Solutions to 9 Common Breastfeeding Problems in Older Babies

When my baby was a newborn, we had a hard time getting breastfeeding started.  Once she latched on and began to nurse full time, I felt like my world changed!  I could nurse her anywhere, and I didn’t have to worry about supply.  Those were the good old days of breastfeeding – from about 2 months to 5 months.  Then things started to change.  We had an extended sleep regression.  The baby went on a bottle strike.  An illness wiped out my pumped milk supply.  Months 8 and 9 were the darkest in my year of breastfeeding.

When my daughter was eight months old, I looked at the calendar and wondered how we would make it to a year.  I didn’t feel like I could take it any more.  My only option, I thought, was to slowly add formula to her diet.  But as she has always done, my daughter took the lead on this one.  She even refused small amounts of formula.  I was left with no other options but to continue breastfeeding.  As hard as it was at times, we did make it to a year!  In doing so, I learned some tips for keeping breastfeeding going for a full year – some are mistakes I could not correct, others are things I was able to successfully utilize.

1.  Bottle Strike

During the second half of my daughter’s first year, I continued to be busy, leaving once a week or so to play with the Fox Valley Orchestra.  My social life started to expand, and my baby was with her grandparents more often.  She wouldn’t take a bottle from them!  Soon she wouldn’t take a bottle from me.  Then my baby went on a bottle strike that startled us and exhausted me.

I believe our bottle strike was related to trying to sneak formula into the bottle.  She didn’t seem to trust what was going to be given her in that bottle.  Up until her bottle strike, she was taking one bottle a day.  My husband and I had decided that he would give her the bedtime feeding, and I would pump that milk for later use.

If you want your baby to take a bottle, make sure to consistently give her a bottle at least every other day.  If she will let you, give her the bottle yourself (rather than having your husband do it all the time).  Have friends and relatives give her a bottle as much as possible.

Once the bottle strike begins, though, try the following:

  • Focus on getting the baby to take bottles from dad
  • Make the bottle feeding experience as comforting as possible for her
  • Put freshly pumped milk in the bottle, not mixed with any vitamins or formula
  • Leave the house so that dad and baby don’t have a backup plan other than the bottle.  In our case, I had to leave the house for several hours on Saturday afternoon in order for my baby to be hungry enough to take a bottle again.

2.  Supply Dips

In the second half of baby’s first year, your hormones may begin to wreak havoc on your life.  In addition to causing sore nipples, hormones may cause periodic supply dips.  These supply dips may happen when you ovulate and when you have your period.  Yes – that means you may encounter a supply dip every other week.

  • Make sure to have a large supply of breastmilk stored up to feed your baby when your supply dips.
  • If you need to, add some formula into your baby’s diet.
  • Eat foods that encourage milk supply such as oatmeal and almonds and lactation cookies.
  • Make sure to drink drink drink – water and sports drinks are the best.
  • Start your baby on solids and use solid foods to help get her through weeks where the milk supply is lower.

Pump Pump Pump

Most important for getting through a supply dip, pump!  Tell your body you still want and need that milk.

Once nursing was established, I thought I had an oversupply of milk.  In addition, my milk had lipase in it, and my daughter would only drink my frozen supply if it was mixed with fresh milk I had recently pumped.  For these two reasons, I figured, “Why pump a freezer full of milk I can’t use?” and slowed down on pumping to once a day.

But when my supply dipped and my freezer stash was used up, I was lost.  My body was making the exact amount of milk I needed to nurse my baby, and no more.  Where before I could pump 10 ounces of milk in a session, I was lucky sometimes to get one ounce!

The biggest advice I can give you to conquer the second half of breastfeeding is: pump, pump, pump.  Pump and freeze milk until you run out of space.  Pump and store enough milk so that if you stopped pumping and nursing today, you could get your baby to year’s end just fine.

Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Formula

If your supply is tanking in the second half of your baby’s first year, don’t be afraid to add a little formula to her diet.  When my daughter was struggling to learn how to nurse, we gave her about one small bottle per day of formula.  I would recommend keeping up this habit for your baby from the get go.  She will know how to use a bottle, and she will be used to the taste of formula.

