Breastfeeding at 6 months

It has been a while since my last breastfeeding update. The Baby is 6 months old tomorrow, and our rocky start is thankfully a distant memory. I find it almost unimaginable that I was in tears every evening as she was feeding non-stop, in despair at the pain and wanting to give up but also not wanting to give up. I am so glad I persevered.

To continue my mission of Telling the Truth about Breastfeeding – so that new and expectant mothers can feel truly prepared – I thought I’d give you a little snapshot of what it is like six months down the line: the good bits, the tricky bits and the bad bits.

The Tricky Bits
Yes, I am starting with the tricky bits so I can end with the good bits. And I am flagging it up for you so you don’t feel too manipulated.

At this age, babies are getting curious about the world around them, and are more able to act on that curiosity. Feeding my six month old baby currently involves a lot of short bursts, where she feeds for a bit, comes off to have a look around, check out an interesting sound, or just grin at me. She is so wriggly and if her feet are touching anything she starts kicking against it while feeding. I was starting to think that maybe she just wasn’t very hungry, or that she was getting very efficient at feeding and was done after just five minutes, but when her weight gain started to slow I came to realise that I needed to keep encouraging her to continue her feed so she could get to the fatty hind milk, which is the ‘food’. It takes a bit of patience to keep putting her back on the breast and make sure she is actually getting a proper feed, but it has worked and her weight gain is back to normal.

It is also quite common for babies of this age to start waking up in the night again after having slept through. Then you are faced with the question: is he/she hungry? Some parents just know, but personally I always find it hard to gauge. If they were sleeping through and didn’t need milk in the middle of the night then, why would they need it now? Maybe it’s a growth spurt? But after a month of night feeding you start to think that either this is a very long growth spurt or they’re not waking up because they’re hungry. Who knows? I have been feeding the Baby at night again for at least two months now and I am convinced she doesn’t really need to as she is not feeding well in the morning now. But when there is screaming in the middle of the night, it is so much easier to feed them than to apply your brain to other re-settling techniques.

The Bad Bits
A week or two ago, I noticed a very sore, lumpy section on one of my breasts. A blocked duct. This can happen at any stage of breastfeeding, but it happened to me recently so I thought I’d mention it here. It appears that this can happen when your baby is distractible while feeding and you’re not so on the ball about making sure she empties the breast. Milk can get backed up and spill into the breast tissue. If you don’t resolve the blockage early, your body can start fighting the milk as if it is a foreign substance, causing an infection called mastitis. Read more here.

I used a warm flannel on the lumpy bit and resolved to feed the baby any time she woke up in the night to make sure I didn’t leave it too long between feeds. She obligingly woke up every 90 minutes or so in the night. In the daytime I made sure I fed her at least every three hours, but more often if she seemed amenable. Thankfully it resolved itself within a day or two and didn’t become mastitis. Phlew.

The Good Bits
Although going anywhere with a baby and a toddler requires preparation, one thing I never need to worry about is bringing equipment to feed the baby. I love the fact that breastfeeding is portable. This time around I am also more confident about feeding in public. I remember going to a first birthday party when the Toddler was about seven months old and hiding away behind a stack of chairs in a church hall to feed him. With the Baby I don’t worry so much about flashing people. First of all because people aren’t usually watching anyway, and secondly because your nipple is only visible for a second or two before the baby latches on and covers you up with her body. If I know I’m going somewhere unfamiliar where I don’t know the people – say, a crowded train or a wedding – I will make sure I am wearing a tanktop I can pull down under whatever other top I am wearing. I can then lift the top layer up, pull the tanktop down and I won’t have to bare my stomach to all and sundry. If you didn’t grow up in the Netherlands and/or have more deep-seated issues about flashing strangers, I have seen other mothers use muslins or shawls to drape over their shoulder and the baby for complete protection. I tried it myself and could never work it out – the shawl always slipped off my shoulder – but maybe you are more dextrous than I am. You can also buy purposely designed covers, just Google ‘nursing cover’ or ‘breastfeeding scarf’.

The best bit, though, is the wonderful feeling of bliss that comes with holding your baby tight to feed her, one little hand on your chest, the other tickling your side, her eyes closed, the perfect eyelashes resting lightly on her cheek. Last night, when she had had enough, she looked up at me with a big beaming smile, reached up and pulled my glasses off my nose. Then she giggled at her own funny joke. Love it.


