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10 Tips for Breastfeeding Older Babies and Toddlers

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As your baby gets older, you'll notice that her needs while nursing have changed. Breastfeeding a baby over 6 months is often no longer as simple as offering the boob every time he cries. From teething to doing gymnastics while eating, we've got some tips to help you with issues unique to the "older" nursing set.

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Sometime around 4-7 months old your baby will likely sprout his first teeth. It's not uncommon for new moms to think that teeth will mean the end of nursing—because really, this isn't an area where anyone wants to get bit—but if your baby's latch is correct, teeth shouldn't be an issue during regular nursing sessions.  There's always a chance your baby might bite, but even with teeth, it's incredibly rare for a little one to break skin.

2. Take the Fun out of Biting

Biting will typically happen at the beginning or end of a nursing session, either before a steady flow of milk has begun or when baby is full. Babies love cause and effect, so the first time there's a big reaction from mom, biting can become a bit of a game.

The best way to dissuade future biting attempts is to promptly remove baby from the breast, calmly say, "No biting," and put baby on the floor or in a play pen. Once baby learns that biting means no more attention from mommy she should phase the behavior out.

3. Dig Deep During Growth Spurts

Just when you thought those awful days of marathon nursing sessions were over, your baby hits another growth spurt. While the growth spurts aren't as close together as they used to be, they're still going to happen. At first your little one had growth spurts every few weeks, but after your baby turns six months they tend to happen no more than every three months. Follow your baby's lead and let him nurse as needed during these times. Thankfully it should only last a few days.

4. Have a Strategy for Nursing in Public

When you're nursing a newborn in public, most people don't notice—newborns don't squirm and make much noise. As your baby gets bigger and enters into toddlerhood, nursing in public becomes more challenging. Stretching, pulling, popping off to look around, and any number of distraction issues can occur. You can choose how you prefer to handle these situations while nursing in public: stop the session, only nurse in quiet places, ignore the behavior and continue on--whatever works for you in the moment.

5. Deal with Distracted Nursing

There is so much to see and do when you're little and learning how the world works. Nursing is important and milk tastes great, but there are shiny, fluffy, loud, silly things to look at and reach for. And look! Mommy has hair to pull, lips to grab, a nose to pick, arms to pinch—oh so many fun choices!

Some moms choose to wear a nursing necklace (a strong cord with beads for baby to fiddle with), have a special toy for baby to shake and hold while nursing, or put off nursing until things are quiet and calm.

6. Prepare for "Boob Yoga"

Once your little one has gone mobile you're going to notice that all of that practice moving doesn't stop for nursing. It can be frustrating to nurse when she has one leg over your shoulder, her butt in your face, and her hands pulling on your toes; so take a deep breath, appreciate how flexible and talented she is, and remember that you'll miss all of this someday.

7. Push Through Nursing Strikes

It's impossible to tell when a nursing strike (sudden refusal of baby to nurse) will happen, or why. Typically a nursing strike will only last a day or two, so keep trying. If you've recently eaten something unusual, have changed your soap, detergent, lotion, or deodorant, reacted strongly to being bitten, or are pregnant, these could all be reasons why your child is saying "no" to nursing. Babies are usually more receptive to nursing when they're tired, so aim for naptime or bedtime to get them back to breast with no fight.

If a strike continues for more than a couple of days, it's time to call the pediatrician to make sure that your baby doesn't have an ear infection, thrush, or some other medical issue that's interfering with nursing.

8. Know When It's Time to Wean

Have you gone back to work and your little one has started to prefer a bottle or sippy? Do nursing sessions leave you feeling angry or annoyed? Are you having difficulty getting pregnant again? Is baby showing less and less interest in mommy's milk? Any of these reasons, and more, are signals that now is an OK time to wean (knowing that the AAP recommends nursing for the first year and that many experts say at least six months is ideal). It can be emotionally trying to end this part of your relationship with your baby, but when you decide you and baby are ready, don't feel anything but pride for doing such a great thing for your little one.

9. Don't Let Judgment Bother You

Whether it's your well-meaning mother-in-law, or a random person who thinks their opinion on your nursing is too important to go unshared, you might have to deal with pressure and negativity about nursing an older baby or toddler.

Knowing that the World Health Organization recommends nursing "up to two years of age or beyond," and that according to the National Association for Child Development, the global average age for weaning is 4.2 years old, can help you feel stronger about continuing to nurse your child. It's your and your baby's choice, and the feelings of others shouldn't interfere with something as natural as feeding your child.

10. Find Support for Nursing Moms

Nursing is an adventure you don't have to go through alone--there are resources available to you. Check in with your pediatrician, hospital, or local library to find if they have support groups for nursing mothers.

La Leche League offers support both online and in your neighborhood. Kellymom.com is an amazing resource for everything nursing-related--or come find or offer help about breastfeeding in our very own Mom365 Community.

 
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