Breastfeeding The Easily Distracted Baby

Mamas, I know it can be tough! Whoop there goes the cat! Whoop the TV made a noise! Whoop a bloody leaf rustled outside! Aaanndddd there goes my let down, squirting me in the eye. God I’m lucky to be blessed with that upward pointing milk duct!

That ‘whoop’, that’s your babies head turning away erratically mid-feed, sometimes creating the ‘niplash’ effect with your nipple still latched, to take in their surroundings – youch! Welcome to the ‘distractible baby’ phase of your breastfeeding journey! Yes, there’s that ‘phase’ word again, but truly, it will pass.

This phase is one that can strike anytime from two months on as your little babe becomes increasingly interested and aware of the world around them. It can often be mistaken for babies wanting to wean – experts say however that very rarely will a baby self-wean under the age of 12 months. So, how do we cope with this somewhat adorable, but oh so frustrating phase?

When Billy started getting distracted while breastfeeding, he was about three months old, in summer - at a super tricky time being we were out and about a lot and visiting family and friends regularly. However, we survived and happily breastfed until he was 14 months.

Here are my top 10 pointers for conquering the distractible baby phase;

  1. Try feeding when your baby first wakes up, or is about to go to sleep. It is much easier to feed a sleepy baby in a quiet, dark room with no distractions than an alert, ready to explore one in a busy, bright room

  2. Sing to your baby or play music or white noise to tempt their audio sensory to dominate during feedings instead of their visual senses

  3. Try to maintain eye contact with your baby and make quiet chat to keep them focused toward you, pulling faces, smiling, poking tongues (just don’t be too funny that they pull off to give you the sweetest wee smile – or maybe do!) will all help your baby to stay interested on the task at hand

  4. Breastfeeding necklaces can be helpful, with beads made from a food grade silicone they are soft and safe for baby to play with – just be sure yours has a sturdy clasp, mine continually came undone when Billy would pull on it and he would simply whip it off, throw it across the room, then get distracted wanting to find it again (#fail!)

  5. While breastfeeding in public uncovered while out and about is pretty well accepted nowadays, the use of a subtle cover or sling may come in handy to block sudden movement, people, animals (and anything else) from peripheral view

  6. Take baby to a low-stimuli environment for feeds and let others know not to interrupt or come into the room while you are feeding, particularly children who can be besotted with feeding babies. If you have a toddler you can’t leave on their own, try to have a special toy or book that they get to read or play with quietly in the same room while baby feeds, or even a toy bubba they can pretend feed themselves alongside you

  7. Remind yourself that during this time it can be normal for your baby to want more frequent, smaller feeds so they can continue taking in the world around them, annoying – sure, but developmentally, completely fine! It can also mean more frequent feeding / longer substantiated feeds in the night to catch up on missed calories – brace yourself muma!

  8. Different positions can be helpful. The ‘football hold’ can give you more control of your babies head, while laying down while feeding can be more relaxing and keep baby in-tune with feeding

  9. Make sure your baby is actually hungry at feed times. A lot of apps and feeding schedules can see us feeding our babies at times they may not be interested, which will make matters worse during this phase. Watch for cues and signals that your baby is actually hungry (ie sucking hands/feet/lips/toys, opening and closing their mouth, fussing, rooting on the chest of whomever is holding them) before offering as if they are truly hungry they are more likely to stay focused on their milk

  10. If your baby is at the extreme of distractibility while breastfeeding, you may want to consider expressing after a quick or distracted feed to maintain your supply. A great chance to build a wee stash if you are wanting to give some breastmilk via bottle! Don’t become too concerned about the lack of feeding time, your baby will make up for it somewhere – likely night time unfortunately. But always consult your LMC or GP if you have concerns your baby is losing weight during this time

All in all, keep at it if you are wanting to continue breastfeeding, like every other phase, it feels like it won’t, but it will pass. Billy soon found interest in breastfeeding again without distraction – cousins running around, feeding in public, pets coming in for snuggles – you name it, he wasn’t bothered by it.

If you want to find some more support and other mums to bounce ideas, advice, laughs and questions around with - come join us in Milkbar Mum Chat on Facebook, together, we've got this!

xx Laura

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