Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nursing Strike

So, I've kind of been avoiding my blog because the past few days have been really rough. The Eskimo has gone on a nursing strike. He went from being a great nurser, to wanting absolutely nothing to do with me. Ladies, this happens. And you will have people tell you, oh, he's just weaning. NO baby will self-wean at nine months, I don't care what anyone says. Babies generally don't self-wean until 18-24 months. And, a baby doesn't wake up one morning and say, I'm weaned, deal with it. Weaning is a gradual process, spread out over weeks or months. When your baby decides he's not going to nurse all of a sudden, it's a strike. And there is a difference. I've read other mama's tales of their babies going on a strike around nine months. At this age, babies are so busy, they often don't have time to sit down and nurse. They just can't be bothered. At this point, a lot of women give up and say, oh well, he weaned himself. And believe me, that thought has crossed my mind MANY times the past few days. How easy would it be to just give up right now?

The fact is, babies need to be getting the majority of their nutrition from either breastmilk or formula until a year of age. So, even if you decide not to nurse anymore, you're still going to have to provide bottles. We've been giving the Eskimo bottles for the past few days, and it is not fun. It's a lot of work. And I'm not pumping nearly enough milk to keep him happy, so we have to supplement with formula. Not the end of the world, but formula does seem to make him spit up a lot more than usual. Right now, I'm just trying to keep my milk supply up for the day when (not IF!) the Eskimo decides it's time to nurse again. I'm offering the breast often, but so far he just screams and pushes away.

I don't have any brilliant insights into how to end a nursing strike. But I do have insight into how it makes a mama feel. It's horrible. You can't help but feel your baby is rejecting you and that somehow that makes you a terrible mom. I know in my mind that this isn't true, but I have definitely burst into tears on multiple occasions the past few days. Since we're on day six of the nursing strike, I finally broke down and called a lactation consultant today. Incidentally, the Eskimo had his 9 month checkup at the pediatrician yesterday, and while she was able to confirm his ears are fine (ear infections can make it painful for baby to nurse), she was absolutely useless when it came to offering advice. She actually told me that he was probably weaning. Do NOT trust your pediatrician to give you breastfeeding advice. I'm sure some of them know what they're talking about, but most of them know very little. They are baby doctors, not lactation consultants. Seek the help of a professional and a specialist.

Anyway, here's a list of things you can try to end a nursing strike. Obviously, none of these have worked for us yet:
-First, make sure baby is healthy. Ear infections, injuries, etc, can make it difficult for baby to nurse
-Check for a new tooth. This can also cause a strike.
-Try different nursing positions, different locations, even walking around while nursing
-Nurse in a quiet, dark room with minimal distractions
-Make it as pleasant an experience as possible. You don't want to stress your baby, or he may never want to nurse again
-When using bottles, make sure you are using a slow-flow nipple. If baby is used to sucking down a bottle quickly, the slowness of breastfeeding won't seem attractive
-Get someone other than mom to give him the bottles (if this is an option)
-Forgo bottles altogether. Use a sippy cup, spoon, bowl, syringe, anything other than a bottle to get your baby milk.
-Try to nurse when he is sleepy

But above all, the number one rule is, feed the baby. Some folks will say, when he's hungry enough, he'll nurse. When he's hungry enough, he'll become hysterical and won't be able to nurse. Feed the baby. Bottles are a pain in the butt, but are not the end of the world. And keep pumping so you're ready for baby when he decides it's time to nurse again. Here's hoping it gets better soon.

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