When the baby was only about two months old, she kicked the bottle of formula I offered her out of her mouth and never took it again.  I wish we had continued trying to mix formula with her milk at that point.  Or perhaps when we found out I had lipase in the milk, I could have used formula to mix with the “soapy tasting” milk.

If your baby doesn’t take formula, try adding a tiny bit to her pumped milk with each feeding.  We started with only half an ounce!  And I would only increase the amount of formula after a week of exposure.  At that rate, you may never have to offer your baby a full bottle of formula before she is weaned, but at least the formula will stretch out your milk supply until the end.

There are other ways to incorporate formula into your baby’s diet and get her used to the taste.  Add formula to her infant cereal, baby food, or yogurt.  More controversially, try adding a little bit of sugar to the formula to make it taste sweeter like breastmilk.  As the baby gets used to formula, add in less and less sugar.  Run this method past your pediatrician first – each doctor may have a different opinion.

3.  Biting – Ouch!

Once your baby’s teeth come in, she may want to bite.  Sometimes babies are bored and want to signal that they are done breastfeeding.  Other times, they are teething and want to chew on something.  I know many moms who have quickly weaned once their babies started to bit.  As soon as your baby bites, end the breastfeeding session.  Say, “I am not going to nurse you if you are going to bite,” and offer the baby a chew toy or bottle if she is still hungry.

Try not to scream or shout.  For some babies, crying out in pain works.  They are sad and afraid to see their mother in pain, and they stop biting.  Unfortunately, for some babies this is entertaining.

4.  Night Wakings

One so-called myth of breastfeeding is that breastfed babies do not sleep through the night.  I call this a “so-called” myth because a lot of breastfeeding advocates call it a myth, but I found it to be absolute fact.  My baby started a long sleep regression around six months old.  However, her weight gain was right on track, and the pediatrician wanted us to continue to give her at least as many calories as we had before.  The problem was, she was waking up every two hours for those calories!

The answer is to move calories into the daytime.  With an older infant, the first thing to do is to get more solid foods into the baby.  If your baby is exploring solid foods, start to put her on a schedule where she eats three meals a day.  Give the baby a bottle and (fatty) snack before bed to guarantee some extra daytime calories.  (Our fatty snacks were avocado, peanut butter and crackers, and yogurt).

5.  Pump Inefficiency

In addition to supply dips, I began to suspect my pump was giving out on me.  It rasped a little as it went.  I would have it turned up to the highest setting, and there didn’t seem to be any additional pressure.  I contacted Medela about the pump, and they offered some tips to keep it working more efficiently:

  • Check your membranes for little holes – you may want to trade out your membranes every few months, as these are the most sensitive part of the pump and may be causing some lack of efficiency
  • Also check the valves for cracks
  • Check all the pieces to make sure they are secured together tightly: the valves, the tubing, etc.
  • Keep the tubing clear of condensation – I leave the pump on for about 30-60 seconds when I’m done pumping to allow some air to run through the tubes.  This cuts down on condensation build up
  • Clean the tubing if there is milk or condensation build up in it

I found a helpful replacement parts kit on Amazon.com that lets you purchase spare tubing, membranes, and valves for just over $10.  This is a nice little pick-me-up you can give your pump after a few months or so.  If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can just order new parts whenever you need them and not pay shipping.  Sign up for a 30 day free trial here.

 

6.  Distracted Baby

At around five months, my daughter started rolling all over the place when I tried to nurse her.  She would rip her mouth off the nipple and look around the room.  In addition to being painful, this habit made it hard to get the baby fed.  Sometimes we had all the time in the world for her to take a few sips and then look around.  Other times we had places to go – or worse, we were out in public and I was trying to contain a wiggly baby under a nursing cover.

