Breastfeeding the Older Baby - What to Expect at 6-9 months

Written by Anna Choi, BS, IBCLC

So, you’ve blinked your eyes and realized your tiny newborn is no longer a newborn, and you’ve got an adorable little five month old on your hands.

Where did the time go?

 

So much information exists on what to expect when breastfeeding a newborn: how often they need to nurse, how many diapers they should wet each day, signs of a good latch, etc. But, what happens once you’ve made it through those first months? Where are the “guidelines” for breastfeeding a six-month old? A nine-month old? An eighteen-month old? As our little ones continue to grow physically {beginning to roll over, sit up, crawl} and developmentally {sleeping longer stretches at night, interacting more with the world around them, and learning to say and sign their first words}, we notice the impact of these changes on breastfeeding.

In this breastfeeding blog series, Breastfeeding the Older Baby - What to Expect and How to Adjust, we will answer some of the most common questions and concerns we hear from moms, as they navigate breastfeeding a 6-9 month old, a 9-12 month old, and a 12-18 month old.  

Thanks for joining us, we hope you enjoy these articles!

Today, we’d like to talk about months 6 through 9 of your baby’s life, and what breastfeeding might look like. What are normal behaviors to expect from a baby this age, and how can you tell if there’s a challenge that you should seek professional help for?

What does breastfeeding look like in months 6-9? How often should baby be eating and how long should feedings take?

At times – breastfeeding looks like a circus act! As your baby becomes increasingly mobile, you may begin to feel like nursing sessions are dance parties for your little one. Many moms describe their little one’s behavior during breastfeeding as a combination of gymnastics and nursing, or gymnurstics, if you will. Babies at this age may no longer be content to lie across your lap in the cradle-hold for 20-30 minutes of breastfeeding.  Instead they are wishing to climb around on your lap, twisting this way and that, standing and bouncing their little bums up and down – all while maintaining their latch and breastfeeding away. Many moms notice that their baby’s breastfeeding sessions vary throughout the day, with nursing sessions first thing in the morning and before naps and bedtime being longer in duration, while other nursing sessions during the day feeling like quick, drive-thru breastfeeding sessions, lasting as short as a few minutes. With this fluctuation in breastfeeding behavior, comes uncertainty for some moms who may question whether their baby is getting enough at the breast. In general, if your little one is having five or more wet diapers a day and continuing to gain weight appropriately, then you can rest assured they are getting enough at the breast.

How much weight should my baby be gaining at this age?

After six months of age, normal weight gain for a breastfed baby is 2-4oz per week. Weight gain slows during this time as babies begin to roll over, scoot, crawl, and walk, burning more calories by being more active throughout the day. If you are ever concerned about your breastfed baby’s weight gain patterns, you can reference the WHO growth charts, which were created specifically for breastfed infants.

 

My baby is eating solid food now, how does this impact our breastfeeding routine?

Until your little one is one year old, breastmilk remains their primary source of nutrition. Solid food should be seen at an “extra” during this time and should not replace a breastfeeding session. The rule of thumb to follow is – food before one is just for fun. Introducing solids into your little one’s diet is a way to familiarize your baby with different tastes and textures, while also developing hand-eye coordination, as your little one learns to self-feed. The bottom line is that solids shouldn’t impact your breastfeeding routine at all. It is recommended that mom continue to breastfeed on demand and offer solids after nursing, not before. One of the amazing and wonderful things about breastmilk is that is continues to change as your little one gets older, adjusting its composition to meet the needs of your growing baby. Cutting out breastfeeding sessions to accommodate more solid foods too early can negatively impact your milk supply.

My baby keeps biting me during breastfeeding, what can I do to stop this?

Ouch! I know all too well how painful those gums and teeth can be when clamped down on your nipple, so trust me when I say, I feel your pain. Babies bite down during breastfeeding for a variety of reasons, so pin-pointing the “why” of the behavior first, will help you figure out how to stop the behavior from happening again. Babies who bite down early-on in the feeding may be doing so because they are teething, and the pressure on their gums from clamping down feels good to them. If you notice your baby is consistently biting you during the first few minutes of breastfeeding, you might consider offering him/her a cold teething ring or cold wash cloth to chew on for a few minutes prior to nursing. This can help numb his/her gums and get the biting out of his/her system before you latch on to feed. If you notice that your baby is biting during the end of the feeding session, then it’s likely a signal that baby is done with the feeding and beginning to “play” around with his/her new teeth. To stop the biting from occurring, watch baby’s sucking and swallowing pattern and, as baby’s swallows slow down towards the end of the feeding, consider taking baby off the breast preemptively, before he/she has a chance to bite you. Another technique to try anytime baby bites down during breastfeeding, is to quickly remove baby from the breast and firmly tell baby, “No, that hurts mama. No biting.” Set baby down for a minute or two before resuming the nursing session. It may take a few days or even a few weeks, but most little ones will begin to associate biting with being removed from the breast and since they really want to be at the breast, they will stop biting.

 

What did breastfeeding look like for YOU during months 6-9?

Join us next time when we discuss breastfeeding during months 9-12!