I have a 7 month old baby who has been a distracted nurser since about 3 months. She continues to gain weight appropriately, so she does get enough to eat, but getting her to eat what she needs is a challenge. I had been doing frequent (every 1 1/2-2 hours) shorter (about 7-10 minutes) feedings. I tried a quiet, darkened room to get her to focus, but she will still eat well for a minute or two until she's not very hungry any more, then eat for a few seconds, look around, eat for a few seconds, look around, and finally refuse to re-latch and pull away to look around. A nursing cover or blanket over her just annoys or entertains her - she'll pull it off to look around or treat it like I'm playing peek-a-boo with her. I tried giving her something to hold onto like a soft cloth or my finger. At night she'll eat (with more pauses in her sucking) for up to 20 minutes.

Recently the distraction has gotten worse and she is increasing the frequency and length of night feeding. At first I attributed it to teething, but her gums no longer seem to be bothering her and the behavior is continuing. I am currently attempting to space her feedings out to see if getting her hungrier will help, as well as decreasing her solid intake (about 3 oz. at 2 feedings up until this point). She has gone from insistently demanding food during the day to just wanting to play all day and insistently demanding food during the night (waking up screaming and not being calmed by anything other than nursing even when she knows how to get her pacifier and settle herself back to sleep and does at some wakings). She's not reverse cycling because she sleeps much more at night than during the day, but she seems to be getting an awful lot of her calories at night.

I'm fine with feeding her at night as needed, but I would like to encourage her to get the majority of her calories during the day.

  • I don't have time for a full answer right now but I'd like to make a short statement: perhaps you're feeding too often? I think that if you ate every two hours, you wouldn't be very hungry either. Find out how long you can stretch between feedings, to build up some hunger. (Of course I mean this in a positive sense; this should not be torture on either of you.) – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 2 '12 at 10:07
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun - yeah, I think that's something we need to do. My only concern is that a couple of days of doing that have simply led to fewer nursing sessions that are still short. Also I personally am perptually starving every 2 hours. I'm a snacker. – justkt Oct 2 '12 at 17:18
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun - so I tried extending the feedings. It worked in that she was hungrier per feed. It backfired in that she was up twice last night - once clearly hungry and once to get her soaked diaper changed because of all the middle of the night eating. – justkt Oct 4 '12 at 14:01

On one hand, I agree with GdD that she doesn't sound like she's really that hungry. Could she have a slight case of acid reflux? Perhaps she's ceasing her feeding because the reflux is making her uncomfortable. Contrary to popular thought, all babies with acid reflux are not necessarily unhappy, cranky, or even chronic spitter-uppers.

On the flip-side of that, some babies are just snackers. It sucks. My daughter was a snacker who would eat every 2 hours or so practically around the clock, never more than a few ounces at a time. If she's been this way since she was tiny, you're probably not going to be able to get her to change now. Additionally, at this age, babies are way more interested in everything else but what you want them to be doing. She's able to see better, she's able to interact more with you and her environment, and that's what she's going to want to do even if you really want her to be nursing instead. This also means that as soon as she determines that she's "full", she's going to want to get down and play as most 7-month-olds have mastered sitting and are working towards crawling.

You are right though, until your child is at least a year old, their primary nutrition should be either formula or breastmilk. And it is perfectly appropriate for children at that age to wake in the middle of the night to eat, but children at this age are more than capable of going all night without eating as well.

Perhaps you need to just back off the solids altogether for now. There's no rule that says kids have to eat solids starting at 6 months. Unless she seems really into the solids (some kids take more to solids than others), there's no harm in removing them from her diet and re-introducing them again in a month or so. It sort of does make sense that adding solids to her diet might mess up her nursing schedule.

Or...perhaps try nursing before feeding her solids. You might be doing this all ready, but this way you ensure she's getting the breastmilk she really needs before giving her the solids. So maybe for breakfast you nurse then you immediately put her in her high chair and see if she's interested in some cereal or whatever you're feeding her mixed with some breastmilk. If she doesn't eat any of the solids, it's ok, but if she does then that's ok, too. Repeat at lunch time if you're doing solids twice a day. I wouldn't even bother with dinner solids at this point.

Hope some of that helps and that you get some sleep!

  • Thanks Meg. She has always been a snacker but also was going 12 hours at night without eating (sleeping most of it, and even on days she would have an early wake-up she would just play in her crib). I think the frequent feeding helped her to get enough daytime calories, but I also think it's maybe become too frequent. I wonder about backing off of solids, but she loves them. I am trying to feed solids immediately after nursing (rather than an hour later) as you suggest. So far, no difference, but maybe it will take effect over time. – justkt Oct 2 '12 at 17:16
  • Also re: reflux - I have wondered that over and over due to various things (she's a silent spitter, she used to be an awful sleeper), but when I catch her spitting up she rarely seems to be in pain, which caused my peditrician to say she doesn't have reflux. – justkt Oct 2 '12 at 17:17
  • My niece wasn't diagnosed with reflux until she was about your daughter's age and she was a HUGE spitter-upper, but she also didn't appear to be in pain. In fact, she was a very happy baby. My daughter, OTOH, was a silent spitter and was pretty miserable. It seems like most peds will at least attempt reflux meds if the parents seem to indicate they think their child is having problems with AR to see if it alleviates the symptoms. Might be worth a second opinion. She's more active now and burning more calories so she might be a little hungrier--and let's not even talk about growth spurts. – Meg Coates Oct 2 '12 at 23:14

It sounds like she's not actually hungry. If you have added solid food (as is appropriate to do after 6 months), then your child will be much less hungry for milk. It's normal for them to cut down their milk at that point, and it's a good thing. Don't stress over it, just cut down the number of feeding sessions, and don't feed at night.

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    I have read in several places that solids do not replace breastmilk before the first year, but rather complement it and that a baby should be continuing to get at least 25 oz. of breastmilk during the day. See this link as one example, but there are many more. And not feeding at night would involve way more screaming than I am comfortable with in a baby who knows how to put herself to sleep, especially as experts such as Marc Weissbluth say that babies up to 9 months may truly need a night feed. – justkt Oct 1 '12 at 14:49
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    I wouldn't cut down the night feeds if that's what baby wants. Our 7 month old feeds at least once during the night, but more if she feels the need to do so. – Dave Clarke Oct 1 '12 at 16:10

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