Udderly Ridiculous!
December 5, 2006 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to over-breastfeed a baby? She's 6 weeks old and nurses, oh, like 10-12 hours a day at least. I think she's at the breast more than she's asleep.

Oh, sure, there's some non-nutritive sucking going on, but pull her off and she FLIPS OUT --- and mostly she's eating, albeit somewhat slowly. Lactation consultants and "concerned citizens" of the breastfeeding community say there's no such thing as spending too much boob-toobe time, but honestly, this is making me feel like a human dairy. Any hints?
posted by DenOfSizer to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It might be that she just wants to suck. Try placing a finger in her mouth in such a way that you can rub the roof of her mouth. This stimulates her suck reflex. If she is content to suck on your finger for several minutes then she probably isn't hungry. If you get really tired of having your finger in her mouth for hours a day you can try switching to a passifier. My son needed to suck all the time and I just kept my finger in his mouth so that my wife could have a break.
posted by lucasks at 10:30 AM on December 5, 2006

Contact your local La Leche League. My wife breastfed both of our children, and most of our friends breastfeed their children. One thing that everyone says is that, while they know it is the best for their child and they want very much to succeed, it is *very* challenging at times. LLL provides some real help and suggestions. Of course, if there are other more serious problems, they usually recommend speaking with a lactation consultant.
By the way, 6 weeks at 10-12 hours/day sounds pretty normal.
Good luck.
posted by tom_g at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2006

p.s. - I'm male and have no real understanding of what you're going through. Hope I didn't come off preachy or anything. All I meant to say is that you should talk to women who have gone through what you are going through. Ignore men - including me ;)
posted by tom_g at 10:39 AM on December 5, 2006

It will lessen given time. You're over the hump - the first six weeks is the worst. Yes, you're being used as a human pacifier and yes, your baby is spending as much if not more time on the breast than she is doing anything else, but that will eventually switch and trust me, she'll be weaned by college. It's a closeness thing and a bonding thing and really, it's not bad: I know, you can't do much of anything else, but you can always read. Or try one of those front sling carrier things - the movement and the closeness may rock her to sleep more. Or you can try the pacifier but be warned - neither of my kids would touch it; they just spat it out and wailed.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:40 AM on December 5, 2006

Ask your ped.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 10:43 AM on December 5, 2006

I have a background as a midwifery student and also as a breastfeeding mom. You're not going to 'overfeed' the baby. In that sense she'll be fine. But she definitly doesn't need to nurse that much.

I used to let my daughter suck on my finger sometimes which she was very happy with. Many people intruduce pacifiers. As she gets older you can also give chew toys.

I'd try (for your own sanity) to reduce the number of feedings a day but (for her health) I wouldn't try to reduce the duration of feedings (unless they are going on for more than 45 minutes to an hour. Distraction is probably a great method. Going outside for walks with her, dancing to music, showing her running water, stuff like that. also, if you have a partner or friend who doesn't smell like delicious breast milk, that person could help a lot by holding the baby inbetween your designated feeding times.
posted by serazin at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2006

(midwifery student in a non-traditional sense - so I dont' have any 'official' qualifications, but I have talked to more than 100 breastfeeding moms and read a lot on the subject).
posted by serazin at 10:52 AM on December 5, 2006

I second or third the "use a pacifier" suggestion. She is using you to satisfy her urge for sucking not her hunger...

Of course, asking a lactation consultant or Ped is also a very good idea...
posted by tuxster at 11:00 AM on December 5, 2006

A good indicator of whether baby is getting too little or too much is her weight gain (or lack of it). Perhaps she is eating so much because she is not getting enough and therefor has to continue eating. Definately ask your pediatrician to make sure baby is gaining weight sufficiently.

Like others have suggested - it could be just a sucking thing. Try the finger or pacifier.

My little guy is just about 5 months and if you put a boob in front of him, he'll eat. Take the boob away and he'll put up a fight until I distract him with something else (like serazin suggested).

Good luck!
posted by Sassyfras at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2006

I second the LLL suggestion. In my country, pacifiers are not recommended for breastfed babies younger than three months. I know it is challenging, but this will pass VERY soon, and you may start to long for those days when you could read or talk on the phone while taking care of your child's needs. When she's three and throwing a tantrum in the supermarket, for instance... Do learn to breastfeed handsfree, that makes a lot of difference.
posted by davar at 11:05 AM on December 5, 2006

Babies about to go through growth spurts will spend more time at the breast -- that action will stimulate the increased milk production necessary to support baby through the phase during which she needs the extra nutrition. Six weeks old is a standard growth spurt milestone, so listening to baby's instincts may be just the thing for now.
posted by xo at 11:10 AM on December 5, 2006

No, you won't overfeed her. She's probably just comforting herself on the breast. My son was similar when he was younger (he's 7 months now). I decided I was OK with being used as a human pacifier (actually since he wouldn't take a pacifier it was more like I decided I'd rather be used as a human pacifier than listen to screaming all the time).

It does get better. Also, as you've probably heard/read (and on preview, like xo says...), 6 weeks is considered to be when most babies go through a growth spurt. Eventually (so the theory goes) your breasts will produce more milk and your baby won't need to suck as often.

Along with contacting LLL as recommended above, you can also check out kellymom

Here's a quote from their site:

Breastmilk is digested quickly (usually in 1.5-2 hours), so breastfed babies need to eat more often than formula-fed babies. Many babies have a strong need to suck. Also, babies often need continuous contact with mom in order to feel secure. All these things are normal, and you cannot spoil your baby by meeting these needs.
posted by Cuke at 11:14 AM on December 5, 2006

Former nursing mom here.

