Home » Uncategorized » Fuck You Coxsackie: Nursing Strike Hell

Fuck You Coxsackie: Nursing Strike Hell

So poor little Dumplin’ has hand-foot-mouth disease (coxsackie virus). It was diagnosed on Saturday morning by a walk-in pediatrician based on the vesicles (sores) on his throat. These sores were probably what caused him to initially stop nursing on Thursday, because it hurt to suck and swallow. But now it’s Tuesday, and aside from some promising experiments with peanut butter, he has been on a total nursing strike. Like no boob at all. Not even when asleep or tired. It has me in tears every single day, and more depressed than I’ve been since I was 20 years old. 

Now, I’ve scoured the internet for information on nursing strikes, and everything out there seems to be pretty general and overall unhelpful so far. 

The experts all agree that:

– there are many causes of nursing strikes (teething, illness, change in routine, being frightened after biting during nursing)

– most babies under age 1 don’t normally self-wean and will return to the boob after the nursing strike

– pump so you don’t lose your supply 

– try not to take the rejection personally

– create closeness with your babe (baby wearing, skin-to-skin, bath with your babe)

– try nursing when babe is asleep or sleepy 

This is all fine and dandy, and I’ve tried all of this but I’m having a lot of trouble.

– my boobs don’t respond well to pumping. Over the course of the past 6 days, I’ve managed to go from nursing 6-8 times a day (probably 24-30oz), to 20 oz, to 18 oz, and to 12 oz today (combined pumping and nursing). So my supply is plummeting, and quickly. It’s been 6 hours since I’ve pumped/nursed and my boobs don’t even feel full right now.

– everything I’ve pumped I’ve bottle fed to Dumplin’ who surprisingly takes a bottle now, and seems to LOVE it (shitty timing). He’s getting about 24 oz of breastmilk a day plus 2 meals of rice cereal + a protein (salmon/chicken/beef) + a vegetable/fruit. He also absolutely LOVES food. Like freaks out over how awesome it is. Remember how at 6 months I complained that he hated food, then at 7 months I complained that he only liked finger foods and not purΓ©es? Well now at 8 months old, he loves EVERYTHING. 

– I’ve tried everything to bring Dumplin’ back to the boob. I offer every 3 hours, which was our nursing schedule up until last week. He has rejected me every single time. I have sneak attacked him in the middle of the night when he’s asleep. No dice. As soon as I get him into a nursing position, he wiggles like crazy, trying to sit up, then pushes against my chest and turns away. If I don’t help him sit up, or offer him boob again, he cries. Since I was all worried about him starving, I offered him a bottle after each rejection, which he very eagerly accepts. Now, he looks around for the bottle in anticipation. It’s clear that he prefers it. 

The trouble is that I’m not ready for him to wean, but it’s starting to look like he might be now that he’s discovered food and fast bottles (we even give him slow flow newborn nipples).  I made the mistake of talking to my mom about this and she said that my sister and I both self-weaned early. Me at 4 months and her at 7 months. We’re at 8 months now, but I had hoped to go for at least a year, aiming for longer. I know I’m making this more about me than about him, but I just know that both of us would benefit from extended breastfeeding. I am so jealous of all of you with your boob addicts. It’s even hard for me to watch DW nurse Mochi. It hurts my heart. 

So for the last day or so, I’ve been progressively trying to encourage Dumplin’ to get closer to the boob. At the beginning of the strike, he wouldn’t even allow skin to skin with my boob against his cheek. Yesterday, I was feeding him the bottle with the nipple beside my nipple. Today, DW had the idea of enticing Dumplin’ even more by putting peanut butter on my nipple. Well, he took it, and I hand expressed milk into his mouth and he started sucking. He was long overdue for a nap after his swimming lesson, so he was tired. He ended up nursing until he fell asleep, and I just held him, holding my breath, so scared that I’d wake him and he’d push me away again, crying. He slept in my arms for about 10 minutes and then woke up a little and I switched him to my other breast. He nursed on that one for a few minutes, and I finally exhaled with relief. Then he woke up, realized he had my nipple in his mouth, pushed it out and then wiggled out of the nursing position. I quickly transferred him to his crib and he slept a solid 2.5hours. When he woke up, I smeared a little peanut butter on my nipple and he nursed a little again. “Hurray!” I thought. “Strike’s over!”


