Is there a breastfeeding crisis at 5 or 6 months?

Is there a breastfeeding crisis at 5 or 6 months?

Many mothers talk about a breastfeeding crisis at 5 or 6 months of the baby’s life. It has taken some time to understand this crisis, which does not appear in manuals and happens almost exclusively with an exaggerated increase in demand for night feeds.

We have already talked about the 3-month breastfeeding crisis and the developmental leap at 4 months (also called sleep “regression”), where most babies go through a so-called breastfeeding crisis. Babies start to sleep less at night, wake up more restless, and desperately look for their mother’s breast. This last crisis is not related to milk production but is a change in the babies’ physiological sleep rhythms.

Newborn babies are born with only two sleep phases, and then at around 4 months of age, they learn another 2 new sleep phases. This causes them to have a lighter sleep for some time and wake up restless at night, and, obviously, they will then demand to breastfeed. When facing this situation and this increased demand, most mothers are surprised and think this behavior means that their baby is hungry or that their breast milk no longer fills them. They think they might have to start offering solids or commercial formula milk now.

But the problem starts when:

  • Introducing solids and complementary feeding is initiated early and brought forward
  • Feeds at the breast are replaced by solid food

And that is when, at some point when the baby is 5 to 6 months old, the nighttime discomfort does not stop and increases even more, making even the most patient woman desperate.

So, is there a breastfeeding crisis at 5 to 6 months?

The explanation is very simple. Babies know the amount of milk they need in a day really well and remember that the most important food during the first year of their life is milk. If that daily amount of milk is not satisfied, because daytime feeds are denied or because they start with large quantities of solid food, then the baby needs more night feeds at the breast to recover the breast milk it has not been able to have.

So we find babies as young as 5 or 6 months old suffering from a nocturnal demand crisis.

That’s why it is very important that, before starting to introduce solids with complementary feeding, you assess if your baby is ready for solids and diversify the diet:

  • They have lost the tongue extrusion reflex, which makes them spit out food that enters their mouth as a protective measure.
  • Show interest in food.
  • They should maintain body stability that allows them to sit up, even with a bit of help.

Once these requirements are met, you can start offering solid food to babies, always in moderation and following their hunger and fullness signals, and without ever substituting breast- or milk feeds with food.

And remember that if they eat more or have cereal for night feeds, this will not make them sleep more: it’s just a myth!

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