How often is she going to the breast? Could be your "factory" needs more of a gap between nursings to fill back up. What I did when I had a similar problem was to replace one feeding with a bottle (this can be formula or expressed breast milk) to give my breasts some break time. (My pediatrician was the one to give me this advice when my son was a newborn, and it worked wonders.)

IIRC I only needed to do this once or twice.
posted by konolia at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2006

6 weeks is one of the recognized usual growth spurt times and they will nurse like crazy when they hit a growth spurt. The point is to stimulate your breasts into producing more milk for their needs, but usually a few days is enough to do that. If it persists, do know that babies digest breastmilk much faster than formula and want to eat more often, but make sure she's gaining weight okay; make sure you're eating and drinking enough since you're eating for two still. 6 weeks is old enough to introduce a bottle of pumped milk if you are thinking of trying that, but make sure it's not a growth spurt first, because the more she's sucking on something else the less she's stimulating your breasts to provide her with what she needs.

Very little babies want *lots* of closeness. Try providing more contact in other ways besides breastfeeding, such as carrying her in a sling or co-sleeping (if you're not comfortable with co-sleeping, nap with her, or put her bassinet right next to your mattress). If you can try to schedule a break every day and get her used to that closeness with another readily available caregiver - my husband would do bath and bedtime snuggles from early on so I would have that break every day - even if you have to leave the house and go take a half-hour walk around the block so she can't smell you in the room.
posted by Melinika at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2006

10-12 hours
That sounds about right. Man, it was annoying. Oh yeah, beautiful and connecting, but there was the washing to be done etc. I think another problem I had that other mothers didn't seem to was that I couldn't bear to hear my babies cry and offered the breast asap. Oh and neither of my kids were ever interested in pacifiers.

My experience (with 2 kids (not twins)) was it did let up pretty quickly as they began to take notice of stuff around them. Also Daddy was surprisingly clever at entertaining and burping, so if you have someone else around, see if they can't delay help delay the feed. Otherwise, get in some good books and try breastfeeding lying down reading, sitting in a chair reading, and heaven forbid but i had a job I had to finish that I'd contracted before my daughter was born, get a pillow that wraps around you, and you can breastfeed while at the computer if your baby's not very wiggly.
posted by b33j at 12:10 PM on December 5, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks y'all. FYI, she is gaining weight nicely, she is totally pissed off about the very idea of a paci, she's really not that into the finger (she likes her babydaddy's, though, fortunately) and I pretty much live on kellymom. I guess I'm just stunned at how. much. closeness/bonding/nursing they need!
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2006

BFAR mom of a 4 1/2 month old here. Yeah, 10-12 hours per day sounds about right.

Because I'm BFAR, I'm a very slow producer, so it wasn't unusal for my son to nurse for nearly an hour (between both sides), take a one hour break, then be back for more. At first it made me crazy, but I did slowly learn to live with it. Even now, when he's about 90% formula fed (my milk production never expanded to meet his expanding needs) he'll often nurse/suck for a couple of hours, on and off, while we're sleeping. I've gotten to the point where I don't even wake up when he latches on in bed any more.

Your baby won't over eat, so no worries on that front, but I'm sure its driving you crazy. Does she ever detach of her own accord? Have you had a lactation consultant in? It could be something in her latch that means she's not getting milk as quickly as she might otherwise, which makes her want to nurse longer and longer.
posted by anastasiav at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2006

My sister's oldest child wanted to be on the breast 24 hours a day. She refused a pacifier but was okay for a while with a finger. My sister was also a slow producer. It was a combination of not getting enough of that really heavy milk that comes with a strong feeding and wanting constant closeness. That intense nursing faded after a while so, take heart, the burden will get easier around 12 years of age. Then they won't want anything to do with you because you will be too embarrassing. That will be the time to bring up their infant obsession with your boobs.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:13 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I am looking right now at a child who used to nurse exactly like that--for hours at a time. We called them "marathons." She is now nine and weaned at age three. She outgrew the marathons around age two, when they were spaced about a month apart. What I'm saying is, like most things in children, This Too Shall Pass. It's a rough patch, and you will need support through it. Your partner needs to pick up the slack, or see that you get help. In the meantime keep yourself hydrated and enjoy it as much as you can. It's so, so short a time, honest, and I believe that the extra time I took with my girl paid off.
posted by LynnS at 1:30 PM on December 5, 2006

Another vote for "this too shall pass" and "totally normal." At this age, you're undoubtedly getting into a growth spurt and your baby will want to nurse, nurse, nurse. (I'm going through the same thing right now with my 14 month old.) A sling or meitai carrier might help you with the physical issue of carrying baby around, and having that closeness while still allowing you to be hands-free and doing other things might help you feel less encumbered by your baby's need for comfort. Meanwhile, relax, stay hydrated and well-fed, get your partner's help, and try to savor the time. As rough as it seems, time passes quickly and you're going to look back on this tiny baby era very soon and think "I wish s/he was still that little and in need of me!"
posted by Dreama at 2:06 PM on December 5, 2006

Six weeks is a normal time for a growth spurt, by the way. That means more eating.
posted by padraigin at 5:12 PM on December 5, 2006

Normal, this too shall pass, and I love your post title! You may be exhausted, but you haven't lost your sense of humor - and that's good.
posted by tizzie at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2006

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