Breastfeeding Older Infants: Common Challenges and the Simple Solutions
Just when you feel like you’ve got breastfeeding all figured out, your baby enters a new phase. Breastfeeding a growing and curious baby is a different experience than breastfeeding a newborn. Here are a few suggestions on dealing with some of the common challenges that come with breastfeeding older infants.
The Teething Baby
When teething, baby’s gums can hurt and they will chew on anything to get relief. Even before their teeth show up, the buds are under the surface and can still cause discomfort. Babies aren’t intentionally trying to hurt you if they bite while breastfeeding - they are trying to get relief from the soreness or pain. And, while at first it may seem scary to nurse once your baby has teeth, it’s helpful to know that a baby can’t use their teeth while nursing properly. Try giving baby a cold wash cloth or teething toy before nursing if they seem like they’re uncomfortable. If baby does bite, tell them sternly, “No, it hurts when you bite mommy” and place them down. Be consistent in that approach every time they bite and they will soon get the message that they can’t bite if they want to breastfeed. If you do get sore nipples from baby “gumming” while nursing, use Lansinoh Lanolin or Soothies to help.
The “I Only Want Solids” Baby
It is appropriate and recommended to start offering baby solids when they’re around 6-months-old, but this should not replace breastfeeding. Breastfeed before offering baby solids; otherwise, baby could fill up on the solid food and not want to nurse at all or as long, which can affect your breastmilk supply and baby’s nutrition. Introducing solids and breastfeeding go hand-in-hand; your baby still needs the nutrition and nurturing that comes from breastfeeding while solids are important for introducing new tastes and textures, and developing hand-to-mouth coordination.
The Nosy Neighbors
One of the toughest challenges that come from nursing an older baby is the comments from friends, family, and even strangers. “You’re still breastfeeding?!” is, unfortunately, not uncommon to hear for moms who nurse older babies. Do not let anyone’s judgment impact the decision to do what is best for you and your family. Come up with a quick response so you’re never caught off guard, like “I’m parenting the way that feels right to me” or “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding until baby is one year old – I’m just following doctor’s orders!”