Octopus Mom

Life as a mom who has her hands full

Breastfeeding gets Easier…I swear!

I am a mother of three breastfed children. My youngest child is almost 6 months and I am constantly amazed at how many mothers breastfeed their children for 2 months only to give up and switch to formula. Now I am by no means a breastfeeding nazi. It is your decision how long you want to breastfeed, but many mothers give up because it is difficult. What many of them don’t know is that the first 2 months are BY FAR the worst time. After the second month, things get soooo much easier.  A lot of babies by the time they are 4-6 months old are only really nursing 4-6x a day and many are even sleeping through the night. Breastfeeding no longer hurts past the 2nd month because your nipples toughen up and are no longer sore. Babies also get much more efficient at breastfeeding as the months progress. I can nurse my little one in 7 minutes total..LESS time than it takes me to make and warm a bottle! Most mothers know that breastfeeding is best and that the Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding through the first year of life. What most parents don’t know is that it gets easier with time. Many moms give up when light is just around the corner. If you are interested in continuing breastfeeding you should contact your local La Leche League for support or try these links and articles. Hang in there!!
1. Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions: Hang in There

2. La Leche League

3. Breastfeeding Basics

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6 comments on “Breastfeeding gets Easier…I swear!

  1. Jen
    July 22, 2008

    Dear Octopus Mom,
    While it is laudable to encourage moms to breastfeed past the first 2 months I think suggesting that babies will be sleeping through the night and nursing just 4-5 times a day after two months of age is completely unrealistic.

    After three hours without breastfeeding prolactin, the milk making hormone, falls to non-lactating levels, and after 4 hours without breastfeeding the brain makes two hormones that work against milk production.

    Mothers should nurse at least 8 times a day if they don’t want to have sub-optimal milk supplies. Many babies will ask to be nursed ten or more a day for the first six months, and mothers should know that this is entirely normal.

    While I agree with you that 2-4 months of age can be an especially easy time when compared with the newborn period, after 4 months of age moms don’t have any extra prolactin as they do for the first 3-4 months after birth. The extra prolactin moms have the first 3-4 months after birth can mask the problems associated with feeding too infrequently.

    But beyond four months of age most moms only have as much prolactin as they deserve to have based on their breastfeeding frequency. Many babies who started taking a 4-6 hour stretch of sleep at night between 2-4 months of age will pick back up on the night nursing once this extra prolactin has gone away, and mothers should not be led to believe that night nursing is unnecessary once a baby reaches 2 months of age.

    Many babies will never take a 4-6 hour stretch of sleep even between 2-4 months of age. These babies are often boy babies with fast metabolisms..they will grow up to be the leanest boys despite of their monstrous appetites….they just need more milk than babies with slower metabolisms and their breastfeeding frequency reflects this. Of course this can happen with girl babies too, but it is very common with boys.

    Mothers who nurse less than 8 times a day during the first year almost always have signs of undersupply…slow gaining baby, and a baby who eats a lot of solid foods once they are introduced, and “self-weans” under a year of age.

    Mothers who practice better breastfeeding management, nursing 8 or more times a day the first year of life, have babies who gain well, staying on their growth curves (the WHO curves), and they have babies who aren’t much interested in solids during the first year of life.

    The amount of solid food a baby eats once solids are introduced absolutely demonstrates the short-fall between his caloric needs and his mother’s milk supply because babies keep their caloric intake constant for their weight. Mothers who practice good breastfeeding management have better milk supplies therefore their babies don’t need much solid food during the first year of life.

    When the milk supply is copious due to good breastfeeding management babies NEVER “self-wean” during the first 12-15 months of life. Babies may go through a “nursing strike” due to a sore mouth but if the mom protects her milk supply by pumping through the period of the baby’s sore mouth he will go right back to nursing once his mouth is healed.

