Breastfeeding Your Distracted Baby

Kelley S. and her family

Recently, the La Leche League USA Facebook page shared a parent’s concern about her distracted nursling:

“Jacquie J. asks, ‘My five month old barely seems to want to do anything but nurse during the day and then nurses all night long. Someone told me that he’s just trying to wean. I think he’s just distracted. What can I do?’”

Have you experienced this? We’d venture to guess that Jacquie J. is hardly alone in this challenging time with her five-month-old son. It’s normal and developmentally appropriate for older babies to become distracted during nursing sessions as they become more engaged and interested in the world around him. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating at times!

Let’s hear from parents who have found ways to make it through this phase with both their patience and nursing relationship intact.

“I turn off the television, put my phone down, dim the lights and make sure we’re free from distractions there. If my little one continues to unlatch, I’ll let the feeding go and continue to notice and follow his hunger cues. I can always pump for relief.” – Kelley S.

“We go to a separate place and I tell everyone to leave us alone. Sometimes she likes music and sometimes-complete silence. And sometimes I have to let her wiggle it out and try again in a few minutes.” – Mary M.

“It could also be teething. Look up reverse cycle* (nursing)! I thought mine was distracted (which it was partly that) but it turned out to be teething. Barely nursed during the day but nursed all night to make up for it.” – Jennifer R.

“My babe got to an age where she was easily distracted, too. I then began nursing her in a quiet room, in a rocking chair. I also have always used a salt lamp when light is needed for its soft glow. It works great for night feedings to keep the mood of sleepiness going.” – Abby C.

“I can only nurse my daughter in her room now, with her sound machine and no one in there. She started that at five months, too! Find a quiet, calm, boring place and they’ll nurse!” – Kelly B.

Alison W. and her kids

“This reminds me of my second. We would often go to his room, dim the lights, and play some white noise or soft soothing music. I often couldn’t even have my phone because he would want to see what I was doing. If we were out and about I would try to find a quiet place with low stimulation such as the back seat of the car with a loose nursing cover, or a guest room at a friend’s house.” – Alison W.

“I have to nurse with no one around or my husband and son have to be silent or she gets distracted. It’s pretty funny at times. She used to bite me if people talked while she was nursing. She’d look at me as if to say ‘Make them stop,’ and then if they still talked she’d nip me. I started saying, ‘I told them and they didn’t listen.’ Soon after that she’d stop nursing and look at the person talking (usually daddy), he’d say sorry and she’d go back to nursing. She was one year old.” – Kate R.

“Nursing in a carrier. Nursing while holding and standing, walking, swaying. White noise. A quiet, sometimes dim room. Nursing to sleep. Nursing during nap/night. Nurse as they are waking. These were all tools I used to make sure baby was nursing enough.” – Sarah W.

*Reverse cycle nursing refers to a nursing pattern when a baby nurses very little during the day and makes up for it by nursing frequently at night. The lack of daytime nursing might be because of a distracted baby, separation due to work, or even just a busy day with less time than normal taken for nursing sessions.

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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