants nothing to do with that, although he will drink it from others when he’s starving (but not nurse wtf). Like you said, I’m NOT ready physically, emotionally, mentally for it to end, and he’s 11 months old. It sounds so bad but I’m PRAYING it’s teething or even an ear infection and that he’ll come back to me….I hate that it could end like this…

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. I still have no idea why my son stopped so abruptly. He did the same thing with the back arch. Horrible! He also stopped taking the pacifier that day. I realized recently he stopped eating those squeeze pouches around then as well. I’ll never know what happened but my guess was teething. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It is no fun! Please keep me posted on what happens. Sending an e-hug! Stacey

  7. Hi there, I just read your post as I’m googling like crazy “how long does a nursing strike last”? My son just turned 14 months. And literally to the day, he stopped nursing abruptly. My story sounds EXACTLY like what you experienced. Nursed 5 times a day, he loved it, I loved it and then one day just stopped. I have been pumping for the last 2 weeks as he will still drink it is a sippy cup (he has never ever taken a bottle). As like you, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt just incase he changes his mind and wants to nurse again. I want the milk to be there. So, did your son ever get back at it or was that the end? I kinda feel in my heart its the end for us… but I’m sure hoping not. It is so devestating when your not emotionally ready for it. 🙁

    1. I completely know how you feel. I am so sorry you are going through this. It is very emotional & frustrating. My son never went back to nursing (almost a year later it is still sad for me to say that) but I can say he came back to snuggling! I have no idea what happened and I’ll never know. It had to have been related to sucking since he refused the pacifier & the packets after that night as well. So sad. I’m here for you!

      My advice – pick a date and set yourself up for closure. Hopefully he will come back but if not you need to get you sh*t together & move on. I was a mess. If I didn’t have an end date I would have really lost it. By the time it came & went I had made peace & was able to move on.

      Good luck! I know to say to you “you made it a year hooray!” Is insulting so I won’t… But do know you are an awesome rockstar & whatever happens you 100% succeeded! Xoxo

      This was my follow-up piece.

    2. Amanda, not sure if you were writing to Stacey or the others who replied, but I know your pain so I thought I would respond. Unfortunately I had NO luck whatsoever – what killed me was that while he hated the bottle SO much before, the day he stopped nursing, he took the bottle like a champ, and that broke my heart even more. I tried for about 2 weeks straight and I tried it all (bath, dream feed, when he was asleep, walking/rocking, bait and switch, etc) and NOTHING worked – he still arched away like I was trying to poison him, which didn’t help emotionally either. I kept pumping for another 2 months and just stopped a couple of weeks ago. I’m not going to lie, it STILL hurts and it’s literally been 3 months and I KNOW he’s not coming back, but honestly if he even attempted it, I would start re-lactating in a heartbeat. Does your LO arch his back to get away from you, or have you tried any of the above things (bath, dream feed, etc.) to see if it might work? My prayers are with you b/c I wouldn’t wish this emotional mess on any mom!

  8. I couldn’t have found this at a better time. My daughter is 10 months old and we are on day 6 of her nursing strike. She has an ear infection but according to her doctors she should have been well enough to not have any sucking problems a couple days ago. I am heartbroken. I EPed with both of my sons (we never figured out how to latch) so actually being able to nurse my daughter felt special and perfect. So for it to abruptly stop like this- I’m in tears when I think about it. I’m not ready to stop. I wanted to be that mom who was still nursing her 4 yr old to bed at night. 10 months is too soon.

    I’m going to keep trying and following any and all advice that comes my way and seeing every type of provider who can possibly help us. I’m not ready for it to be over.

%d bloggers like this: