Tips on breastfeeding a distracted baby

by Jessica Faye Hinton on September 27, 2010

At four-months old, babies enter this crazy developmental stage where they become very interested in learning any and everything about the world around them. They become curious, able to wiggle, squirm, reach, and anxious to explore how things work and feel and taste and…you get the point.

As with most things that I have encountered by happenstance on my journey through motherhood, I had never heard about the challenges of breastfeeding a distracted baby, so Nya’s shorter and frequently interrupted feedings caught me off guard.

On the one hand, I assumed that she was just not as hungry any more, on the other hand, I figured that her changed feeding habits likely had something to do with the fact that she was maturing and becoming more a part of “our” world.

I write this post not to mark my defeat, but to say that while it is true that breastfeeding a distracted baby is challenging, it is not impossible. To help you with your distracted baby, try out some of these tips:

1). Make and sustain eye contact with your baby during each feeding. By doing this, you will provide your baby with something more interesting (your face) to focus on. You should make eye contact before and after your baby latches on for a feeding. Keep eye contact throughout the feeding and sing or speak softly to your baby as he/she eats.

2) Feed your baby in a quiet, dark place. This could be in a room with room darkening shades and a rocking chair or a shaded tree at a park with a bench.

3). Try to position yourself and your baby so that other potential distractions are not in your baby’s line of sight.

4). Use a favorite toy of his/hers or wear a necklace that is long enough to provide your baby with something of interest to pull or tug on while feeding.

5). Try feeding your baby when he/she is most hungry. This may sound intuitive, but if you feed your baby too soon before she realizes that he/she is hungry (or just kind of hungry), she will be less apt to complete a feeding. In other words, if your baby is only kind of hungry, they will nurse for about two minutes then attempt to find something more interesting to do. When she is really hungry (not to the point of crying, of course!), Nya will spend more time at the breast and will be less distracted.

6). Nurse while in motion. Walking or rocking seems to help Nya focus more on “the task at hand.”  I do not use a sling to nurse anymore, but if this works for your baby, give it a try!

During this, often, trying time, do not stress. Know that you are doing a great job and your baby is just doing what is normal of all babies.

Know also that just because your baby is becoming more distracted while breastfeeding, it does not mean that he/she is ready to end breastfeeding. It is unfortunate, but often, parents mistakenly presume that their distracted babies are going on “nursing strikes,” and are, thus, ready to wean. Know that before 18-24 months, however, and in general, babies do not self-wean.

What do you find works best for nursing a distracted baby? Please share your tips!


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