Breastfeeding for 6 months: what's next?!
By Ceres Chill
The only proper way to start this off is by giving you a huge CONGRATULATIONS for getting here! Breastfeeding for up to 6 months is incredible, and you and your baby have already reaped some of the health benefits:
“Breastfeeding exclusively for six months lowers your baby’s risk for ear, nose, throat and sinus infections past infancy and may protect against autoimmune disease and respiratory allergies as well. For moms, the advantages of breastfeeding for six months include a lower risk of type 2 diabetes—even decades later, and this includes moms who experienced gestational diabetes with pregnancy too.” - The Lactation Network
This is around the time where you might start to feel comfortable returning to your normal life. Maybe traveling for work doesn’t sound as terrible anymore, and going out to concerts or events every once and a while seems possible and exciting!
So, how do you do it? Let's get into the logistics of it all!
How will I pump at events (weddings, concerts, stadium events, etc?)
It IS possible to pump and store your milk at events like concerts or weddings... in fact, it's pretty epic! You'll just need your gear: your pump, your storage method of choice, and a way to clean your parts in between sessions are all necessary.
We put together a super helpful and informative blog post based on feedback from popular stadiums AND firsthand experiences from our moms. Check out our ultimate guide for pumping at a stadium event for more details!
For our Disney moms...we have an awesome guide for pumping at Disney World here, written by a Disney Crew Member!
*As a reminder, the CDC recommends waiting about 2 hours after having one standard drink to pump or breastfeed. Try pumping or feeding just before drinking so that the alcohol is pretty much out of your system in time for the next pump or feed.
How do I clean my parts on the go?
What about traveling with milk?
As a mom who had to travel a ton for work and didn't know where to start with transporting milk and going through TSA, let me tell you...there are ways to simplify it! It doesn't have to be a big, scary event. With the right plan, you'll feel more comfortable and prepared to travel as a breastfeeding mom.
A few helpful tips for traveling with your Chiller and breastmilk in general:
Using an open water chamber and a separate breastmilk reservoir that can be easily and cleanly tested without compromising your milk, the Chiller is 100% TSA friendly. The security agent might have you dump the ice and water while they test your milk, but you can refill it at a bar, Starbucks, water fountain or anywhere that you can find ice afterwards.
When testing breastmilk, milk, liquid formula or other liquids in high quantities for babies, a vapor test like the one seen above will often be preformed. This test can be done in minutes by simply holding a test strip over your open container of milk to test for fumes. Be sure to let the agent know that you're carrying breastmilk so they know to properly test it, and ask them to change their gloves before performing any tests on your milk!
- Breastmilk, formula and juice are allowed in your carry-on in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces.
- You can bring freezer packs if you're traveling with a cooler, but TSA can be strict if they're not fully frozen. If they're partially thawed, they may be subject to additional screening.
- For large quantities of milk or frozen milk, the agent might ask you to let it pass through the x-ray machine. The x-ray machines in airports won't damage your Breastmilk, but you can request a different form of screening if you're uncomfortable with it.
Check out our traveling blog here for more information!
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby's life, then slowly incorporating solid foods into their diets. Most babies are ready to start trying solids at around that time, but it's good to speak to your pediatrician to assess whether or not 6 months is a good time for your little one based on how they're developing!
Here are signs that your baby can handle starting solid foods:
1. They can hold their head up well and control their neck.
2. They are able to open their mouth when food comes their way.
3. They reach for and otherwise show an interest in table foods.
4. They are able to make back-and-forth and up-and-down movements with the tongue.
When you are ready to start this new feeding journey, here are some helpful tips to get your baby used to it!
1. Start slow with one feeding a day while continuing to breast or bottle feed
The first few months of feeding your baby solids is filled with introducing new flavors and textures, which can be a little overwhelming for them! Start slow with one feeding a day and one spoonful at a time when your baby is happy and well-rested - about an hour or so after nursing or giving them a bottle is generally a good time. They'll be hungry but not starving, so they'll be a bit more patient and open to trying new things.
2. Keep the consistency runny
Your baby has been surviving off of milk for several months now, so they're not really used to anything solid. It's best to keep foods very runny in the first few weeks of feeding - soft purées mixed with breastmilk or formula and foods that are more liquid-based are good to start with. Try to offer a 'single-ingredient' new food from each food group every few days, and watch for reactions. Once they get used to those, you can start trying thicker foods and purées!
Here are some tips from the CDC on what foods to offer:
- Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
- Mash or puree vegetables, fruits and other foods until they are smooth.
- Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, usually need to be cooked so they can be easily mashed or pureed.
- Cook food until it is soft enough to easily mash with a fork.
- Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking.
- Remove seeds and hard pits from fruit, and then cut the fruit into small pieces.
- Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices.
- Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway.
- Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small pieces.
- Cook and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains.
3. Do not force your baby to eat
Starting on solid foods is a gradual process and each baby will have a different reaction, but forcing your child to eat some foods could cause longterm issues with certain food groups and make them more resistant to spoon-feeding overall.
4. Don't stress if your baby doesn't like it!
Just like us, babies have preferences! If they don't like a certain food, you can try again in a few days. If they're still giving cues that they aren't a fan, try mixing the flavor with a food that they do like so they can get familiar with it. However, if they are really not enjoying the food, don't try to force it on them.
*For teething babies, try giving them frozen purée cubes from the Milkstache in a teething net to get them used to different flavors!
Weaning the process of switching an infant's diet from breast milk or formula to other foods and forms of nourishment. Deciding when to wean is a very personal choice - some moms wean at 3-4 months, others wean at 2-3 years. My first child weaned herself at around 6 months after I took a work trip.
Because this is around the time where your baby is starting to eat solids and you’re starting to pick back up on the normal things that you used to do, having a weaning plan might be beneficial. It doesn’t mean that you have to wean anytime soon (the longer you are able to give your baby breastmilk, the better!) but it’s good to have good weaning tips for when breastfeeding is no longer working out for you or your family.
When you're ready to wean, try these tips:
1. Gradually drop nursing sessions
Try to drop morning or afternoon sessions first, since night sessions are usually the ones that give your child the most comfort. You can start slow and drop one session to see how things go, then wait a few days until you try dropping another one. This will help with engorgement, which might happen if you stop too suddenly.
2. Distract, distract, distract
If you're dropping a morning feed, try to wake up and give them a bottle in place of that nursing session. You can also ask your partner or a caregiver to wake them up and give them a bottle instead, so they're less likely to miss breastfeeding in that moment. Out of sight, out of mind!
3. Have shorter feeds
If your baby tends to fall asleep on the breast, try keeping them up and engaged, and moving them to the floor to play.
4. Set boundaries
It is okay to say no. You are allowed to set limits, like not nursing when you're out or only breastfeeding once a day on busy days. Give your baby something else to eat so they're full and fed, and soak in that bit of freedom!
5. Know that they will be OK!
Mom guilt is normal, and while weaning is definitely a big deal for you and your baby, they will be okay and you will both get through this! Do your best to keep your baby happy and healthy - that's the most important thing.
And the last tip is...take some time to acknowledge what an awesome job you have done! 6 months is a huge deal. You should be SO proud. Now it's time to start getting back to the things you love to do while continuing to make milk for your baby for as long as you can/want to!
You got this!