Shortened feeds in 11 week old

My little one is 11 weeks old. Lately his feedings have diminished from about 15 minutes per breast to only five to ten minutes. He latches on well but after the five minutes are up he fidgets with arms and legs flailing. He continuously latches on and off for about five minutes until he is so frustrated that he starts crying. I, too, become very agitated.

At this point, I switch sides and the whole scenario repeats itself. After another ten minutes he starts crying again so I sit him upright and distract him. He doesn't cry anymore and seems satisfied but I have to wonder if he is actually getting enough of the hindmilk.

His diapers are okay and he feeds like clockwork about every three hours. He has been gaining about a half pound a week which is adequate. Should I be concerned at all about my supply diminishing as a result of the short feedings? I'm worried that down the road when he is older that the supply won't be adequate to satisfy him if his feedings continue in this manner. He was 6 lbs 10 oz at birth and now weighs about 10 1/2 pounds.

I would greatly appreciate your advice.

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Since your baby is gaining weight at a normal rate and has good output, even with his shortened feeds, I would not be concerned at this point about a diminishing milk supply, or that he is not being properly nourished. What I am concerned about is his unhappiness at your breast, and how it is negatively impacting the breastfeeding relationship for you both.

This type of behavior at the breast is often due to a mother's overabundant milk supply. Sometimes a (younger) baby, around 3 to 4 weeks of age, will become fussy while nursing. This fussiness at the breast corresponds with his mother's increasing milk supply. Not all babies have a problem dealing with an abundant supply, but in many it becomes necessary for them to adjust their feeding pattern to try and slow down the flow. They may clamp down on the nipple, break suction (causing dimpling of the cheeks or clicking sounds as they nurse), and slide down and feed on the nipple rather than maintaining a good attachment. A baby whose mom has an overabundant supply often will pull off the breast, especially as the milk ejects. This can happen once, after a few minutes, or several times during a feed. The force of the milk spray may cause a baby to gag, sputter or choke. He may begin to arch his back, pulling away, and be very unhappy. It is easy to see why many moms with oversupply suspect they don't have enough milk.

Another key time to see an increase in fussiness and refusal of the breast due to an overabundant supply is around the time a baby reaches 3 months of age - just the age of your little one. By this time a baby has been dealing with a very abundant milk supply, and adjusting his feeding patterns for quite some time. The suck he has adapted to remain comfortable at your breast may inhibit milk ejection and cause him to become frustrated during a feed. He may also be negatively conditioned to the breast, and now will use the breast only as a source of food, and not comfort.

This is correctable. These tips may help to make you and your little one more comfortable:

  • Nurse frequently - at least 10 to 12 times a day. It will be easier for your baby to handle smaller quantities of milk on a more frequent basis. If you find that your baby has gone several hours without nursing, it can be helpful to express a bit of your milk before putting your baby to breast. This can be done manually or with a breast pump.
  • Try nursing in a more reclined position - relax in a recliner, lean back, supported by pillows or lie down. Lie back to nurse. breast pump.
  • Begin nursing from one breast per feed (or a 3 to 4 hour period). During that time if your little one wants to nurse again, offer the same breast. After 3 or 4 hours, switch to the other side. Keep following this pattern. This will allow your baby to access your rich hindmilk, which will help to keep him satisfied for longer periods of time, and may reduce the amount of gas and irritability he experiences. Following this pattern of feeding may also help to decrease your milk supply enough for your baby to remain more comfortable at your breast. Over the first few days, you will probably need to express some milk from the "unused" breast. Express just enough to remain comfortable. (Switching sides is a very normal reaction to a baby's fussiness at breast, but it is very counterproductive for a mom with an overabundant supply. It will only serve to increase your milk supply and your baby's frustration.) breast pump.
  • Be careful to maintain proper positioning and attachment throughout the feed. If you notice your baby sliding down onto your nipple, gently break suction by inserting your finger between your baby's gums, and encourage him to attach again, this time taking in a full mouthful of your breast tissue. Keep him hugged in close to your breast, with his nose and chin resting on your breast throughout the feed. If your baby becomes uncomfortable, gulping and choking during a feed, gently remove him from your breast as the milk ejects. You can catch the spraying milk in a diaper or a cup. Calm your baby before bringing him back to your breast.

Oversupply is a complicated issue. If the suggestions listed above are not helpful I would highly recommend working with an IBCLC. Dealing promptly with your baby's difficulty at the breast is very important in helping to insure a satisfying breastfeeding relationship.

It is important when making breastfeeding changes to monitor your baby's output and pattern of weight gain. A baby over five to six weeks of age should be having 5 to 6 wet diapers a day and regular substantial bowel movements. Until a baby is 3 to 4 months old, average weight gain is between 4 and 8 ounces each week. Beginning around this time, and until a baby reaches 6 months, an average weight gain of three to five ounces each week is considered the norm. I'd advise weekly weight checks and regular check-ups to help to reassure you that your baby is continuing a pattern of normal growth and development.

Remember, if you had a truly insufficient milk supply, your baby would not have normal output, or be growing normally (assuming you are not supplementing). Best wishes for peaceful feeds!

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