I was wrong.

Before his next nap, I tried the PB trick again, and he refused and cried. 

I tried again 3 more times. Rejected.

I then ran a nice bath, soaked and played in the tub with him, and then offered when he was relaxed. Nada. Rejected. Heartbroken.

Normally, he nurses to sleep before bedtime. It’s the last part of our routine. So I offered again then. Rejected and tears. So DW warmed up the last of my freezer stash from 3 months ago, and he very excitedly guzzled it down. It breaks my heart that he prefers lipase-digested previously frozen breastmilk from a bottle over the fresh, sugary yummy milk from my breast. How am I not supposed to take that personally?

Anyways, I’m having a rough time. I’m actually concerned  that I’m becoming depressed because of this. I’ve zero motivation to work out (very unusual for me), to do anything, to interact with my wife and Mochi (it’s too hard to watch as he cluster feeds and is super boob needy when it’s what I long for with Dumplin’).

I want things to return to the way that they were two weeks ago, when time seemed to slow down… Nursing my boy as he drifts off to sleep, him holding my finger as I take in his sweet smell. His warm body curled up in my arms and up against my waist. Our breaths in sync, hearts beating side by side, reminiscent of the days when he was still inside my womb. 

28 thoughts on “Fuck You Coxsackie: Nursing Strike Hell

  1. My friend, my heart is heavy for you right now. I can sense just how hard this is for you. I wish I could give you a giant hug and say something useful. Sending my love and hoping that this is just a temporary nursing strike.

    • Thank you. It’s been harder than I imagined it would be. I think that part of it is that it came as a total surprise to me. Just like the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t get a chance to ride it out or to acknowledge that it was almost over and enjoy it more.

  2. Agh I’ve been wondering if the strike was over. I’m sorry you’re going through this and I hope he feels better soon. I can totally understand how you can take it personally. When my little man arches his back away from me as hard as he can, nearly falling off my lap, it makes me frustrated and upset.
    Just keep trudging through this, you may have to adapt if he doesn’t go back but he loves you and he’ll always be your little manski. He’ll always need you, just in other ways.
    As for your supply, I don’t know if this is something you’re comfortable with or what the dynamics are for this – could both you and DW pump then you could help BF little Mochi in order to empty completely?

    • Thanks for your support. Yeah, I have been thinking about nursing Mochi too, but I’m not sure that DW is willing to share lol. She’s worried it will mess with her supply and I’d need to go off dairy for at least a week (not a problem- I’d do it). I’ve suggested it, but she didn’t seem thrilled with the idea. I’d love to though. Maybe I’ll bring it up again. I just really hope that Dumplin’ comes back to the boob soon and we go back to our nursing routine.

  3. Oh gosh, this sounds awful πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™. I am so sorry – he really is on strike. I had no idea that this kind of thing could happen and I reckon I’d take it pretty personally as well πŸ™. I have no suggestions – I really don’t know what you can try – but I know how devastating it must be to have him reject the boob waaaay before you were even thinking of it. Big, big hug – some parts of parenting really are harsh πŸ™ xxx

    • Thank you Faye. I agree- some parts of parenting really are emotionally challenging. I worry that I’m gonna have a breakdown every time either one of our boys enters into a new level of independence 😦

  4. I’m so sorry. I was never able to produce milk (4oz a day no matter what I did) and I adjusted to it and accepted it because I had to, but it still affected me emotionally and it is hard because not everyone I talked to about it understood why. It’s hard to explain those emotions when the choice is taken away from you, when suddenly what you had changes or the way you had wanted things to be and assumed they would be goes away. I don’t know, I still can’t explain it. I hope no one is making it feel like you are making it “about you.” There is no right or wrong way to feel. It’s a loss, it hurts. I don’t know much about nursing strikes, but I hope that things work out. No unsolicited advice here, just sending my love!

    • Yes! Thank you for “getting it”. I’m so sorry that you had low supply issues. I know that it can be a real blow to your sense of motherhood at pretty much the worst possible time- especially if you had wanted to nurse. It took my milk 6 days to finally come in, and I remember being an absolute wreck- feeling all sorts of negative emotions. It is so hard when everyone around you expects you to just get over it and move on. And knowing that he’s the only baby that I’ll carry and nurse makes it even worse.

