It can be tough to nurse a baby when they’re constantly being distracted by their surroundings. Here are 8 ways to help manage distractions and make nursing more comfortable for both you and your baby – and why it happens!
Nursing a baby can be difficult, especially when they become distracted and refuse to nurse.
It’s normal for babies to become distracted during nursing sessions as they engage more in the world around them. This is a natural developmental milestone that all babies go through.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! There are plenty of parents who have gone through this phase and have found ways to make it through with both their patience and nursing relationship intact.
- Remove the Distraction
- Go into a Quiet Room
- Nurse in Motion
- Take Advantage of Sleepy Feeds
- Distracted Feeding May Be Physical
- Put on White Noise/Music
- Try a Nursing Cover
- Take a Bath
- Use a Toy
- Move the Gas!
- Try a New Position
- Nurse Any Chance You Get
- Indulge the Distraction
- Protect Your Supply
- When age is distracted nursing most common?
- What causes distracted nursing?
- How long does distracted nursing last?
- Is my baby just self-weaning?
- Give Time for Distracted Nursing to Pass
- Be Patient With Your Baby
- Keep the Breast a Happy Place
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Remove the Distraction
This is probably the first thing most people try, but sometimes, you just need to physically remove you and your baby from the distraction! If they are really fixated on something in the room, distract them with something else and remove that distraction entirely.
Go into a Quiet Room
One way to handle distracted nursing is to go into a quiet room, or dim the lights. Parents recommend turning off the television, putting your phone down, and making sure that there are no distractions in the room.
Nurse in Motion
For some babies, motion can help ease the distractions. For example, if you’re nursing in a rocking chair, rock a little while you nurse. This can be calming for some babies and help them stay focused on the task at hand.
You could also stand up and rock them while nursing or even sit on a yoga ball and bounce while nursing.
Take Advantage of Sleepy Feeds
If your baby is particularly distracted while you’re nursing, sometimes waiting for a time when they are sleepier is best.
You can try and nurse closer to nap times, while they are napping, or even nurse more frequently at night (dream feeds can be fantastic if they don’t wake up on their own at night).
Remember – this doesn’t have to be a forever thing. Sometimes it’s just what you need to do to get through the distracted phase.
Distracted Feeding May Be Physical
Babies who are distracted may not be latching properly during nursing sessions. This may cause them to become distracted and lose focus.
Determine if this is the case by watching their positioning and tongue movements while you nurse. Make sure your baby is getting a proper latch and is in an optimal position.
If you are really having a lot of issues, contact a lactation professional to help you dive deeper into the issue.
Put on White Noise/Music
Some babies are distracted by the loud noises in the background. A simple solution to this is turning on some soft, calming white noise while you nurse.
This can help drown out any other noises and help your baby stay focused.
Putting on a soothing playlist or Pandora station when you nurse can also be helpful.
Try a Nursing Cover
Some babies are distracted by the sight of Mom during nursing sessions. If this is the case, try using a nursing cover or blanket to block your baby’s vision while you nurse. This can help them block out any other distractions and stay focused on nursing. If it doesn’t work right away, keep trying.
It can also be helpful if you are nursing away from home and your child is really distracted by the world around them!
Take a Bath
Sometimes, taking a bath while nursing can help ease the distractions. This is because it takes your baby out of their normal surroundings and puts them in a different environment.
If you want to take this one step further, try adding some lavender essential oil or other soothing oils into the bath for an added calm effect!
Use a Toy
You can give your baby a toy while you’re nursing that can keep their hands occupied. Some moms like to attach it to their bra.
Of course, this may make things worse for some babies, but it’s worth a shot!
Many mothers breastfeed in carriers. Sometimes this can combine a few of the techniques mentioned above (such as nursing in motion) and can provide a quiet place for them to nurse.
Move the Gas!
Sometimes gas can make a baby extra uncomfortable and distractable at the breast. Try and burp your baby, cycle their legs, or try any number of techniques to help move that gas through their system!
