You and your baby finally passed the initial “awkward” and sometimes challenging early days/weeks of breastfeeding and everything was really beginning to “click!” Suddenly, your baby started seeming too distracted to nurse. When she hears a noise, she quickly whips her head (and your nipple) around to see where the sound is coming from. One second she’s happily nursing, but almost as soon as she starts, she suddenly unlatches and starts smiling up at you, milk dripping from the corner of her mouth. Sound familiar?
If your baby has suddenly become more distractable and more difficult to nurse during the day, you are not alone! It is very common for babies to become “too busy to breastfeed” starting around 4 months old. Before, your young baby only had one thing on her mind – MILK! Now, her vision has improved, she’s becoming more mobile (maybe she is even starting to scoot or crawl!!) and now, every little thing has her completely mesmerized! Before, your baby may not have noticed the bright light of the TV, the sound of a telephone ringing, people talking or your dog’s tail wagging as he walked by. But now, these everyday occurrences are nothing short of amazing for your tiny tot. And, for the first-time she may be more interested in noises she hears and sights she sees, than breastfeeding. Older babies, typically around 8-10 months can also struggle to nurse well during the day. For these babies, their newfound mobility is VERY exciting and they just want to, go, go, GO!
Many moms question if their babies are getting enough when they can’t manage to keep their baby focused on breastfeeding for more than a few minutes at a time. Other moms think maybe their baby is trying to tell them they aren’t hungry and don’t need to nurse as often. “What’s going on!? Why won’t my baby nurse during the day?”
You might find that your baby nurses REALLY WELL overnight or when she first wakes up in the morning, but now you really struggle to feed her out in public or even in your living room. This is because nursing at night, when it is dark and quiet, can be starkly different from nursing in a bright room with the TV blaring, people talking, etc. There are SO many things vying for her attention! Babies nurse best when they are sleepy, when there are few distractions, and in a quiet, dimly-lit room.
So, if you find your baby “playing at the breast,” continually popping off to look around or simply “too busy to breastfeed,” you can try these tricks to encourage breastfeeding:
- Move your nursing sessions to a dimly-lit, quiet room
- Turn off the TV, put down your cell phone and focus on your baby
- Turn on the white noise machine or very soft, relaxing music
- Wear an interesting pin, scarf, necklace or top while nursing (anything with rhinestones or bright colors is sure to be a hit!)
- “Shush” or sing softly
- Take advantage of opportunities to nurse when your baby is asleep, nearly asleep or just waking up, such as bedtime, first thing in the morning, and before/after naps
- Nurse in motion (in a rocking chair, while carrying her in your arms, or while babywearing)
- Take a careful look at your baby’s intake of solid foods (if solids have been introduced); sometimes parents are too eager starting solid foods and inadvertently fill-up their baby on purees and cereal
- Be patient – forcing your baby to the breast or getting frustrated can cause your baby to feel anxious or refuse to nurse
Some babies go through a very short period of distracted nursing or breast refusal. These babies may go back to happily nursing in public or in busy environments once the novelty of these “new” sights and sounds or mobility wears off. Other babies are more perceptive and may always need to nurse in a distraction-free environment from the time they are about 4 months old on. The important thing to remember is that breast milk should be the primary source of nutrition for your baby throughout their first year. So, if your baby suddenly loses his/her appetite or refuses to nurse except for during sleepy times, chances are he/she IS hungry, she may just be “too busy” to focus on breastfeeding. It is your job to create a “breastfeeding-friendly environment” in which to nurse. Think of nursing times as your special bonding time with your baby – they are an opportunity for you to escape to a quiet place and focus all of your attention on nurturing your sweet baby.