From the time my daughter was born, she longed to be in my arms. But when she hit 18 months, Daddy became the apple of her eye. I'd try to read her a book or change her diaper and she'd push me away, shrieking, "Daaaaaaddy!!!" I felt more rejected than a torn dollar bill in a vending machine. My daughter was on strike -- against me. "Why doesn't she love me?" I'd ask my husband. "She does. It's just a phase," he'd assure me. And while the rationale seemed reasonable enough, it wasn't terribly comforting.
Even the most compliant child may go through periods where she refuses to do things like eating, sleeping, or getting dressed. Strikes in young kids usually start with little warning and can have surprising staying power. While your sweetie's resistance may be baffling, there's often a good explanation for it -- and understanding what's really going on will help get your little picketer to settle.
The Nursing Strike Anne Selbyg was totally taken aback when her son Erik stopped nursing at 7 months. "He'd get into our usual position to nurse, but then he would turn away from my breast and scream," says Selbyg, of Minneapolis. If your nursing pro suddenly balks, stay calm. If it lasts for more than three or four days and he also has a fever, take him to the pediatrician, says Freda Rosenfeld, a lactation consultant in Brooklyn, New York, to rule out common medical causes such as an ear infection, thrush, or acid reflux.
Otherwise, it's time for some detective work. For many babies, especially those between 5 and 8 months, teething can cause sore gums and a reluctance to eat. Selbyg suspects that her son was teething, since he also bit her nipple (another clue). If this happens, calmly remove your baby and firmly say, "No." Let him gnaw on a teething toy before feedings. Older babies may lose interest because they're busy exploring the world and don't want to turn their back on the action. Reduce the competition by nursing in a dim room with no distractions.
If the strike continues for more than a week, you may be at a turning point, and your baby may be ready to wean. Consider supplementing with bottles or a sippy cup to ensure proper intake during this time. Most babies, though, will start feeding again within a week; just continue offering the breast and keep things relaxed and positive. "After two days, Erik started nursing in the middle of the night," says Selbyg . "Then each day got a little bit better."