When you’ve been successfully breastfeeding for as long as I have been, it’s hard to imagine an obstacle I haven’t tackled before. A nursing strike was never something I thought I would have to handle.
The stress of Luca on a breastfeeding strike was immense. It was simply something I could not and would not accept. It was literally breaking my heart. Each time I brought him to the breast, he screamed. He arched. He kicked. He thrashed. He cried. I cried. Despite the well meaning friends who insisted he must be weaning and that WE’D be okay, it certainly didn’t feel OK.
I read article after article on nursing strikes vs weaning. I clung to every word supporting that this indeed was a nursing strike but each time I brought him to the breast and he reacted the same, I was weakening. On one particular self defecating moment, I warmed a bottle and watched as he grabbed it from my hands and drank the entire thing. I cried and I cried and I cried. The books, if I were to believe this to be a true nursing strike, said it would only last a few days. Deep inside I feared it could go either way. If this wasn’t a nursing strike, each feeding and day that passed could be the nails in the coffin ending our breastfeeding days.
Then I refocused. This was not over. The Type-A, OCD mother in me took over. The one thing this experience has taught me is that each child is different. Yes my other two children each breastfed for over 2 and a half years, but they each had their own individual breastfeeding challenges too. Breastfeeding to me has always been about dedication. I needed to turn this negative into a positive. I had tried everything the websites had recommended and nothing was working. I tried turning down the lights. I tried waiting until he was sleepy. I kept offering the boob before each and every feed. His reactions remained consistently that of distress at the breast. I went back to the beginning. I did skin to skin. I engaged in kangaroo care with the help of our new Baby Bjorn ONE. I was disheartened and yet remained hopeful. The skin to skin and the kangaroo care was calming for the both of us despite the distress when feeding time came. He never fussed when in the ONE and I relished each time he fell asleep in it. Taking in that sweet baby smell.
One of the key distinctions I have always made about Luca was how much of a different child he was. So despite the websites and books advice to stop each time he showed signs of distress, I tried to get us past it. The next time I put him to the breast, I didn’t relent. I fought his arching and held him within centimeters of my breast while he screamed and cried. At first (the second, the third and the fourth time too) it felt like I was assaulting him. Each time he would finally (or accidentally) placed his mouth on my breast, a suck would follow and then I would feel him relax. We both relaxed. He was nursing. I accepted it for what it was. A small victory. I still cried because his struggling was still painful to see and to know that it was I that was causing him so much distress. No mother wants to be the cause of their child’s distress.
It’s always one step forward and two steps back. Later that day, I collapsed at work. When I finally woke up several hours, with a massive headache, I still could only focus on getting back to Luca and trying to breastfeed again. The time in the ER waiting for the cat-scan results was excruciating. When the results were finally read and discharge instructions were given, I hastily made my exit. My diagnosis was a primary migraine, exhaustion and dehydration which I tossed to the back. My priority and focus remained with Luca.
I’m happy to report that Luca is back to the breast with the occasional fight at the breast, but 9 out of 10 times, he is back to enjoying our time together. While I can give many different guesses as to why this happened, I will never truly know what caused this temporary hiccup in our journey. I have been humbly reminded that I need to step back, refocus and breath.
Oh and now he talks! His first word… was nai nai, which means milk in Chinese.