Calming Down - But, Not Just the Breast

Breastfeeding is magical for many reasons! It saves babies lives, it protects mother from serious illnesses, it saves families money and it enhances bonding and mother-child interaction.

But . . . sometimes babies need something MORE than the breast.

This statement is considered controversial, if not hieracy, to the lactation world where professionals (rightly) claim that breastfeeding provides the best nourishment and the best nurturing. But, I have additional experience with mothers who are stressed with the fact that their babies only calms down when on the breast. Could this behavior indicate a potential problem with self-regulation? Can we help active, energetic babies learn other ways to calm down and will this help encourage mothers to keep breastfeeding? I think so.

Consider Romono, a thriving, robust, active 6 month-old. I meet him when 3 weeks old when even then his parents could see that sucking was his only way to settle down.  Now Romono is six months old and is always on the go! He babbles consonants, rolls over with great zest and is beginning contralateral movement - the first step to learning to crawl. He  is distracted during breastfeeding as he constantly seeks to explore and engage with the world around him.

And, now he is up 8 times at night! (See paragraph below on why this baby is awake so much at night.) He can only nap when in his Mobi and mom (and his nanny) dare not move once he goes to sleep. Though mom is dedicated to breastfeeding, this behavior is exhausting and worrisome to her.

Today we explored and practiced ways to enhance Romono's ability to contribute to settling himself. When he showed tired signs, Mom put the baby to the breast.  Though she usually nursed the baby down to deep sleep, today she took him off the breast when he started flutter nursing. She held him securely a few minutes then put him on the bed. He initially wiggled and vocalized but mother used her voice to "shoosh" the baby and held his hands to his mouth so he could suck his finger. After a bit he settle down but moved to an alert, contented state. After about 10 minutes of contented self play (exploring hands, bringing hands and toe to mouth, babbling) he began to fuss a bit. Mom assumed he "was hungry again" and was ready to put him back to the breast. But with encouragement, she returned to the comforting activities just practiced. The baby immediately calmed again without needing the breast.

The plan is to practice these calming behaviors when putting down at night, add a lovey to the settling process and see is comforting without additional breastfeeding will help with nighttime awakenings. (Click here for more information on use of a lovie.)

More frequent awakenings:
See previous blogs on Touchpoints - a surge in a baby's developmental which causes a temporary disruption in eating, sleeping or general behavior. If breastfeeding mothers do not understand and anticipate these changes, they will add more frequent nursing at night.