Your baby was a sweet newborn, eager to paw at your breast and suckle at any moment. You might have begun to feel like a human pacifier. But, now that tiny baby burrito is a giggling, exploring, wiggling octopus. You might be wondering if some breastfeeding behaviors are normal or worried about pitfalls. Here are 6 quick tips to cruise through the cruising stage.
At roughly 4-8 months, your baby wants to see the world. The magical boob might go from #1 to wingman for your budding adventurist. This is a normal stage, filled with wonder over the smallest things. (Ever made a baby giggle nonstop by pulling kleenex out of a box? Fun time.) Sometimes this stage can be tricky for active little ones and their mamas.
1) My baby doesn't want to nurse much anymore, is he weaning?
If your baby does not ask to nurse as often as usual, DO offer frequently. How eagerly and how often an active baby asks to nurse is not always a reliable gauge of their needs. Babies at this stage can still be cajoled to ignore their needs. They can be bounced to sleep while hungry, or distracted with bright toys and fun faces even if they are upset inside. Pay close attention to pre-cry cues and offer to breastfeed at regular intervals. Cues include things such as "hungry bubbles" (salivating), rubbing their eyes and mouth, trying to suck on fists/fingers in an eager way, the cry-laugh and pushing toys away or looking restless.
When offering, remove distractions and choose a time when the baby is not engaged in play but before the baby is very tired or hungry. And offer repeatedly with patience.
If you've introduced foods, offer to breastfeed first and tame the solids down for now. Remember, food before one is just for fun, so don't let your baby fill up on fewer calories and nutrients than your milk!
2) I try to latch her on, but she pops off over and over again. She laughs or arches her back. Is she done with my milk?
If your baby used to latch on well but during this stage frequently unlatches while nursing, be patient and continue to gently offer. Every noise or object can entice them to let go, so take care not to misread and close the buffet early. Try to find a quiet place free of distractions. And try to let yourself relax. Enjoy this new nursing pattern. They are busy laughing and looking around them, but then they turn back to latch on quickly. It symbolizes their little steps into the big world and then their need for comfort and security from you.
3) My baby used to sleep really well at night but now wants to wake up every hour and is starving! Do I need to supplement? Cry it out?
If your baby previously had a normal night time routine and that has suddenly changed during this stage, then it might be for a few reasons. First, when their brains are reaching new milestones, sleep does seem to get choppier momentarily. If your baby is learning to sit up, crawl, or walk, her night time patterns might change.
Second, many babies begin teething around this time, which can be painful at night. Research cell salts as a potential aid for mineral support. Incidentally, you might have introduced food at this point. If you notice a correlation between a new food and interrupted sleep, consider eliminating the food immediately. Your baby's gut might not be ready for solid food at this time or that particular food might be irritating.
The last reason, however, is sometimes missed. If your baby has been peckish at the breast during the day or very distracted and accidentally missed a couple feedings, then your baby will naturally realize his hunger in the middle of the quiet, still night. Try not to be frustrated and use this as a reminder to encourage more feedings during the day.
4) I use a cover/blanket to nurse in public (NIP) and now my baby rips it off or refuses to nurse with it. Do I need to pump and bottle feed or nurse in the car now?
If you use a blanket or special nursing cover in public, you might notice your baby cannot tolerate it anymore. They want to see the big, wide world, and some of them even become fearful of it. It's break out time, Mamas! Practice breastfeeding in front of a mirror if you are personally nervous about exposure. Read up on your state laws that protect breastfeeding women to know your rights.
5) Help! My baby is biting me! I was told I have to wean when this starts, is that true?
Many babies do try to chomp at this stage, usually due to teething. Remember never to pull a biting baby off the breast as this can cause injury to you. Bring your baby close to your chest and use your pinkie to unlock the jaws. Sometimes babies chomp down because they think this will trigger a letdown. If you suspect this, try pumping a bit before hand then latch on your baby. Babies also tend to clamp at the end of a session when they've fallen asleep at the breast. As you notice your baby start to fall asleep, gently use your pinkie to unlatch before clamping.
For those spry babies who are experimenting, remember that their ability to control behavior or follow directions is still years ahead of them even if they seem clever. Your best bet is to avoid hurtful techniques such as pulling their hair, pinching their cheeks, using an angry face or yelling as these are entertaining or confusing. (Mamas also find this can scare babies into an actual nursing strike.) If your baby laughs at your response, change it to prevent a fun game. Unlatch, say gently but firmly, "No biting," and then try again after a clear pause.
6) I've tried all the tricks I can think of and my baby isn't latching on at all! Could this mean he's allergic to my milk all of a sudden?
If your baby has previously latched without issue, so things such as allergens and tongue ties are not likely culprits, take a look in his mouth. Yep. Look for hair, fuzz, or bits of food. Sometimes, exploring babies get little things in their mouth and it sticks to the top, making it impossible to nurse. Always worth a look. Sometimes, it's a bug from the floor. Definitely worth a look!
Babies at this stage are simply adorable, reaching for you, smiling at you, cooing on the boob and as always, looking to you for nourishment and comfort. Don't get distracted and you will cruise right on through this stage with your new little cruiser!