Does your older baby get bored while nursing, unlatch and look around, pop off at any random sound, or nurse for a second and then squirm away? It's really common that people say their under 12-month-old baby self-weaned, claiming disinterest or even irritation while nursing.
However, we know that kids need breast milk or formula until their first birthday at the very least, and it has been said that biologically most children don't naturally wean until 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old, so you figure there's got to be another explanation, right? Think about what went on before the invention of formula. Babies weaning before they're even eating much solid food would have created some very unhealthy or even dead babies, right? So it doesn't make sense that babies would wean early.
Instead, these babies are going through a stage what Kellymom calls "The Distractible Baby." There are many ways to get through this period without weaning, so you can continue on to your goal of one year or beyond.
This stage is really common between 4-5 months, and also around 8-10 months of age. In the younger crowd, their eyesight has significantly improved and they're much more aware of their surroundings, so being distracted is very common. In the older group, children are generally just recently mobile, whether it's crawling, cruising, or walking, so the idea of sitting down and being still is just not something their limited self-control can resist.
But neither of those is weaning.
For both groups, limiting distractions can make the difference between a nursing session that is complete, and you being left feeling like a 2-second snack bar. If you can take your baby into a quiet room and sit there to nurse, baby is often more likely to nurse until she's full before feeling the need to stare at the ceiling fan or chase the cat.
Also, nursing right before naps and during the night can be very important during these periods. If you need to, take baby into a dark room and lay down to nurse. Sometimes the child will nurse more at night to make up for what they missed during the day, and this is okay. You just need to remember it's a phase, and while it may be frustrating, baby still needs that nutrition. And no, you're not setting up bad habits -- your child will go back to day eating more often frequently, especially if you remember to offer on a regular basis.
Wearing an interesting nursing necklace can sometimes keep baby occupied, since your child will have something they can look at and mess with that keeps his attention while still on the breast.
If you notice your baby's latch change or loosen, insert a finger quickly and pull out your nipple -- this is a time baby is likely to play, which can sometimes mean biting. Remove the distractions around them or go to a quiet room, and then continue your feeding session.
Most children do not biologically wean this early -- and remember that if baby did wean, you'd have to get formula and bottles, so putting in that extra effort during this phase is worth it. Soon enough, your baby could be back to nursing without issue and your relationship can continue. Don't confuse normal distractible stages for "nursing strikes" or weaning, and remember natural weaning happens over a period of time, NOT suddenly. Always remember "This too shall pass." And if you ever need more advice and support, I highly recommend speaking to La Leche League for help.
Did your baby go through the stage of being a "Distractible Baby"?
Image via MuddyBootsPhoto/Flickr