Try a New Position
If your baby is distracted while nursing in a certain position, try switching the position. You can try side-lying, the Koala Position, or even revert back to the good ol’ football position. Sometimes they just need something to shake things up a little bit!
Nurse Any Chance You Get
Offer the breast any chance you get. Even if your little one doesn’t take it all, you can still try and give them a taste of some mama milk.
This can be in the morning when they wake up, while they’re playing on the floor, or even while you’re walking around with them in a carrier.
Indulge the Distraction
Even though you may feel like your baby is distracted while you nurse, let them sit and play with the toys next to them for a moment. Sometimes it can be helpful to just let them get the distraction out of their system and then try again in a little bit.
Protect Your Supply
If your child is really nursing a lot less, it’s important to protect your supply. You should try and pump if your child completely skips a feed. You. may also want to add in hand expression as well.
When age is distracted nursing most common?
While a baby can be distracted at any age, in my experience, I get the most “complaints” from moms around 4-5 months and around 10 months. These are stages where your baby is learning and developing new skills, discovering the world around them, and just find everything support interesting!
What causes distracted nursing?
Distracted nursing isn’t something that is physically wrong with your baby. Usually, it’s because they are exploring the world around them and starting to interact with their surroundings more than ever before.
It’s often during times when your baby is developing a new skill. I would HIGHLY recommend learning about “The Wonder Weeks“.
This is my favorite resource with my kids – it tells you when your child is expected to go through a certain developmental stage, and it can often give you reassurance during some of those more difficult times.
There is an app you can download that creates a specific “timeline” for your baby – but the book is also a great place to start!
How long does distracted nursing last?
I wish I had a magic eight-ball that could tell you this! Sometimes distracted nursing lasts a day or two, while other times, it may last a few weeks or a month.
In my experience, though, a child who is refusing to nurse at ten months ends up being that toddler you struggle to get to stop nursing at two.
Is my baby just self-weaning?
When a baby gets distracted while nursing, it’s easy to think they are just self-weaning.
Most babies will not self-wean on their own until at least 18 months. They may go through different developmental stages where they want to nurse less or more, but I wouldn’t just chalk it up to self-weaning.
Sometimes, if a baby is getting a lot of bottles or solid food, that may fuel self-weaning a bit more. Make sure you are following these tips for bottle-feeding a breastfed baby, and if your baby is younger than a year, maybe back off on the solids a little bit to ensure breast milk is the priority!
Give Time for Distracted Nursing to Pass
This phase will pass eventually! Give yourself some time (and grace) and remember that this too shall pass!
Be Patient With Your Baby
While it can be hard to nurse with your baby being distracted, try and remember why you’re nursing. This is for your child’s health! Be patient with your little one and eventually this phase will pass.
It’s okay if your routine is different for a little while. Having had three children of my own, I promise you – you can always readjust and fix routines later!
Keep the Breast a Happy Place
It’s understandable to get frustrated if your baby isn’t nursing as well as you would like. You want to make sure the breast stays the happy place that they want to be. If you find yourself or your baby getting frustrated, it’s okay to put them down and try again later!
With these tips, hopefully, you’ll be able to make it through the distracted nursing phase with both your patience and nursing relationship intact!
We’d love to hear from you – what are some ways you’ve made it through the distracted nursing phase?
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Katie Clark is a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and IBCLC student. She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.
Thank you for this article, I found it really helpful! The only question I still have is what is the right/best thing to do if because he is distracted my baby is not getting enough breastmilk in a 24 hours period. I’ve read a 10 month old should have 24-28oz per 24 hours… there is simply no way he is getting that much. Do I succumb to the bottle at this point?
Katie Clark, CLE, CBS
You are very welcome! At 10 months, I usually see the range as low as 17-24 in 24 hours. It’s really hard to know how much your baby is getting, too. In my experiences, at that age, some babies can get as much as 5-6 ounces in 5 minutes at the breast. I would keep offering the breast as much as you can, monitor diapers and mood, and if all that is well, I wouldn’t worry too much. The bottle may complicate things. However, of course, if you are worried at all definitely do what you feel is best and work with an LC to make sure everything is going ok 🙂