    Expecting a baby will self-wean under a year of age is like expecting him to give up the best tasting ice cream…it just doesn’t happen…the baby doesn’t want to give up the best tasting food he will ever have…it dries up on him from his mother offering the breast too infrequently.

    There are some exceptional women who have good milk supplies in-spite of poor breastfeeding management. These mothers have higher than normal background levels of prolactin…that is their pituitary glands make higher than normal levels of prolactin even in the absence of suckling. Sometimes these women will have Polycystic ovaries, trouble conceiving, or even extra weight that they just believe is normal for them, when in fact they would be leaner if they had normal prolactin levels…or sometimes women with extra prolactin have no symptoms other than that they are able to successful breastfeed with a frequency that would cause a catastrophic milk supply failure in a women with normal background levels of prolactin.

    If this is you Octopus mom…a mom with extra prolactin…be careful not to treat your own experience as average…if you try to encourage moms that your experience is average when their own babies get beyond 2 months of age- and aren’t sleeping through the night and aren’t nursing just 4-5 times a day- these moms might erroneously believe there is something wrong with them and their milk-making capabilities. Your encouragement could actually backfire and make them reach for bottles of formula to achieve the sleeping through the night and 4-5 feeds a day which you have counseled them to believe is normal.

    IBCLC and La Leche Leader retired

  2. Jen
    July 23, 2008


    One good bit of encouragement you offered was how efficient babies get at nursing as they get older so that many nursings may be brief- under ten minutes…
    As you pointed out the brief nursings take less time than warming a bottle…

    Since this is so true you shouldn’t worry too much that telling women the truth- that the vast majority will need to nurse at least 8 times a day- is so onerous.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that 6 of the nursings are very efficient say 7-10 minutes (42 minutes to an hour) and two a day are longer say 20-30 minutes (40 minutes to an hour)…that would mean a mother nursing 8 times a day is still only spending 2 hours total a day nursing.

    Or we could say some babies don’t nurse every three hours around the clock for 8 nursings a day.
    Instead they sleep a 6 hour stretch and then nurse every two hours or less for the rest of the day for a total of ten nursings a day.
    This time let’s postulate that none of the nursings are very brief they are all 20 minutes long for a total of 200 minutes or 3 hours and 20 minutes.

    Even at the more extreme end of 3 hours and 20 minutes breastfeeding is still the most efficient way to feed a baby.
    How much time must be worked to earn the money to buy formula?
    How much time is spent in the purchase, preparation, feeding and clean up of formula?

    If we leave aside formula feeding for a moment and consider how much time has to be spent working to buy groceries, time spent shopping for groceries,
    time spent preparing, eating and cleaning up from meals it would easily exceed 2-3.5 hours everyday.

    Any way you slice it breastfeeding is not too much work.


  3. mamatsidale
    August 2, 2008

    I agree wholeheartedly, breastfeeding is great and makes life so much easier!!

  4. Lori
    August 4, 2008

    Jen are you really saying that most (breastfed) babies will not be sleeping for longer than 6 hours at a time by 12 months? I have not found this to be the case with my daughter nor have my friends who have mostly BFd past the first year.

    I was very however interested in what you were saying about the prolactin levels as I had pcos prior to conceiving so I wonder if that did help me maintain my milk supply despite initially following a routine instead of demand feeding like I now know I should have been.

    Besides me, amongst my long term BF friends I only have one friend who BF’d that frequently after a few months and all the babies gained weight well in both the pre solids period and after intoducing solids. Mine was actually the slowest gainer but I believe she is also just a smaller child (both parents small framed) and still followed her chart very nicely.

    Perhaps it was just my circle that fed less frequently but I would still be surprised if most BF babies feed that frequently even after introduction of three solid meals a day. Interesting points.

  5. Pingback: I'm In It For The Long Haul » Blog Archive » Nursing Advice From a Mother of 6

  6. Pingback: Nursing Advice From a Mother of 6 | Home Schooling And More

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2008 by in Parenting Tips and tagged , , , , , , .

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