Breastfeeding An Older Infant
With both of my boys, my goal was to breastfeed until their first birthday. Now that Leo is 10 months old, I'm reminded of how the breastfeeding journey changes as baby gets older, and I wasn't completely prepared for it the first time around.
There's a whole new set of challenges and triumphs with a super squirmy, curious baby who just won't sit still... he literally presses his butt up in the air and moves impatiently until I let down & he gets some milk in his mouth... which is why I'm sharing my top advice for breastfeeding past 6 months old.
Note: There may be some affiliate links in this article, however, I'm personally recommending them all because I use them myself!
I'm also sharing a new product I discovered at the LA Baby Show, the Lactation Lab. It's a home-test kit that analyzes your breastmilk and gives you a detailed report of ways you can improve the composition of your milk to better nourish your baby.
There's also a promo code to save 20% on your own AND a giveaway to win your own test kit! Details are at the end of this post.
5 Tips for Breastfeeding an Older Baby
1. Eat more!
Baby is older and hungrier! Not to worry about the baby, though, he will always take what he needs... but that'll leave you with less, sometimes not enough. Discuss it with your healthcare professional, of course, but eat more and adequately to nourish your growing baby and yourself.
I found myself losing a lot of weight and muscle as Leo was growing and eating more. I thought I was eating enough, and it felt like I was constantly eating throughout the day, but it just wasn't enough for both Leo and me. They say "eat for two" during pregnancy, and that definitely continues on if you are a breastfeeding mama.
2. Use baby signs for milk.
The fun thing about an older baby is that they are soaking in information all around them—the not-so-fun thing is that they're not fully able to communicate their needs. Teaching baby to sign "milk" can help her tell you exactly when she's hungry.
Leo also gives another sign when he wants to nurse... he will follow me around like a little puppy and when I get down to his eye level, his eyes are only one place... you can imagine where that is.
3. Minimize distractions as much as possible.
Older infants are curious and never stop moving, which makes for super-short nursing sessions. Bringing baby to a quiet, dark space can help both of you focus on the task at hand. This could mean closing the curtains and using the side lay position (my favorite!).
If you're out and about, you can take advantage of fitting rooms or a quietly tucked away bench. I was never a fan of nursing covers because they made me (and baby) too hot, but you may want to dust yours off and use it to create a calmer nursing environment for your wiggly soon-to-be toddler.
4. Get a nursing necklace.
A breastfeeding necklace is a great way to distract baby while they are nursing, so they have something visually stimulating that they can grab with their hands. Our nursing sessions are so short these days, that I'll try anything to make it last a little bit longer—it also beats having baby grab my nose!
A nursing necklace also doubles as a toy/teether when sitting in the shopping cart and it makes for a wonderful keepsake for mom after the breastfeeding relationship ends. Here are a few from Etsy that we're in love with: Modern, Classic, or Simple.
5. Expect baby's sleep habits to change.
If you've had a relatively easy sleeper up until this point, you may be surprised when you're suddenly having night-long nursing marathons. My theory is that because he's so distracted during the day, he finds himself hungry at night, when there are less distractions and more time to notice his hungry belly.
If you find yourself feeling engorged during the day because baby isn't nursing as long as he or she should be, there are a few products I swear by: Bambooies Reusable Nursing Pads, my Medela Pump in Style (the on-the-go tote is PERFECT for traveling with), my Haakaa Manual Breast Pump, and these leak-proof Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags.
An important note on sleep:
You may have people in your life telling you to sleep train your baby or that you're creating bad habits by letting baby use you as a pacifier or that he or she needs to learn how to sleep on their own.
I was really beating myself up over this, but when I started talking to other moms, I learned that they had similar stories of the well-intentioned advice that wasn't very helpful.
In the end, you need to do what feels right to YOU and YOUR family. That may be sleep training, or that may be snuggling with baby in bed. For me, I believe they are only young for so long, and one day they will be teenagers who you'll have to literally kick out of bed.
There are no rules in motherhood, and sometimes it's tough to make choices, but we always do the best we can with what we have, and how we feel.
