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Making It Work

Is My Baby Weaning?

From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 6, 2008-09, pp. 34-35

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine New Beginnings, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of New Beginnings to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

My baby is now nearly seven months old. I've been working full-time for some time now and it's going well. We have been reconnecting through breastfeeding as soon as we get home, and then several times through the night. But suddenly, my son seems to have little interest in breastfeeding anymore. He fusses at the breast and turns away from me. Is he weaning? Is there anything I can do to continue breastfeeding? I'm not ready to give it up.

Mother's Response

I remember when my daughter was six months old and started doing the same thing! Even though I was home with her and she was exclusively breastfeeding, she suddenly started refusing the breast or letting go very quickly to get down. This is actually very common around this age, as babies become more distracted by their surroundings. They are learning to move around a lot on their own, they can be quick and efficient nursers, and they are interested in everything around them!

What worked for us was going into a dark, quiet room a few times during the day, where she could nurse for a longer stretch without distractions. If you can find a quiet place like that to reconnect with your son, you may find it helps him settle down to feed better. You can also ask his caregiver not to offer him food or drink too close to the time you pick him up after work, so that he is hungry and ready. If he is using a bottle while you are away, you might suggest that the caregiver help your son drink from a small open cup, so you can meet all his sucking needs at the breast.

Julie Larose
Prescott, ON, Canada

Mother's Response

Many babies around the age of six to nine months become so engaged in the world around them that they appear to have lost interest in breastfeeding. However, if you consider that the biologically normal period of breastfeeding extends beyond nine months, it doesn't make sense that they would truly lose interest at this age. What you may need to try is feeding him in a quiet room or a place with few distractions. It is normal for some babies to gradually breastfeed less as they increase the amount of complementary foods they eat, but in terms of what is biologically normal, babies don't naturally wean before the age of one, two, or three years old.

Some babies who are teething may find breastfeeding uncomfortable, while other teething babies want to breastfeed nonstop. Is your baby teething? If so, you could offer some comfort measures before offering the breast in order to make breastfeeding more comfortable.

Older babies who are being fed too much complementary food may not feel hungry and so may not be as interested in breastfeeding as they would be if they were breastfed before solids are offered. In the second half of your baby's first year, your milk is still the primary food source for your baby.

Sometimes, when you have just arrived home from work, you may find yourself rushing around to catch up with household chores and your baby may sense this. That is one reason the "quiet room technique" is helpful, because it gives both of you time to relax and enjoy each other. Some babies may enjoy taking a bath with you at the end of the day, allowing both of you to relax together and also making it easy for baby to breastfeed during this time together.

Are you pumping your milk during the time that you are separated from your baby? If not, your milk supply may be dropping, which could lead to your baby's frustration. Try increasing the number of times you pump during the day. Frequent milk removal can be a key to an increase in milk supply. Make sure that on those days that you are home with your baby, you really take the time to enjoy your baby. You may want to try what some people refer to as a "nursing holiday" in which you spend the weekend snuggled up with your baby, offering the breast frequently as a way to increase your milk supply and enjoy your baby at the same time.

Once you get through this developmental stage, you are likely to notice that your baby has gradually returned to his or her previous breastfeeding pattern. Hang in there and you will find that your patience pays off!

Sara Dodder Furr
Lincoln, NE, USA

Mother's Response

Many babies begin to fidget at the breast as they become more active in the world around them, whether their mothers work outside the home or not. It often helps to lessen distractions by finding a quiet, possibly dim room in which to nurse. When my babies reached this stage, I learned that it was equally important for me to relax. There was always so much to do that I found it difficult to relax and be still, and I'm sure that my babies sensed this. Lying down to nurse, sitting with my feet up, or taking a bath with my baby often helped.

Laura LaRocca
Grand Valley, Ontario, Canada

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