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Breastfeeding your older baby

As your baby grows and gains mobility,

 

 

they may feed faster and they may get very creative with their positioning. 

Breastfeed older baby

For many mums, passing the 6-month mark means that most breastfeeding challenges have been overcome.  You may find that your baby now feeds easily and more quickly.

You no longer feel like you are ‘feeding all day’ and your baby gets themselves on and off the breast like an expert. Breastfeeding in the second six months can be rewarding.  

My baby’s feeds are shorter. What does this mean? 

Babies continue to feed for different lengths of time during the day. Some feeds will be longer than others (as for people of any ages who eat different sized meals). If your older baby finishes both breasts in 5 minutes and appears contented after the feed, this could be quite normal.  

We can’t measure how much breastmilk baby is getting. We can only look at the signs of an adequate supply. If your baby is only receiving breastmilk, then their wet nappy count, growth and general contentedness after feeds will tell you all is well. If your baby has enough nappies and has periods of settled behaviour during the day, then short breastfeeds are likely to be fine. 

Do older babies still have frequent feeds? 

Your baby may continue to cluster feed in the early evening, even as they get older. By now you will be more experienced at managing those times. It’s normal even for older babies and toddlers, especially if they are tired and cranky after an active day.  

Babies of any age may have times where they feed more frequently: 

  • going through a fussy period 

  • when feeling unwell or teething 

  • with a sore tummy 

  • if they are tired 

  • if you have been away from them for a time 

  • for emotional security. 

This is normal and you are meeting their physical and emotional needs by responding to them. 

What about feeding and solids? 

Breastmilk continues to be the main source of nutrients and energy for your baby until 12 months of age.  Family foods are an ‘extra’ during this time. Baby may start increasing the amounts of solids they take in, but it doesn’t matter if they aren’t as interested in food as a young child might be. It’s all about gradually introducing your baby to the foods that your family is eating and the social time at meals.   

Many mums worry about whether they should feed solids before or after a breastfeed. It doesn’t really matter as long as baby is getting enough breastfeeds and solids aren’t replacing feeds. Too much solids during the second 6 months can impact on a mum’s milk supply. Continue to breastfeed your baby as often as they want. If you feel that your baby isn’t as interested, you could ease back on the solids.  

A ‘meal’ for a baby doesn’t have to include both solids and a breastfeed. You can offer them at different times.  

Common feeding behaviours

This is the time when teeth start appearing and many mums dread that first bite on their nipple. That said, many babies don’t ever bite. Read more about why it might happen and what you can do. 

Older babies may still be quite distracted during feeds. Many mums find they need to find a quiet time and place in order to for their baby to stay at the breast. Giving your baby something to hold or play with while they are feeding can help. A colourful necklace around your neck may help your child to focus.  

What do breastfeeds look like with an older baby?

By now your baby is very efficient at feeding and can probably feed in almost any position. Your baby may be getting quite mobile and may find creative ways of positioning themselves at the breast. You may need to think about attachment at times like this.  

Older baby feeding

Coping with night feeds

Many well-meaning friends and relatives will tell you that your baby shouldn't be waking at night to feed in the second six months. You are also probably wondering when your baby will sleep through. Night feeds for months on end can be exhausting.

However, research shows that only half of babies are sleeping for an 8-hour stretch at 6 months. By the end of 12 months, only a third are sleeping through. So if your baby is still waking for one or more feeds overnight, it's not anything you are or aren't doing. You may find that continuing to have your baby sleep close to you helps, rather than moving them into their own room. Many parents co-sleep to make night feeds easier. 

 

© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022