|BREASTFEEDING AS BABY GROWS
There are many characteristics and patterns that all babies follow as
they develop mentally, emotionally, and physically. As a mother,
especially a breastfeeding one, it will help to be aware of these
stages and the changes they can bring to the nursing experience. This
will prepare you to handle them with as little frustration as possible,
and to respond appropriately in order to meet your growing baby's needs
best. Remember that your particular baby may approach these nursing
milestones at varying times, just as he does with his other milestones,
and that some milestones may overlap others.
BIRTH TO THREE MONTHS
In order to increase your milk supply to meet his growing needs, your baby will probably experience a growth spurt
around 10 days to 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months; although variations on
these time periods are normal as well. These increased periods of
growth, which usually result in a baby who suddenly increases his
frequency of nursing and may be fussier and less satisfied than normal,
may cause you to worry that you have "lost" your milk. Normal changes
in your breast size about this time, due to loss of prelactation fluids
and a milk supply that now more closely matches your baby's needs, may
increase your fears. During these times of insecurity, it will help to
remember that as long as your baby is meeting the parameters of adequate intake,
you are producing sufficient milk for him and can rest assured that you
and he are working together to provide him with the precise amount of
milk he needs for optimal growth and development.
As the baby grows he also may spend less time at each nursing session
because he has become more efficient at the breast and therefore
requires less time to milk it effectively. He may also only need to
nurse one side per feeding, rather than both sides as he did before.
Always *offer* the second side but don't worry if your baby doesn't
seem to want it or need it.
A baby this age can NOT be spoiled! By giving him the attention he
needs now and continuing to nurse on demand, you will be rewarded with
a child that is emotionally secure and less demanding later. By not
insisting on a schedule for feedings, you will ensure that your baby gets all that he needs and that your milk supply is well-established
THREE TO SIX MONTHS
The 3-6 month old is beginning to clearly recognize that he is separate
from his mother. He has a need for outside stimulation and may at times
show disinterest or distractibility at the breast by straining his body
away to have a better look at his mother or his surroundings, or by
even pulling off the breast after only a few sucks. Night waking may
begin again or become more frequent as the baby tries to make up for
what he missed out on during the day.
Breastfeeding can successfully be continued during these periods by
nursing in a place that is dark, quiet, and uninteresting, and nursing
the baby when he is more willing, such as when he is just waking up or
is already a little sleepy. Try not to misread the baby's initial
pulling off as a cue that he is finished. Instead, try to coax him back
to the breast a few more times before giving up.
By the fourth month, teething may cause the baby to begin drooling,
sucking on his fingers, or chewing on objects. Don't necessarily
misread this need to suck or chew on things as a sign that your baby is
still hungry after a feeding.
You may find that your nipples become sore during a period of teething
as the amount of saliva that the baby produces is increased. Sucking
may induce pain which may in turn cause the baby to suddenly pull off
the breast without releasing the nipple first.
Some babies will want to nurse more often while teething while others
may nurse less often, some even refusing to nurse completely, often
referred to as a nursing strike.
These erratic nursing patterns may result in your breasts not being
thoroughly softened with each feeding, perhaps putting you at risk for plugged ducts and mastitis.
Rinsing your nipples with clear water after each feeding and making
sure that your breasts are regularly softened either through nursing,
hand expession, or pumping will ease the discomforts associated with
this new physical development in your baby. You also may find that
offering your baby a chilled bagel, cold, wet washcloth, or cold
teething toy prior to nursing helps ease any discomfort he may feel
with sucking. Giving him Advil or Tylenol may help as well.
around 5-6 months of age, a lot of babies become highly sensitive. You
may notice that your baby is easily upset during feedings if you have
to raise your voice, cough, sneeze, or if a sudden noise is made close
by. The baby may become so upset that he stops nursing or may even go
on a nursing strike. Again, nursing in as quiet a place as possible should lessen this occurrence.
Most babies experience another growth spurt around six months of age.
SEVEN TO TEN MONTHS
With increased mobility through creeping, crawling, standing, and maybe
even walking, your baby is even more able to discriminate himself from
you and you from other people. He may freely move away from you only to
return soon thereafter to reassure himself that you are still there.
Separation anxiety may result in him waking up again at night or
increasing his night waking.
His nursing patterns may become erratic. On some days he may so "busy"
that he almost forgets to nurse. On such days, you will want to
periodically offer your breast to him even if he does not first
indicate a need or desire to nurse. On other days, when exploration
becomes overwhelming, he may nurse almost constantly.
You also may have to be inventive in finding a nursing position that
allows for feeding but that also lets your baby feel some degree of
freedom. Try straddling your baby on your lap as you face each other.
Or find a position that will allow your baby to actually stand at
breast height and nurse. Some babies like to perch up on all-fours on
mom's chest to nurse while she reclines on her back.
Don't be mislead into believing that your baby's temporary lack of
interest in breastfeeding is a sign he is ready to wean. It is
extremely rare for a child to self-wean before one year of age! With
your patience and encouragement, your baby - and you - should be able
to move right on through this period while still continuing to benefit
from all that breastfeeding affords.
BEYOND ELEVEN MONTHS
This age continues to bring vigorous and enthusiastic practicing of new
motor skills. Your baby may become so involved in physical achievements
that he is easily overwhelmed with outside stresses, such as contact
with strangers, separation from you, and changes in his routine. He may
react by increasing both his nursing frequency and duration. Due to
overstimulation or separation anxiety, he may continue to wake
frequently at night and find nursing a soothing way to fall back to
Written by Becky Flora, IBCLC on October 4, 1998.
Last Revision: January 26, 2000
- Counseling the Nursing Mother (1983) by Judith Lauwers and Candace Woessner
- La Leche League's,"The Breastfeeding Answer Book"(1997) by Nancy C. Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Julie Stock, BA, IBCLC
- The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning (1994) by Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich