Why does my baby suddenly want to nurse constantly?
Your baby may have been breastfeeding at fairly regular intervals, but now, it feels as though you are spending the whole day with the baby at your breast! There can be many reasons why your baby has increased breastfeeding. These might include that your baby is experiencing normal "frequency days" or your baby is fighting an illness. Whatever the reason, finding a comfortable place to breastfeed your baby with lots of snacks and water for you might make this time pass more quickly.
Sometimes a sudden increase in breastfeeding can precede a baby getting sick. Increased breastfeeding can provide valuable protection from illness, as your baby will be receiving antibodies and immunities that your body has made especially for your baby during this time.
Other times an increase in breastfeeding can be related to a baby reacting to something objectionable that you ate. If your baby has signs of allergy, or if you have noticed that your baby's breastfeeding patterns change with eating certain foods, you may want to find out more about allergies and food intolerances. This article by Karen Zeretzke about breastfeeding the allergic baby would be a good start.
Some babies also pick up their breastfeeding for other reasons. Are there significant changes in your life, for instance a move or a vacation or visitors in the house? Have you been away from your baby more than usual recently? Is your baby starting to teethe? Often changes in routine or new stages of development in the baby trigger increased desire to breastfeed for comfort and reassurance.
In general, frequent breastfeeding times that last several days are to be expected when your baby is about 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months old. The LLLI book, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, calls these "frequency days". It is not known exactly why breastfeeding babies follow this pattern. Research has established though, that the best way to maintain your milk supply is to breastfeed following the cues your baby gives you. Allowing your baby to breastfeed more frequently on the days your baby indicates the need, will increase the satisfaction both of you derive from breastfeeding. You will be more likely to have a full supply and your baby will be more likely to grow well!
On those days when all you feel you've done is breastfeed-give yourself credit for what you've accomplished - meeting the needs of your baby and helping him to learn to trust you! You might enjoy reading the NEW BEGINNINGS articles on the benefits of breastfeeding as you deal with your baby's frequent breastfeeding times.
Contacting an LLL Leader in your area or attending a meeting may help you. To find a Group near you, call 1-800-LALECHE, look at our LLL Web Page Index or follow the hints on our page on finding a local LLL Leader.
Resources for Additional Information
Cue Feeding: Wisdom and Science, by Lisa Marasco, BA, IBCLC and Jan Barger, MA, RC, IBCLC from BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS, May 1999, Volume 18, Number 4, pp. 28-29.
These items may be available from the LLLI Online Store or from your local Leader.
THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING La Leche League International keynote title includes important references and resources for the breastfeeding mother. Its vast depth of factual information makes this book a necessary source for breastfeeding mothers, and its warm, friendly tone makes it a classic worth reading again. THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING is the definitive guide, bringing the importance of parenting through breastfeeding into the 21st century. Softcover, 465 pages.
La Leche League International BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK by Nancy Mohrbacher and Julie Stock is the definitive resource for those who are dedicated to helping mothers breastfeed. This guidebook can be used by LLL Leaders, lactation consultants, doctors, and other health care professionals with confidence to help mothers establish and enjoy a satisfying breastfeeding relationship with their babies. Hardcover, spiral bound book, 680 pages.