Hi mamas! I’m Kristin Gourley, IBCLC. I’m a mom to 5 and lactation consultant with Lactation Link. I’m here today to talk about how breastfeeding changes as baby gets older. Hope it helps create some confidence as you go about breastfeeding your growing baby!
Breastfeeding a newborn can be a lot different than breastfeeding a 9 month old! If your breastfeeding goals are to nurse past the first few months, things will change a bit for you and baby. Luckily, the same skills apply and we learn as we go! Many of the moms I meet have a goal to breastfeed their babies for six months, 12 months, or even 18 or more months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for at least 12 months, so many moms shoot for that. And since breastfeeding changes during the first year and beyond, we at Lactation Link want you to have all the tools you need to make sure baby is getting enough milk and you are meeting your goals. Check out our online class, Breastfeeding Basics for getting things started off right. (Pro tip: you can watch anytime from any smart device!)
If your goal is to breastfeed for more than the first few months, you’ll need to know more than just the basics as breastfeeding changes as your breastfed baby grows! That’s why we offer our Hurdles and How To’s class as part of the Confident Breastfeeding Course Bundle. Hurdles and How-to’s goes over the bumps that can arise over the entire course of breastfeeding– whether that’s the first days of life, weeks or 24 months for you. It also covers weaning and how the process can work for you and your baby!
Part of the reason that things change even though the basics of breastfeeding (like latch and breast milk supply & demand) are still important, is because baby changes and baby needs change as well, along with baby’s growth! Knowing how different milestones can affect breastfeeding can help you know what to expect as baby grows..
3 Reasons Breastfeeding Frequency Changes
Distraction during Breastfeeding
Some babies become very distractible around 3-6 months! They are hungry and know to look for mom to nurse, but then someone talks, the phone rings or even the dog walks across the room and interrupts baby feeding. Baby just can’t help turning to check it out! This can be a frustrating phase, but baby being interested in the world around him is really a great thing! You can help limit distraction by nursing in a quiet room or trying out a new position where baby can see around the room better without unlatching.
Sleep changes in Breastfeeding Babies
We are often asked on Instagram whether it’s normal for baby to be waking up at night again, after sleeping long stretches for a time. Some newborn babies learn to sleep long stretches and parents can count on a full night’s sleep after a few months. But most moms find that sleep development doesn’t progress so smoothly!
Due to all sorts of physical and mental growth spurts and development, it’s normal for babies to wake up more often every few months of age. Going to baby and meeting his needs during the night will ensure he continues to grow and develop well. In fact, healthy babies can go from many night nursing sessions, to none, and back to night nursing a few times during that first year. This is a normal feeding schedule!
Changes in Breastfeeding Frequency & Length
Moms often let us know that their little one is nursing less often and/or finishing a nursing session more quickly. Babies become more efficient at the breast as they get older. So if your baby took 20-30 minutes to breastfeed the first few months, you may be surprised when he is finished after 10 minutes when he is older. This is normal! If baby is growing well, has wet diapers, and is following normal weight gain patterns, trust baby to know how often and how long he needs to eat in a 24-hour period.
Similarly, when starting solid foods or baby begins to crawl or walk, he may want to nurse less often and feeding patterns will change. Again, trust baby that he’ll get enough breast milk during a breastfeeding session when he does nurse. At the same time, offer the breast often so baby can be for little snack breaks while he enjoys his newfound freedom.
Just like so many other aspects of parenting, be ready for breastfeeding changes as baby gets older! I tell moms of newborns all the time to trust baby and allow him to nurse often– this is one thing that doesn’t change! Keep trusting your baby. If you’re unsure about whether your baby’s behavior at the breast is normal, don’t hesitate to reach out for an e-consult so we can help you reach your breastfeeding goals! What breastfeeding changes did you notice as your baby grew? I’d love to hear in the comments.
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Thanks for stopping by,
Kristin Gourley, BS, IBCLC