  5. Oh friend…it must be so hard on you that he is turning away from the breast , hopefully just for now. I know it’s not easy to not take it personal. It just seems like they are truly so tired and sick of us! Austin has been doing this lately too, but I think a lot of it has to do with teething and just being uncomfortable. And also, Coxsackie is a straight up little bitch, so….I hope things get better friend,, and that Dumplin’ starts nursing again soon, for both of your sakes. Is there any way that you can nurse Mochi in between there so that your supply stays up?

    • Thanks friend. I’m sorry that Austin is giving you a hard time too. DW and I need to talk out me feeding Mochi – lots to consider- eliminating dairy, protecting her supply, and scheduling it.

  6. I hope this resolves as the illness clears up, I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. My girls kept going on strike at 4/5 months and that’s when I threw in the towel with breastfeeding. It was just too emotionally upsetting for me to keep fighting it and being rejected, but for months, I was heartbroken about it and sort of just felt like a failure. It did get easier, though. Today, I’m pretty happy about our journey and know I did everything I could do while retaining my sanity. I hope things turn around quick for you guys as he gets to feeling better.

    • Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. It’s so frustrating because we don’t know if he’s gonna return to the boob or if he’s trying to wean. Like- do I continue to pump, or should I just accept that he’s weaning and start letting my supply drop off? So hard. I’ve already cracked open a can of formula today… So I guess we’re going down that road now.

      • I like the Medela ones. You can get them on Amazon. It’s just a clear plastic cup with a soft nipple area that has holes in it. It feels more like a bottle nipple for them.

      • Actually, do you have a lactation consultant that you’ve used? They usually have them. It might be faster to get one from a LC.

      • At least it’s something new to try. I know how frustrating it is when they don’t want to nurse. I was in tears last week and Catch had to keep telling me that I can’t take it personally. It’s hard not to, though.

    • Thank you friend. Thankfully, the nursing strike is finally over! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of gratefulness that I felt when he finally latched on.

  7. I can’t say much except, it realy hurts my heart to read about what you’re going through. It sounds so rough mostly on you, but Dumplin too. I’ve read that nursing strikes can last up to 2 weeks with babies going back to the breast after such a long time. The supply usually adapts very easily in a short time. I am keeping my fingers crossed, that Dumplin is on the way back to nursing.
    The nipple shields are a good idea as well as occacionally nursing Mochi to keep up your supply somewhat. Isn’t DW going to the gym once a day, where you feed him a bottle anyways? That sounds like a meal that can easily be substituted by you.

    • Thank you so much for your advice, friend. Thankfully, he did return to breastfeeding after using the nipple shield (tricked him into thinking it was a bottle nipple), and gently encouraging him to nurse while side lying. Now he’s pretty much back to normal nursing, and you’re right- my supply adapted very quickly. He cluster fed a lot the first two days back in the boob, which I guess is nature’s way of increasing my supply.

  8. I’m so sorry sweetheart. Emerie had a nursing strike a few months ago and it was terrible. She only nursed to sleep and that was it, I hated how it made me feel. I hope that the nipple shield works for you or that you can nurse Mochi. I was thinking that maybe, if your wife is ok with it, you nurse Mochi for a few minutes before he nurses the rest of the time with her. Like a snack nurse. It will keep your body used to nursing but not let her supply drop. I hope he’s not weaning honey but if he is I hope you find some solace in the breastfeeding relationship you’ve had.

  9. I discovered this blog post a little over a week ago, when I was searching for help with my own son (10 months), who also stopped nursing due to Coxsackie. I’ve revisited your site to read this many times since, and I wanted to thank you for this incredibly thoughtful and poignant piece that I feel captures the maternal helplessness and tragedy of nursing rejection so clearly.

    It has now been 12 days since my son has stopped nursing, so maybe at this point I just need to accept that this special time of ours is now over. His mouth sores have healed, and he greedily gulps down my pumped milk, but he just refuses the breast, and I am just devastated. Anyway, I guess I just wanted to let you know that reading this post really gave me strength on my especially down days, and helped me feel not so alone. Thank you for this.

    • You’re so welcome, and thank you for your comment. I have good news to report though, which I hope encourages you to keep trying to nurse your son. I will post soon about it, so stay tuned. Sending encouragement and warmth.

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