Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Breastfeeding Your Distracted Baby

on May 23, 2016

Somewhere in the six to twelve month range many mothers find their previously totally focused nursing baby has become a wiggler who can’t nurse in public, or if someone else is in the room, or the TV is on, or the cat walks by, or…….!  What happened to the baby whose whole life revolved around breastfeeding and, more to the point, how do you keep breastfeeding through this stage?

Those who are breastfeeding at six to nine months generally have a goal of continuing to nurse for a year or longer as recommended by the World Health Organization and the Canadian and American Pediatric Societies. Having a little one who suddenly seems to not be interested in nursing can be confusing. Many mothers wonder if baby is weaning.

Weaning is a process not an event and it starts the day baby has his first bite of solid food and continues until nursing is no longer part of his life. So, yes the distracted nursing stage is a part of the weaning process but it isn’t necessarily the final stage of the breastfeeding relationship.



How do you survive the distracted nursing stage and continue your breastfeeding relationship?

First, it helps to understand what is going on in your baby’s brain:

* When babies are making the big developmental leaps that come during this time period (crawling, standing and even walking, babbling turning into words) they often need to go back to their base of safety (you and breastfeeding) for a few minutes to regroup before forging ahead again. This need for reconnection to the primary adult in the child’s life is biological and happens with all young children, breastfed or not. “Drive by” nursing can be part of that reconnection and consolidation of new learning process for little ones who are breastfeeding.

* Getting distracted by the things going on around her is a sign that her brain is developing. Now she is aware of the things happening beyond the little circle of her and you and she is tuning in the sounds of the world. She wants and needs to know what is going on. At this stage, she has to look and see to understand what is happening. You will see the next step in brain development when you can tell that she hears what is going on in the room but she doesn’t have to let go of the breast and look to make sense of it.

* Remember that your baby is a more efficient nurser now than he was as a newborn. He is getting lots of milk even during a short nursing. Babies at this stage may prefer more short nursing sessions during the day rather than the longer leisurely ones you had even a few weeks ago. Now longer nursing sessions usually revolve around sleeping and waking times.

Plan ahead:

* If you are going to be out and about, try to have a nursing session before you leave the house. That way you won’t be worrying that baby is really hungry if he only nurses for a couple of minutes while you are away from home.

* If baby is eating solid foods bring some with you when you are going to be out of the house for a while. Baby may be more willing to have a solids snack than to breastfed in a busy distracting situation such as the mall, playgroup or community gathering.

* You may find that you need to reduce the distractions around you so baby can have a concentrated nursing a couple of times a day, generally when waking up or going to sleep. This may mean keeping the TV off, not checking your messages on your mobile phone, sitting in a darkened quiet room or lying on the bed. Decreasing the outside distractions is easier to do with a first baby than if you also have older children zooming around the house. Nursing with baby in a sling or soft carrier may help to provide the “distraction free zone” he needs while you keep an eye on the older children. Babies at this age generally dislike being tucked under nursing covers and they tend to push them away.

* Some babies in this age range will settle to breastfed better if they have a familiar toy or blanket that is part of the nursing routine. Having a familiar object can be a help when traveling with a baby of this age but you’ll want to keep close tabs on it. Losing the familiar object or leaving it behind can cause great upset! Breastfeed children often don’t have a favourite toy or blanket because you and your breasts are their “attachment object”. Don’t stress about her not having a favourite toy or blanket if she isn’t interested.

* Keep nursing at night. Night nursing is normal in babies in this age range. Because they are so busy during the day, babies often get a good portion of their breastmilk intake during the night time hours when there are fewer distractions available.

* Repeat frequently: “this is just a stage, this is just a stage”. It truly is “just a stage”. Breastfeeding little ones get through this distractible stage and go on to breastfeed for as long as they and mum want to.

* Talk to mothers with babies older than yours. A La Leche League meeting is a great place to find others who are in the same stage of mothering and breastfeeding as you are or who have passed through this stage. Sharing ideas and stories can be a big help. Knowing that you are not the only person going through this crazy stage can make it easier to wait it out.

children at play


On the other hand:

If you were thinking of encouraging partial weaning, the “distracted nurser” stage is a time when you and baby may find it an easier to make some changes. Many mothers have accidently weaned during this stage. With a busy baby who isn’t asking to nurse during the day, you can just follow his lead and don’t offer but don’t refuse. Within a few weeks, this approach will likely get you to only breastfeeding when baby is falling asleep and waking up.

For more support and information about distracted nursing, weaning or any other breastfeeding questions please contact a La Leche League Leader.


If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader. In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally

If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support in the form of a donation at so we can continue to help others breastfeed. Thank you!

LLLC Spring Appeal Campaign for the support of breastfed babies: Help LLLC Grow – If you, or someone you know, has benefitted from the support of LLLC, a donation is one way you can “pay it forward”.
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Over 385,000 babies are born in Canada each year and we want to ensure every mother has access to La Leche League Canada support whenever she needs it. We are working hard to grow and we need your support. Every donation helps us provide more support to more families!
Thanks to past donations, we have been working hard to grow our services:
Our volunteer Leaders are the cornerstone of LLLC and the support we provide. We have increased our Leaders by 10% in the past year and Leader Applicants by 40% over the past 2 years!
More than 13,000 mothers attend LLLC meetings and another 20,000 receive one-to-one phone support from Leaders.
We have doubled our community and health professional outreach in just one year!
5 new Information Sheets in various languages were made available free of charge to mothers and health professionals
A new Communication Skills program was developed to strengthen health professional and breastfeeding peer support skills and our Best for Babies pre-natal program continues to grow.
Our Leaders are a vital part of LLLC’s breastfeeding foundation. They freely devote their time to help other parents give their children the optimal start in life. You, the donor, make up the other part of the foundation on which the LLLC breastfeeding services rest. Your gifts mean that our Leaders can carry out the valuable help families need. Frankly, we would be unable to deliver services to families without you or our Leaders so please take a moment to consider how valuable your support is and make a donation, either online or by using our pledge form. If a one-time donation is not suitable for you, perhaps spreading your gift over a year would make sense. Our pledge form has the monthly donation option for your convenience.
We are proud of our growth – but we want to do so much more! We need your support to help us serve even more mothers. Please donate today so we can grow to serve the mothers and babies of tomorrow.
Thank you for taking the time to consider supporting La Leche League Canada and our continued efforts to support all breastfeeding families who need us.


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