Breastfeeding changes as your baby gets older. But how, exactly? One of the amazing things about your breastmilk is that it does change in composition based on what your child needs. But beyond that, how does your experience of breastfeeding change? Once you have moved beyond the first three months of non-stop nursing and are more out and about, what is it like then? Once you've gotten your perfect breastfeeding latch and you can just put your baby in the general area of your breast, what are the challenges then? Just like any area of parenting, new ones can always arise. They may not be as painful as sore nipples and latch issues like in the first couple of weeks, and some may even be kind of funny, but they can still cause confusion if you are not prepared for them.
Once babies have enough head control to look around, they will indeed look around. Nursing a baby that wants to look around the room becomes comical when they nurse enough to cause a let down, then pop off to take a peek at something across the room, then get a spray of milk across the top of their head, then try to latch back on, then get frustrated at the let down that is making a mess. It can be a bit of a handful.
If you are used to nursing with a cover in public, this is also the time when your baby may begin to object to the cover obstructing their view and tear the cover off of you.
It may be a good idea during this time to find a quiet corner or room to nurse your baby. I always felt like nursing my newborn in public was easier - they aren’t interested in interacting with the world around them. Nursing a 6 month old wasn’t so easy. They want to smile at everyone who walks past - which is adorable, but challenging. Of course, you do whatever you feel most comfortable with. If your baby just wants a little quick snack, that’s totally fine. If you know that your baby is tired and really needs to nurse to sleep, you may need to find a quiet place with minimal distractions so that she can get the sleep she needs.
Once your baby starts crawling, standing, and then walking, they sometimes decide to do all these things and nurse at the same time. It can be frustrating and sometimes painful, and it is completely okay to gently redirect your child to a more comfortable for you.
Other Hand in your Shirt
You have probably seen plenty of nursing children doing this and may not have thought much about it. Nursing on one breast, and the other hand on the other breast. We see this in monkeys and gorillas as well. It is an instinct that has a fairly straightforward explanation. Nipple stimulation leads to the hormone oxytocin being released in the brain, which then leads to more milk being produced in the breasts.
Some mothers don’t mind this, but some do. If it does bother you, discourage it from the start, because once your child has gotten in the habit of it, it is very hard for them to stop. You can buy a special necklace for your child to play with while they are nursing. Every time they are nursing and begin to reach for your other breast, direct them towards your necklace.
Comfort Rather Than Nutrition
As your baby grows and begins to eat more and more solid food, her need for your breast milk for nutrition will lesson. However, your child will still need you for many things, including comfort and reassurance. The familiarity of you - your body, your smell, everything about you, is a safe place for your child to return to time and time again. The safety that you provide gives your child the courage they need to venture out and try new things, to take risks, and have courage in a sometimes scary world. They know that you will be there for them.
Less Time Nursing - Except For Growth Spurts
As your baby grows, you will find less and less of your time being spent nursing. At first you are, as one of my midwifery sisters likes to say, a tree rooted in place, nursing your child and healing your body and spirit from the amazing transformation that is birth. Then as your child grows and begins to move more through the world, their time spent nursing will be less and less.
However, there are some times when your baby will want to nurse more than they had been. These growth spurts come at somewhat predictable times, occurring around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months. These growth and developmental leaps will often be preceded by extended nursing sessions that will have you wondering what in the world is going on. Just like an older child who all the sudden is hungry all the time, babies will eat a lot when they are growing quickly or are in important stages of learning. The best thing to do during these growth spurts is to let your baby nurse as often as she would like. You can help to give your body a nutritional boost during these times with our nourishing teas and tinctures specially blended for breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding does change as your baby gets older, but it is still an important part of what you do for your child. Knowing a little bit about what to expect can prepare you for those changes so that you can continue to let your love and milk flow!