23 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I am determined to breastfeed because there is a history of eczema and allergies in our family and I know breastfeeding is the best way to fight this – but am so nervous about the horror stories that make people give up! Will be sure persevere (if this baby is ever born, that is!).

    • Same here, we’ve got eczema, asthma and allergies in the family. Don’t be nervous though, it may all be totally fine! I think the key thing is to get plenty of support – I made it through the difficult start because of a lovely team of cheerleaders telling me I was doing great and to take it one feed at a time. That was possibly the best advice I had this time round: just promise yourself one more feed. And then another, and then another. And before you know it you’ll be over the rocky bit and into the fun bit! Anyway, when your baby decides to show up, I would be more than happy to provide online cheerleading if you need it!

  2. I can really relate to this – like you I found the first couple of weeks quite tough, with more or less constant feeding and cracked, bleeding nipples. Everyone I had spoken to said that if it hurt, you weren’t doing it right. I think in our case though, I just needed to break my nipples in (as it were) and I am so glad I persevered, feeding my son is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever done, it feels so wholesome and worthwhile! Your little one sounds very cute, good sense of humour!

    • I know, it’s so demoralising isn’t it, the ‘if it hurts you’re doing it wrong’-thing! Glad to hear you got through it too, it’s so lovely when you get past the pain. And my little daughter does have a nice sense of humour, she just loves making people smile. 🙂

  3. Oh this took me back! I remember breastfeeding so fondly, well mostly! Eliza was a dream to feed, she would feed solidly then burp then sleep, but Tilly was such a wriggler. I love what you say about them getting distracted, they are interested in so much at that age. I absolutely loved breastfeeding but I had to stop when I went back to work. I think writing this is a lovely idea, give new mums an insight that’s hard to find elsewhere. I stopped by from #pocolo by the way xx

    • Well, I do find that a lot of women give up or don’t even try because breastfeeding is pushed so hard and so desperately, painting a rosy picture that doesn’t match up to reality. It reminds me of a line from a favourite teen novel of mine: “Don’t keep telling me everything will be fine. Just tell me I’ll make it when it’s not.” So that’s what I thought I’d do!

      I love your blog by the way, found it via #pocolo as well and had to click follow. Your fancy dress saga really made me laugh. 🙂

    • Thanks Lorraine. When I first breastfed my son I felt so cheated by all the propaganda and the dreamy posters that made it look so easy. If anyone can read my story and feel better prepared but also encouraged I count it a big win.

  4. Lovely post xx I almost gave up with my second too after 2 weeks. Feeding every hour on the hour ! It was so painful and exhausting but we are now 2 years down the line and she is beginning to self-wean now. I agree with The Motherhood Site that you have to get your boobs into training ! My eldest breastfed for 8 months before she started using me as a teether and we had to part company ! ;0) It can be a difficult journey but with support, it can turn into a beautiful one too as I’ve found out with my second. Lovely blog which I’ve also found through #PoCoLo xx

    • Wow that is brilliant – really good to hear that you can be on the verge of giving it up at 2 weeks but still be going at 2 years! Fantastic! I was lucky enough that my son didn’t get any teeth until he was a year old so I never had the biting issue with him – hoping it runs in the family and my daughter will follow suit. Unfortunately she is already a bit bitey at the moment so I might not be so lucky this time.

    • I know, it can be so so difficult and lonely. In the beginning with my first I felt trapped in the comfy feeding chair in his room, lonely and in pain in the middle of the night. The breastfeeding peer supporters were a life saver for me, you could text them anytime and they would offer to come round and give you a peptalk in a heartbeat.

  5. Great idea for sharing! Brings back lovely memories of the way my daughter used to feed, pause, look around (sometimes without unlatching!!) and then carry on! I love that they are so inquisitive at this age and think it’s really noticeable when they’re feeding. Hope you continue to have a mostly enjoyable experience. #PoCoLo

  6. I do love how you made the decision to ride out the tough times and find what worked for both of you and getting to 6 months is fantastic. I had an emergency c section and had to go onto a cocktail of medication immediately after the birth so I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed and it is something I’d love to have at least tried.

    • Oh that is so sad when the choice is taken away from you. I have a friend who is epileptic and couldn’t breastfeed because of the medication as well.

  7. What a great and informative post. I breast fed til Grace was 9 months when she chose to give up. I found it really painful to start and like you by the time she was 6 months I really enjoyed the closeness of it 🙂

  8. Pingback: Breastfeeding: Winding down | Secrets of the Sandpit

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