If your baby is doing acrobatics while nursing, consider the following:

  • Take her to a quiet, boring room to nurse
  • If you are using a nursing cover, use it consistently from the time your baby starts nursing.  When she reaches her curious phase, she will be less likely to try to push it off.  You can then use it to cover her up in public so that she is not distracted by what she sees
  • Consider investing in a nursing necklace so that your baby is occupied at your breast, rather than focused on the world around.

7.  Weight Gain

As your baby transitions to solids, she will need to nurse less and less.  Watch out for this phase – you will no longer need the extra 500 calories per day that you are used to eating!  However, your body may think it needs more food because that is what it is used to.  What does this mean?  Weight gain, plenty of it, and fast!  If you can manage to do so without feeling sick, begin to ease up on your calories.

  • Cut down on portion sizes.
  • Make healthy swaps: fruits and veggies for sweets and crackers.
  • Try to remember how you used to eat before the baby came and ease back into that diet.
  • A great rule of thumb when you are pregnant is to drink a glass of milk at each meal for some of the extra calories you will need.  If you did this and continued through nursing, cut back your glasses of milk one at a time – coinciding with when your baby drops nursing sessions.
  • Continue to eat nutritious, high fat foods that will keep you full – such as avocado and peanut butter.  I found that I was still able to eat my favorite lactation cookies without gaining too much weight, and they had the added benefit of increasing supply.

8.  Sore Nipples

I had some soreness nursing early on, but we figured that was mostly due to my baby’s lip tie.  Once we fixed it, all soreness went away.  However, around six months my nipples became sore again.  They looked dry and cracked.  Hormones were making my nipples hurt on and off.  Whenever I had sore nipples, I wanted to quit breastfeeding.

Have a Good Latch

As time went on, I wondered if the cause of my sore nipples was the baby’s latch.  After those first hard weeks of getting breastfeeding going, I was so relieved that my daughter was nursing, I never had a lactation consultant look at her latch.  Deep down, I knew she had a lazy latch.  I could just tell by the awkward way she could hold her head while nursing.  I was too embarrassed to go see another lactation consultant and just powered through.  Don’t make that mistake.  Once nursing is established, make sure your baby still has a good latch.  She will need to latch on multiple times a day for an entire year, remember.  Go to a breastfeeding support group or lactation consultation to have someone with experience look at your latch.

Use a Nursing Balm

Just because breastfeeding is established and you’re nipples are not hurting as much as before, don’t get lazy about using a nipple cream or balm.  We used the Lanolin nipple cream when we first started out, and I liked it because I could feel immediate relief.  However, my favorite remedy is simply coconut oil.  I keep a jar of food grade coconut oil in my bedroom and apply to my nipples before bed.  Be careful, though – the oil will get on your night shirts and stain them, so choose your pajamas wisely.

Here is a website with a two more ideas for nursing balms to use.

9.  Mastitis and Plugged Ducts

One day, I felt a little lump and tenderness in my right breast.  I showed it to a lactation consultant at my breastfeeding support group, and she was worried.  It was not mastitis – not yet.  Still, I was on the verge of it.  Mastitis is a swelling of the breast that might be infected, and it can be very serious.

The signs of mastitis are:

  • Swelling
  • Hot to the touch
  • Achiness like a flu
  • Fever
  • A lump
  • Skin redness

If you have fever and flu like symptoms while breastfeeding, contact your doctor immediately.  If you suspect you may be starting to get an infection but do not yet have fever and aches, consider the following remedies:

  • Rest, lots of rest
  • Nurse as much as possible on the infected side
  • Lightly massage the lump when breastfeeding
  • Consider additional nursing positions
  • Make sure the baby is properly latched
  • Allow the baby to have a long nursing session and properly drain the breast

Congratulations!

If you can get through these common breastfeeding problems, you should be able to complete a year breastfeeding your baby!  If you have, congratulations!  No matter what, I will look back on Bugaboo’s first year as a success.  I will also see it as a breastfeeding journey, because with a baby, breastfeeding encompasses most aspects of life!  Despite some difficulties, those were some good old days breastfeeding.  What advice helped you breastfeed an entire year?

Cover photo is courtesy of Modern Hello Photography, in Wichita, KS.

 

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