These past 5 days have been very emotional for me, filled with feelings of doubt, rejection and sadness. Cael started a nursing strike on Tuesday evening, the 26th. I had never heard of a nursing strike before now, and never knew such a thing could happen. But it does, and it happened to Cael and me.
Initially, it started with Cael biting my nipple after he was done nursing on Tuesday. Let me tell you, that hurts! Especially with top and bottom teeth. He did it several times that day. He would look up at me square in the eyes, bite down, and look for a reaction out of me. Of course I yelped, and corrected him, saying, "No, you don't do that, Cael." I figured it was his new sign that he was done, and to get my boob out of his face. But after he kept doing it, and kept looking up at me while biting, I knew something was different, and I figured he was doing it intentionally. I feared that he maybe wanted to start weaning, but I brushed the thought away, because I didn't want him to start weaning. I had hopes to go to 18 months of nursing.
He nursed okay Tuesday night before he went to bed, although he refused the other side, whereas he normally nurses on both sides at night. He was up the next morning at 3am, and nursed then as well, but again, only on one side - the opposite side of what he nursed before bed. By the time he was awake at seven that morning, he was refusing to nurse. And my left breast was severely engorged. He didn't want to latch at all. He would start screaming and turn away from me. And when I say screaming, I mean pain-screaming. It hurt my heart. But at that point, my breast was as hard as a bowling ball, and milk was dripping out, so I had to rush and grab my pump. I pumped on the bed while Cael sat there and watched. I got 6 ounces out in 10 minutes!
I decided that he had to have some milk, so I gave him the milk I pumped in a bottle. He only drank 2 ounces, and was fussy while taking the bottle. He was also very fussy for the remained of the day, and continued to refuse to nurse. It was the same thing over and over again - I'd offer him the breast, he would take the nipple in his mouth, bite me, then back off screaming and roll away. I tried nursing him in a dark quiet room, on the couch, laying down, using the Boppy, changing positions. Everything. And he still didn't want to nurse. He only drank about 9 ounces all day Wednesday, which I thought wasn't a lot. He even refused to nurse to sleep that night, and reluctantly took a bottle, but only drank 2 or so ounces. I figured that night/early morning would be horrible if he didn't want to nurse.
Luckily, when he woke at 2:30 Thursday morning, I was surprised yet thrilled that he started nursing. I figured he was over what was bothering him, and he wouldn't have any problems nursing anymore. I was wrong. Little did I know that would be the last time he would nurse until 6:45 this morning. That's 3 days without nursing. And 3 days of pumping several times a day. I really give pumping moms a TON of credit. It's really such a hassle to pump, then give a bottle. My best friend Stef came up from Virginia on Thursday evening, and we went out a few times over the course of the weekend. Those times, I had to lug my pump with me, and pump in the car. I had to also bring a cooler with a bottle. It really was such a hassle, and I'm so grateful that I decided to breast feed. It's instant food whenever Cael wants it. I just lift my shirt, and Cael eats. As opposed to pumping (a good 15 minutes at least), filling a bottle, and then fighting Cael to drink the bottle. Luckily Stef was with me, and helped a great deal with carrying all the extra baggage.
Over the past 3 days, every time I tried to offer Cael the breast, he would bite me. He even drew blood and left an abrasion on the underside of my right nipple. That bight really hurt. I was devastated. On Wednesday, I called a friend, whose daughter self-weaned at 11 months. I asked her what it was like, and she said it was gradual over time by dropping feedings, and not all at once. We came to the conclusion that something was bothering Cael, because he was screaming every time I offered him to nurse. That morning, I also called a LLL leader and left a message.
Upon looking in his mouth, I saw that his top middle left tooth was bulging through the gums (which has since broke through). It looked painful. A few days later, I discovered that his bottom right side tooth (later incisor?) was also bulging through, and right under the gums. I hadn't noticed that before! So my poor Cael was working on 2 teeth at the same time. The LLL leader called me back on Wednesday night. I told her what was going on, and that I was concerned he was self-weaning. She reassured me that it's rare that babies self-wean before 1 year old, and she called it a nursing strike. I thought, "Hmm, that sounds about right." I didn't know there was a name for it.
She read through the "Nursing Bible", or so she calls it, and explained the reasons that a nursing strike would occur. We concluded that it was because of his teeth, and she said that normally strikes last for 2-4 days. But, it could go longer than a week.
So Thursday went by, and so did Saturday. Still no nursing. And Cael wasn't drinking that much at all. But he was still drinking some water, and eating a ton of solid food. So I decided to call the LLL leader back to see if she had any additional opinions. Honestly, I wanted her to tell me that he would go back to nursing after he felt better. I wanted statistics, to know that she has seen this happen, and have seen the babies go back to nursing without a problem. She told me that she didn't have too much experience, and suggested I call the other LLL leader. So I did. She told me that she saw several babies go on nursing strikes, but return to nursing successfully after the strike. I felt much better. I had hopes that this was just a phase, and he would go back to nursing.
Deep down, I knew he wasn't weaning. Cael is a boob boy, plain and simple. He loves to nurse, and to comfort nurse. If anything, I thought that I would have difficulty weaning him when the time came. So I figured he wouldn't be one to wean early.
Cael didn't drink one ounce last night before he went to sleep. Granted, he had a huge lunch and a decent dinner, but he refused all bottle during the day yesterday. Honestly, he only drank 2 bottles yesterday totally about 8 ounces for the day. But after trying to get him to nurse, and trying to get him to drink a bottle, he was hysterical. So I stopped, and just cuddled him. He fell right to sleep on my chest, so I put him in the crib. He woke up at 5:30 am (yes, despite not drinking anything, he slept through the night!) fussing, so I brought him into bed with me, hoping he would nurse. He went to take my nipple in his mouth, but once again, bit me. Luckily, not hard this time, but after he did, he started crying again. So I gave him his binkie back, cuddled him close, and he surprisingly fell back to sleep.
I decided to keep him in bed with me, and take advantage of the cuddles. He started stirring around 6:15, but didn't wake up. He spit his binkie out, so I decided to seize the moment, and try to nurse him again. I left my breast out of my bra, resting on his face when he fell back to sleep at 5:30 - this way he got used to it being close to him. To my amazement and joy, he latched, and started drinking!!! Just prior to putting my nipple in his mouth, I compressed it to try and get the milk coming out, so he didn't have to work hard to get it going. I also squished it so that it was easier for him to latch.
He nursed for about 10 minutes on the one side, still while asleep. I then gave him the other breast, and he took it again! I was so relieved and happy. He also nursed for a second time this morning before he went down for a nap at around 9:30. He's been only taking 1 nap a day for the past week, but he hasn't had a good solid nap for the past 3 days or so because of Stef visiting. So I figured I would let him sleep because he was fussy. I tried nursing him on the couch, and he refused me. So I changed his diaper, and laid down with him in bed, with him facing me, and cuddled him. I did try to nurse him, but he didn't want to. He fell right to sleep after giving him the binkie. I waited a few minutes for him to be asleep, and then removed his binkie. He started stirring, so I offered him my breast. He took it again! After nursing for about 10 minutes, he feel into a deep sleep, and my breast fell out of his mouth. I moved him to the crib, where he stayed asleep.
I hope this is the end of his nursing strike. It was a rough and emotional several days, but just like the LLL leaders said, and the articles I read stated,. he went back to nursing. I might have to continue to nurse him while he sleepy until he's back to his normal, but that's fine with me.