Breastfeeding a 2 to 6-month-old Baby
This interval of time is often referred to as the “reward period”. If you had any difficulties in the first two months, but persevered, you’ll know why–breastfeeding in the reward period is pure joy (although of course breastfeeding had its rewards at any period in your nursing relationship!).
- By this time, you and your baby have learned the mechanics of breastfeeding. You have confidence in your milk supply and your letdown reflex. Because you know all about positioning and latch-on, you do not suffer from sore nipples. Your breasts have adjusted to the needs of your baby, so you don’t suffer from engorgement.
- For a baby of this age, people are still likely to be comfortable with the idea of nursing. You are not likely to suffer from any criticism.
- You probably have built enough confidence and ease at this point to nurse in public. Since your baby still needs no other food than your breastmilk, this is the easiest time to go around with the baby. Just take the baby, a diaper or two, and go. Whenever and wherever your baby is hungry, you have just what she or he needs.
- Some time during this period, your baby will start smiling at you. At first, she or he will come of the breast, give you a quick smile, and then resume sucking. Later on, she or he will try smiling with the nipple still in her or his mouth. You’ll probably never feel more appreciated!
- This may all sound like paradise, but you still need to pay attention to the following:
- You’ll get lots of bad advice:
- People might tell you that you are nursing too often. Ignore them! Your baby still counts on your breastmilk for nutrition. It is important for you to nurse often to keep up your milk supply. After you’ve established your milk supply during the first two months, it is easy to keep it up. However, you might still lose it if you don’t have enough breast stimulation.
- They might tell you that you are nursing your baby too long. Ignore them! Let your baby decide when to come off the breast. Each feeding starts with high-water, low-calorie foremilk, and ends with the much richer hindmilk. If you limit time at the breast, you’ll deprive your baby of nutrition. You may also lose your milk supply.
- They may tell you that your baby is growing too dependent on the breast, and that she or he may become spoiled or develop sexual problems in later life. Ignore them! Your baby needs love, attention, and security for psychological development, and breastmilk for nutrition and protection from disease. Breastfeeding provides all this.
- They might try to push you to introduce solid foods. Don’t do so before your baby is four months old. After this age, it is unlikely that solid foods will do your baby any harm, provided you always offer the breast first (to make sure the baby gets all the breastmilk she or he needs). However, there is usually no need to introduce solid foods before six to nine months. Your baby will let you know by showing interest in your food.
- They might tell you to give your baby supplementary bottles of formula, cow’s milk, juice, sugar water, or plain water. Don’t! Cow’s milk is OK after 12 months, but is too hard for your baby to digest before that. The other supplements replace breastmilk, which is a superior food at this age, and they also adversely affect your milk supply. Honey can be harmful to a baby younger than two years. Juice and sugar water in a bottle can promote tooth decay, especially if you prop your baby with a bottle (a bottle of formula used this way can cause tooth decay too).
- They might tell you to make your baby wait to nurse. They might tell you that you can use a pacifier to occupy your baby for a while. They might tell you that your baby should nurse on a schedule (e.g., every two hours). Ignore them! Demand feeding is best for your baby’s confidence in you and for your milk supply.
- They might tell you that you should teach your baby to sleep through the night. Ignore them! Your baby can get as much as one third of his or her nutrition from night nursing. It’s still best to keep your baby in your bed, or at least in your room. If your baby sleeps for long stretches at night, don’t worry unless she or he is not gaining weight fast enough. In that case, you might want to wake up and nurse your baby once or twice in the night. Also, is your breasts feel overfull, don’t hesitate to wake up and nurse your baby. This is your best way to avoid mastitis. Your baby won’t mind waking up and nursing back to sleep.
- They might put pressure on you if you try to nurse in public. You don’t need to give in. See the page on nursing in public.
- Remember: trust your baby! When your baby tells you that she or he needs to nurse, let her or him. If your baby is gaining weight very fast, and is nursing so often that you hardly have time to do anything else, you may try to distract her occasionally, but don’t make a habit of it! Your breastmilk is still your baby’s best and preferably only source of nutrition. You don’t want to deprive your baby of it and risk losing your milk supply
- You’ll get lots of bad advice: