Newborns like to snuggle up while they nurse, often falling asleep at the breast (and looking extremely adorable while doing so), but older babies (4-12 months) may have more active nursing habits. They may stay awake, maintain eye contact, or play with your hands and face while feeding. Say hello to the ever-changing tiny human who is quickly realizing there is a wide world out there. Keeping your little one focused and latched on can be a challenge, so I’ve put together my favorite tips to maximize your cuddly nursing sessions. Click the button below to download and print a handy infographic featuring these tips, and read on for detailed suggestions:
1. Nurse in a calm environment to encourage your baby to focus. Turn off the TV, lights, and music, or move to another room.
As babies move out of the newborn phase, they become increasingly aware of their surroundings and intrigued by even the slightest movements. If your baby is easily distracted while nursing, go to a quiet room or remove distractions for a more successful nursing session. Some families have a special nursing spot in their home where they always go to feed their baby.
2. Offer your breast several times if your baby is distracted or seems uninterested.
Babies often come on and off the breast several times before milk lets down. To ensure your baby gets a good feed in, continue offering your breast until your milk begins to flow. To help your milk let down, try massaging your breast. You can also try switching back and forth between breasts. Once the milk begins flowing, your baby should become more interested. If they’re still distracted during the feed, be patient and persistent as you gently redirect them to your breast.
3. Use a toy to keep your baby’s
hands busy while nursing.
Many older babies like to massage or lightly pat the breast while feeding. This is to help encourage milk flow and emptying of the breast. If you find this uncomfortable (sometimes it feels like they’re clawing at your breast rather than giving it love pats!), give your baby a small toy to keep their little hands busy, or let them play with your fingers.
4. Be prepared for older babies
to get creative with their
body position while nursing.
Some older babies may decide they want to sit on your lap to nurse rather than being cradled. Be flexible and try to find a comfortable position for both of you. Older infants may also want to continue doing whatever they were doing before nursing, while nursing. They may even try to take your breast with them as their attention shifts to something across the room. Remember that they’re learning about the world around them, and patiently try to redirect them to focus on eating.
5. Don’t be surprised if your older baby finishes nursing in 5-10 minutes.
While newborns can take 30-40 minutes to nurse, older babies may be done in a much shorter time. Many healthy babies become very efficient at removing milk from the breast as they get older. If you’re concerned about how much milk your baby is getting, reach out to an IBCLC. A consultation with a weighted feed (weighing your baby before and after a feeding to show how many ounces were received) is a great way to ensure your baby is successfully removing milk from the breast.
6. If your baby is biting at the breast, remove them as soon as nursing is complete.
Some teething babies like to bite mom’s nipple while nursing to soothe their sore gums. While most babies aren’t doing this on purpose, some are trying to see what kind of response they’ll get. Offer a teether before nursing and watch for signs that your baby is nearing the end of the nursing session to help you avoid being bitten.
7. If you’ve begun incorporating solids
into your baby’s diet, breastfeed
before offering complementary foods.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both recommend introducing age-appropriate solid foods around 6 months of age and continuing breastfeeding until at least 12 months (the AAP recommends 1 year, while the WHO recommends 2 years). Offering the breast before solids is a great way to ensure breast milk is still the main source of your baby’s nutrition while they’re experimenting with solid foods.
8. Engage with your little one.
Nursing sessions are a great time to focus on your baby and tell them all about their world. They’re learning at lightning speed, and their little brains are like sponges absorbing all of the information. While nursing, you can sing to your baby, count their fingers and toes, identify body parts, gush over their cuteness, and even tell them about your day. Through this, they will learn eye contact, facial expressions, and language skills.
Breastfeeding is an incredible way to nourish your baby, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to continue building your bond. Nursing an older baby brings a new set of firsts; know that you’re not alone in the joys and struggles that may come during this phase. I hope these tips help you and your baby enjoy the peace nursing sessions can offer amid the hustle of your day. Soak in all those joyful, drooly milk smiles!
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please reach out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or your health care team with any questions.