Discover what's in your breastmilk with Lactation Lab
How I wish I knew about Lactation Lab when I first started my breastfeeding journey with Ryan! Breastfeeding can be a serious mind game between trying to figure out baby’s feeding cues, weighing to determine how much baby ate, adjusting for oversupply (and undersupply), and getting those latches down.
On top of that, when baby’s feeling especially gassy or irritable, you’re left wondering if baby feels cranky because of something you ate. Should you cut out dairy? Cut back on the black tea?
Dr. Stephanie Canale, MD had the exact same struggles and concerns and also heard them echoed by mothers she met through her medical practice. Dr. Canale collaborated with colleagues and drew upon her own expertise to design a unique, comprehensive home test kit designed specifically for breastmilk.
With Lactation Lab, you can easily discover what’s in your breast milk AND rest assured that you’re raising the healthiest baby possible.
Last month, I did the test myself and received a personalized list of recommendations from the doctor (being super transparent here so you can see just how helpful this test kit is!)
Note: These results are specific to the results of my breastmilk analysis, and you should not follow this advice because your situation and status is likely different from mine.
Increase your caloric intake by 300-500 calories a day
Take a Calcium supplement of 500 mg daily (or increase Calcium in your diet)
Increase Vitamin C intake by 500 mg daily
Get at least 1000 mcg of Vitamin B12 daily
Cut back on fish consumption, eat more avocados and olive oil!
You could imagine, in typical worried-mom fashion, that I immediately questioned my diet and lifestyle, and wondered if I was adequately nourishing my baby. But a follow-up call with Dr. Canale really eased my nerves.
Doing the test was a great reminder to be mindful of my diet and to continue to eat organic, clean, and nutrient-dense meals. The doctor was able to reassure me that I can make small changes that will have a big impact—a glass of orange juice in the morning to boost my Vitamin C, for example—and mentioned that she was impressed with the protein and iron levels of my breast milk. I was relieved and happy to learn the overall health of my milk is great, and no toxicity was found!
I was really surprised by the inadequate levels of Calcium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B12. I've been taking pre and post-natals for what feels like years now! I suspect that they do not contain enough of these essential nutrients. It could also be that I just didn't eat properly in the days leading up to testing.
The test also confirmed something that I knew, deep down, was true. That I needed to eat more. I noticed that I was losing weight even though I was eating what felt like a lot of food. Leo is taking everything I have!
The most shocking thing on the list was to cut back on fish consumption. I don't even like seafood, and very rarely do I eat fish! I immediately questioned the fish oil supplement that I've been taking. Dr. Canale recommended a plant-based DHA/EPA fish oil brand that is much better for breastfeeding moms, so I'm going to give these Testa Omega-3 supplements a try.
Final Thoughts on the Lactation Lab Breastmilk Kit
The Lactation Lab kit was such a blessing. The entire experience was straight-forward and simple, and I had my detailed results very quickly too. And, when I was initially startled by the list of recommendations, Dr. Canale was kind, patient, and reassuring that everything looks great, but there are a few things that could make my milk even better. She also reiterated that she created the testing kit to help encourage moms to continue breastfeeding their babies and toddlers by showing just how nutritious it is!
Ever since the doctor made these recommendations, I've made a point to really look at the vitamins and supplements I'm taking and have made small changes to improve the overall health of my milk. The best part is, I can take another test in a few months to confirm that the diet changes made a difference!
You can get your own testing kit here + save 20% with the promo code LANDOFMOM!
Giveaway: Win a Lactation Lab Kit
We've partnered with Lactation Lab to give one Happy Mama a free Basic Test Kit that measures the amount of Calories, Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat in your breast milk.
To win, here's what you need to do:
1. Click here to sign up for the Happy Mail newsletter by Sunday, December 24, 2017.
2. Comment on this blog post using the same email address you used for #1.
That's it! The winner will be drawn randomly from those who complete both #1 and #2 above. Our Happy Mama winner be announced on Christmas Day on my Instagram Stories.