If you have made it three months breastfeeding you have achieved a great accomplishment and given your baby a wonderful gift.
By three months breastfeeding should be getting easier and hopefully you are starting to really see the benefits.
Continuing breastfeeding after three months
Some women start to wonder if they should stop breastfeeding after three months. While making it to three months breastfeeding is an accomplishment of its own, there is definitely no reason to stop.
Current breastfeeding recommendations
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.
From The World Health Organization (WHO) - Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
Benefits of breastfeeding for three months
From the AAP:
Most health professionals are familiar with the benefits of breastfeeding. The AAP continues to support the unequivocal evidence that breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases and conditions in the infant such as:
respiratory tract infection
urinary tract infection
late-onset sepsis in preterm infants
type 1 and type 2 diabetes
lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkins disease
childhood overweight and obesity
The AAP also ascertains that choosing to breastfeed is a short and long-term investment in the health of your baby, rather than a lifestyle choice.
Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of:
Leukemia (during childhood)
Obesity (during childhood)
Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
Diarrhea and vomiting
Lower respiratory infections
Necrotizing (NEK-roh-TEYE-zing) enterocolitis (en-TUR-oh-coh-LYT-iss), a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in premature babies, or babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Type 2 diabetes
Breastfeeding for at least three months also cuts the risk of SIDS by 60%.
As you can see breastfeeding past three months is recommended and will benefit you and your baby.
It can be hard to continue breastfeeding with the return to work and other challenges but if you can make it work it is worth continuing.
What to expect after the first three months of breastfeeding
Once you get past the first six to eight weeks the constant feedings start to level out a bit and become more predictable.
You will still have growth spurts with lots of nursing but the marathon cluster feeding sessions will lessen and mostly be in the past.
Some babies may continue to cluster feed in the evening but the duration should be shorter. I tried to continue cluster feeding as long as I could because I like the idea of my baby tanking up before sleeping for the night. I felt my babies slept longer stretches overnight if they fed more frequently in the evenings.
Your baby may start to stretch out the time between feedings. It can really vary, I continued to feed both of my children every two hours for quite awhile, but I know some can start to stretch up to four hours.
The frequency a baby will eat in a 24 hour period will vary, but may start to go down as you get to three months and beyond.
A more predictable routine may start to emerge. I feed on demand and don't follow a set schedule, but most babies start to develop their own feeding routine or schedule by three to four months.
If you are returning to work and pumping milk to feed while you are away, then your baby will start to follow more of a schedule as well.
Overall, breastfeeding should be starting to feel much more manageable and predictable.
Challenges during the three to six month breastfeeding time frame
There will be growth spurts and sleep disturbances. There is a lot of developmental growth going on during this age and it seems to mess with sleep and nursing patterns just when you think you have figured it out.
It may seem like your baby is not getting enough milk during growth spurts but normally they are and the constant feeding is done to bring your supply up.
It is not recommended to offer solids at four months. Offering solids too early can interrupt and affect breastfeeding negatively.
Current recommendations are to wait until about six months to start solids.
A lot of breastfed babies start to sleep better by three months but then around four months start waking more again. Some call this the four month sleep regression, and it seems to be related to all the crazy development they are going through around this age.
A baby that was sleeping great may start waking and wanting to nurse back to sleep more now. This happened to me with all three of my babies and I just tried to roll with it (even though it's not easy).
Teething may start and your baby may want to nurse a lot more or less while this is going on. In my case my son wanted to nurse nonstop when a tooth was coming in. I am pretty sure he liked having something in his mouth and it helps the pain.
Your baby may also start to become really distracted at the breast now. My son is a super distracted nurser. Starting around three to four months it became very difficult to nurse him around people.
You may think your baby is not interested in breastfeeding anymore but that's not the case at all. There is just too much excitement around for them to stay focused.
I have no problem nursing in public or nursing around friends or family but he wasn't having it. If there is anything to be seen or heard in the room he wanted to pop off and look around. It usually goes something like latch, take a couple gulps, pop off and look around grinning, then latch back on, one gulp, pop off and look around more. Sometimes he would not latch at all.
If you are dealing with a distracted nurser I recommend really focusing on getting those nursing sessions in while in a dark or quiet room, first thing in the morning, before naps, and at bedtime. This way you will be assured your baby is still getting plenty of milk.
Positives of breastfeeding at 3 months
By now you are falling into a predictable nursing and/or pumping pattern and your supply has regulated for the most part. You should not be dealing with engorgement anymore.
Breastfeeding will not hurt. Since you have worked out supply or latch issues most pain is a thing of the past.
You are past the wild marathon cluster feeding sessions. Your baby may still feed more frequently in the evening or during growth spurts but the hours upon hours of nursing are mostly over.
The benefits and ease of use of breastfeeding are becoming more evident compared to preparing bottles, or toting milk along on outings. You don't need to worry about forgetting your baby's milk or prepare anything for feeding before going out with your baby.
Your daily routine is becoming more predictable so it should also be easier to get out and about and do things. Breastfeeding on the go should be much easier than it was in the newborn or earlier phases.
Feedings have gone down in frequency and many babies can feed quickly now, sometimes only taking 5-10 minutes to nurse or less.
You may start to notice the immunity benefits your baby is receiving from breastfeeding. An amazing fact, if you are sick your baby is most likely immune to your illness due to receiving antibodies through your breast milk.
I certainly noticed this with both kids when I would get sick but they would not despite being so close to me and breastfeeding.
At this point I have breastfed three babies and I have never had one of them catch my illness while breastfeeding and I have had a ton including strep, stomach viruses, and of course plenty of common colds.
Maybe you are starting to notice the calorie burn. Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories and many moms start to notice this after three to four months.
I will need to write more about breastfeeding and burning calories in a future post.
If you have made it past three months breastfeeding you are doing great! There is no reason to stop now though, the breastfeeding benefits keep adding up.
Babies are going through a major period of growth and brain development from three months to six months.
Breastfeeding patterns and habits can reflect this. The distraction and changes in sleep patterns can be challenging but overall it should be much easier going forward.