Reasons for breastfeeding changing with age

Why does breastfeeding change as babies grow?

Breastfeeding changes with the age of the baby. That’s because babies get stronger and more efficient at feeding. Their personalities develop and they start interacting more with their mother. Breastfeeding principles, however, stay the same: breastfeed when the baby acts hungry and offer both breasts at each feeding. Mothers don’t need to worry if their baby’s patterns are a little different from typical ones as every mother and baby pair is unique. Mothers and babies who have a very different feeding pattern should be seen by their health-care providers.

A) Why babies change their breastfeeding and behaviour patterns

Babies change their breastfeeding and behaviour patterns as they grow because:

  • They get stronger and become more efficient at breastfeeding.
  • They start interacting more with their mother.
  • They become more interested in what is happening around them which causes them to be more distractible when breastfeeding.
  • Their personality develops.
  • Their needs change.
  • The amount of milk they need changes.
  • They are weaning.

As they grow, their reasons for breastfeeding also change, and can affect the nature of the individual feed. Reasons include:

  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Fear
  • Over-stimulation
  • Boredom
  • Feeling cold
  • Feeling tired or sleepy
  • Pain

B) Describing the changes in breastfeeding and behaviour patterns

The principles of breastfeeding don’t change as the baby grows: breastfeed when your baby acts hungry and offer both breasts at each feeding.

One of the challenges in breastfeeding is defining normal or average. Every mother and baby pair is unique. If your baby’s patterns are a little different from the descriptions in this website but the baby is getting enough milk, your baby is probably normal. If your baby is very different, you may want to talk to your health-care provider.

As the baby grows, breastfeeds generally take less time but babies continue to breastfeed frequently through the first year of life. The number of breastfeeds in one day will decrease as the baby self-weans.

The changes to the breastfeeding and behaviour patterns, the baby’s output, and changes in mothers are described by age:

Premature babies often have breastfeeding difficulties. In general, the younger the baby, the more significant the breastfeeding challenges but even those born as late as 38 weeks can struggle.

Babies can also change their breastfeeding pattern when there is a problem including:

C) The importance of the first feed

The baby’s first feed is critical to establishing effective breastfeeding. Ideally, right after birth mothers and their babies should not be separated but rather they should be kept skin-to-skin. This is for both vaginal and Caesarean births. Healthy babies who are not sleepy from medications the mother received during labour may be able to crawl up their mother’s tummy and latch onto the breast with no or minimal help.