Friday, June 13, 2014

Nursing Your Busy Baby

Baby Miles like to play with his toes!
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
You're trying to quietly nurse your baby when all of a sudden a session of "gymnurstics" breaks out...baby is nursing while trying to stand on his head! Perhaps you've noticed that the older your baby gets, the more quickly he gets distracted at the breast. It can really be frustrating! You never knew your nipples would stretch like THAT! You might even worry that his easy distractability is affecting your milk supply.

Normal Nursing Behavior

Nothing like a foot in the neck...
Believe it or not, this is actually normal behavior as a baby gets older. There are several reasons why some older babies have a hard time being still to nurse like they used to: 
  • Increasing curiosity about the world around them - around 5-6 months many babies are focused on learning about everything around them. As his tummy starts getting full, his little brain starts focusing on his surroundings. Anything out of the ordinary is cause for exploration. If this describes your baby, be thankful for his inquisitive little mind!
  • Ability to drain breast quickly - some babies get to the point where they can polish off a good 4-5 oz. meal from mama in 5 minutes flat. Once they're done, they don't have any desire to hang out and waste good daylight that could be used for exploration!
    ...or in the chin!
  • Heightened awareness of external stimuli - in the second half of baby's first year, his little ears are picking up every distracting sound. Phone conversations, TV, older siblings...anything is more interesting than just hanging out at mama's breast, and baby just HAS to turn to see what's going on because he can't stand to miss out on anything!
  •  Inquisitiveness about their own body - as babies grow, they like to play with their toes and fingers, stretch their legs out and kick, and experience new tactile sensations.

Finding a Sanity-Saving Solution

Alisha's ballerina baby eating happily!
If you find yourself with a very busy nursling, there IS hope! The first and most important thing you can do is accept the fact that your baby is NOT trying to be "bad." Your baby is curious, intelligent and eager to learn. You just need to create an environment that is conducive to nursing!
Even Merbabies practice Gymnurstics!
  • Nurse in the same place consistently. Sometimes it is helpful to even darken the room. When there isn't anything new or stimulating for baby to see or hear, you are more likely to complete a feed.
  •  Wear a necklace that baby can play with as he nurses. That will keep his mind and fingers busy, and he may be more likely to completely finish a feed before wanting to explore his surroundings.
  • Don't give solids before nursing. Make sure baby is hungry and ready to eat before you start nursing him. Once you start solids, make sure that they come after breastfeeding, not before. 
  • Nurse when baby is sleepy - right before or right after a nap is a great time to nurse. If you try to nurse when he's in a "busy" mood, you might end up feeling frustrated.
  • Remember that babies go through phases. Your baby who wants to play instead of nurse this week may want to nurse every 2 hours next week. You are the expert on your baby, so trust your gut, and enjoy each special season of his life!!

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