A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Ask an Expert: Is My Baby Weaning?

by Wendy Wisner, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“My bubba is 18 weeks old and I think he’s weaning off the boob . He feeds fine during the night, even comfort feeds but during the days it’s becoming increasingly impossible to get anything into him, he feeds for 5 mins (if that) then he’s off and he’s crying at me and doesn’t want to take anymore from me. I’m at such a loss. Do I need to start giving him formula? Do I need to start giving him food?”

Just when you get into a groove with breastfeeding, it has to change, huh?  The pattern you describe is actually very common among four month old babies!  There’s even a name for it: “The Four Month Fussies.”  And it’s just as you describe: the baby was who previous happily nursing becomes fussy at the breast (especially during the day), shortening nursing sessions, and sometimes even refusing the breast.  These same babies often nurse well at night or during other sleepy times.

There are several reasons for this.  First, your baby is going through a big developmental leap.  For the first time, he is realizing that there is a world beyond his mommy.  There are trees, lamps, people shuffling across the room.  Your baby is finding is hard to divide his attention between the job of nursing, and the job of observing the world around him (he will figure out how to balance the two in the months ahead).  That’s why he nurses so much better at night, when the lights are out and everything is quiet.

It’s also possible that your baby is teething.  Some babies really do start this early!  And some teething babies find breastfeeding uncomfortable at times (and soothing at other times).  If you suspect teething, you can give your baby something cold to suck or chew on before nursing to comfort his gums.  Your baby also simply may have become a more efficient nurser, and is able to get the milk he needs in five minutes – this change often happens around this age.

You are doing the right thing by continuing to nurse him on demand, and especially at night, when your milk supply is often highest and when he can nurse undisturbed.  Other moms have found that moving some of the distractions during the day helps too.  So try nursing in a dark room, nursing after walking your baby around in a baby carrier.  Try nursing right as he wakes up from a nap, in the middle of the nap, and certainly nurse him to sleep if he likes that.

If you are truly concerned about whether he is getting enough, please visit your pediatrician right away for a weight check.  Most babies who exhibit the behavior you describe continue to get plenty of milk, but if your gut tells you something is wrong, please look into it right away.

As long as he is continuing to gain weight, starting formula will only reduce your milk supply.  Starting solids before the middle of the first year (usually around six months, or when your baby show readiness signs) is not recommended.  It can also inadvertently reduce your milk supply, and your baby’s digestive system is not ready for solids just yet.

Probably the best piece of advice I can give is to find a good breastfeeding support group, and surround yourself with a “tribe” of breastfeeding mom friends.  Knowing what is normal, and knowing you are not alone is so important for breastfeeding moms.

unnamedWendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys.  In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding.  She blogs at www.nursememama.com.