A Look Back: A Nursing Strike

shutterstock_328109642By Mary Cannella, Illinois

Originally published in March/April 1983 La Leche League News

Editor’s Note: The first issue of La Leche League News, the bimonthly publication for members, was published in 1958. The name was changed to New Beginnings in 1985. New Beginnings continued to be published until 2014 when it was switched to its current blog format at www.lllusa.org/blog/.

I recently went through a traumatic experience and was so grateful to have LLL Group Leader Bobby Novak to help me through it. Although my husband, Sam, was sympathetic, he couldn’t understand why I was so devastated when our one-year-old son, Joseph, went on a nursing strike. For several weeks Joey had been biting me when he was finished nursing. At first when I said “Ouch,” he was delighted. Then I tried telling him “No” firmly, which he seemed to ignore. So then I gave him my sad look and told him he had hurt Mommy. This made my little one’s lower lip pucker. He’d look so cute I’d hug and kiss him, but I’d hurt his feelings.

Three days after his first birthday, Joey woke up at 4 a.m. I went into his room and brought him back to bed and put him to my breast. Joey bit down hard! I screamed—he cried. I tried to comfort him and told him it was okay. But I had caused some damage. I offered him the other breast and he proceeded to bite that nipple, too.

Joey had become so frustrated that he couldn’t nurse! I could only comfort him by rocking him to sleep. When he woke again a few hours later, he bit me again and wouldn’t nurse.

Now we were both crying and frustrated. My breasts were becoming quite full and my nipples were terribly sore. The next couple of hours Joey didn’t want any part of me so I called Bobby Novak in desperation.

shutterstock_328107194Bobby suggested I take a hot shower and pump milk to make me more comfortable and then take a warm bath with Joey. She felt the skin contact would be relaxing for both of us. The bath helped our relationship, but Joey still wouldn’t nurse. I offered Joey my milk in a cup and told him it was “Mommy’s milk.” He smiled and drank it down, but still didn’t want Mommy.

When I put Joey to sleep for his nap I called Bobby again. She suggested I pick up Joey in his sleep and nurse him. I did this and it worked wonderfully. But when he was awake he still didn’t want to nurse. I was heartbroken and had no one else to talk to. My friends and relatives already thought that I was ridiculous for nursing Joey this long.

I spent the rest of the day nursing Joey when he was asleep and giving him as much love and skin contact as possible. Finally, that evening he asked to nurse and did it perfectly.

Everything is now back to normal. Joey is nursing periodically throughout the day and night. He still nips me occasionally but has been unusually more affectionate to me. We made our bond stronger by working this out together. I should have been more respectful of his feelings from the beginning. Thank you, Bobby Novak, for helping me through a terrible time. Only a League member could possibly understand.