You may have heard about a sleep regression which happens around 4 months of age. Your baby was previously sleeping 4 or 5, maybe even 6 hours at night without waking to feed. All of a sudden, this changes and you wonder what is happening!
We need to consider the developmental stage of the breastfeeding baby that begins, at about four months and can go on to 6 or 7 months, which is defined by one word distractible.
Your baby is older and learning so many new things, they are mimicking you, chatting and making all sorts of noises, engaging, and playing. The doorbell rings – baby turns their head and looks. The other parent comes home – baby turns and starts babbling. If the TV is on, the dog barks, you watch a video on your phone then baby wants to join in and see what exciting things are happening! This can mean they aren't nursing as long or as frequently during the day because baby is too busy!
Then at night, finally it's quiet, dark and baby is in their parents arms and ready to feed after a long day of learning. Baby make wake to feed more often at night or have more trouble sleeping on their own because they are trying to make up for the short, distracted daytime feedings.
What can you do about it?
Until this stage has passed, baby may need a quiet place to nurse and/or more night nursing until they've figured out how to deal with distraction.
Do take advantage of night nursing during this time – it doesn't matter when baby takes in their calories during a 24-hour period. One study showed that older babies can consume as much as 25% of their total daily intake of mother's milk during the night, probably partly because of daytime distractibility.
• Nursing in a quiet, darkened, boring room often helps reduce the things that can distract baby.
• Talk in quiet, soothing tones (if you talk at all).
• Nurse while lying down, nap nurse when baby is waking up or falling asleep for naps and nighttime sleep.
• Cover baby with a shawl or put baby in a sling to nurse.
• Nursing while in motion (walking, rocking) can also help baby to focus better on nursing.
• Try to catch your baby when they are more willing, such as when they are just waking up, already a little sleepy, or actually asleep.
• Baby's initial pulling off is probably not an indication that they are finished – just an indication that they saw/heard something interesting across the room. When baby pulls off, try to coax them back to the breast a few more times before giving up.
• Allow baby to nurse often during the day, even if the feedings are short. Nursing more frequently is not necessarily an indication they are not getting enough milk.
• If you need something to do while nursing your baby in a quiet, darkened room consider listening to music, books, or podcasts using wireless ear buds to reduce the chance baby will be distracted by your entertainment.