Saturday 1 April 2023

7 Tips to Help Feed Your Distracted Baby


Latch on, latch off, latch on again... Sound familiar?! We hit the 4 month mark and it was like the whole world was suddenly there to see, and it was best explored at feeding time! I've lost count since of the number of times baby has been distracted by something and given me 'niplash' or squirted herself and anyone in the nearby vicinity with milk!

Although often frustrating for you, it's completely normal for babies to become distracted, fidgety feeders, especially around times of developmental leaps. Distracted nursing can happen any time after 2 months, often peaking between 3-5 months but can happen at any time after that!

Baby's little brain is so busy learning how to smile, roll, crawl, babble, eat food and many other skills, and getting distracted by what's going on around them is a sign that they are developing. There are so many sights and sounds to experience and to learn to make sense of, that instead of feeding, all they want to do is engage with this new world around them!

So what can you do to help your distracted baby regain focus, stop fidgeting and help save your sanity (and your nipples)? Here are some things I tried that worked for me as a breastfeeding mum, but these tips would likely work for bottle fed babies too.

Feed in a quiet place

Sometimes, just as we do, babies need quiet to focus. Try retreating to a calm, quiet space to feed your baby. If you can't do that, try to reduce the noise in the room you are in by turning off the T.V, closing the door to the noisy washing machine next door or asking other children to do something quietly whilst you feed. Dim or red lighting helps to create a calm atmosphere in our house, which compliments the peace and quiet.

Let them take a break

If baby is really interested in what's going on around them, you could try letting them have little breaks to look around. I have had feeds out in public, or when the older children are in the room, where baby has had total FOMO! So by letting her feed for a little while, then allowing her a minute or two to have a nosey before offering a feed again, she soon settles into longer stints at the breast once she's happy she knows what's going on!

Keep little hands busy

There will come a time when those cute little hands become distracted and start to wander and explore! As a breastfeeding mum, I've had my fair share of scratches, slaps, squeezes, nipple pulls and hair twiddling at the hands of my feeding baby!

So I was absolutely delighted when Yummikeys founder Elspeth Fawcett got in touch to offer us a gifted Yumminecklace to try from her stunning range of ethical, safe and sustainable toys and jewellery.

A feeding necklace like this one may help.
The beautiful stainless steel necklace is the perfect solution to keep little hands busy, with 2 smooth, shiny steel loops and 3 little beads to fiddle with. Ours is also engraved with baby's name making it a perfect keepsake too. For me, the necklace is the distraction that baby needs. It keeps her focused on feeding while her hands are kept busy, and she's now much less likely to be interested in other things going on around her.

Change your feeding position

Switch things up! You could try swapping sides, a different hold, or even feed lying down. Baby may have become distracted because they are uncomfortable and changing position may be all they need to help them settle. Feeding on the move may also help as the motion is comforting and creates a distraction itself. I've fed walking around the house before, and recently tried creating a "distraction free zone" by feeding in the sling whilst at the big kids' swimming lessons!

Plan ahead

If you know your baby gets easily distracted when feeding out and about, plan ahead and try to time feeds for just before you leave. You could schedule stops in places with less distractions such as a quiet corner in a café, a bench in the park or even the car. Not so easy with a cluster feeding baby or a baby going through a growth spurt I know, but a possible option nonetheless!

Avoid 'niplash' by limiting distractions!

Introduce a familiar toy

Another tip we have tried is to give baby a particular comforter alongside feeds. Originally we did this so the toy would take on my smell and provide comfort when someone else tried to settle or bottle feed her if I was unavailable. What we found was that it focused her during her feeds by giving her something to cuddle and stroke, and comforted her at the same time. I also found this helped because it meant baby then used this toy as her "attachment object" instead of me, unlike my eldest who used to twiddle my hair during feeds! I had to lie with him every night until he was old enough not to need my hair for comfort... which wasn't actually that long ago!

Repeat the phrase, "This too shall pass"

This has become the mantra of motherhood for me! As with all phases, telling yourself that this is temporary and won't last forever really does help! The distracted stage will soon be over, so be patient and try not to rush through feeds. Baby is just becoming more aware of the world around them, so take a deep breath and repeat after me - "This too shall pass!"

Do you have any tried and tested feeding tips for distracted babies? Help us parents out and let us know in the comments below!

Finding joy in the little things: Even when I've had my nipple clamped in a vice-like grip and stretched across the entire length of my body, when those two big blue sparkly eyes catch my gaze and she smiles from ear-to-ear... all is forgiven! I can't help but look at that cheeky face and smile back, knowing that I am her whole world, her comfort, her safe space, her first love. These distracted phases will pass, but that bond we've built whilst feeding will last forever.

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