Frequency of Nursing a 5-Month Old

Updated on July 21, 2009
J.S. asks from Auburn, WA
13 answers

Cole is 5 1/2 months old, and seems to be a frequent nurser. This isn't the 'frequency feedings' I've read about to stimulate my milk production. This is his norm. Right now, I am trying to space his feedings 2 hours apart, but quite often he'll seem ready to eat after 1 1/2 hours. Up until recently, I've been nursing 'on demand,' but the problem is that he is a frequent nurser day and night. He is a bit of a distracted eater - he gets distracted when his 2 1/2 year old sister is around, if someone is talking, if the tv is on, if I am trying to eat or drink, etc. And it's impossible to eliminate all distractions, so I've been assuming that maybe he doesn't get completely satisfied with each feeding and needs to nurse again after a short while. But now, I'm trying to make sure he gets satisfied with each nursing, and even starting some baby food in between nursing. He's showing signs of being interested in eating solids, but hasn't taken much interest in actually eating solids. And now, I'm thinking that he is nursing frequently out of habit than of actually being hungry. So, while I'm trying to break his habit, I'm wondering what is the normal spacing between feedings for a baby who is almost 6 months old, is breastfed, and starting some solids? I think that once we do get him to eat when he's hungry and not out of habit, that he will start sleeping better. I have no interest doing the cry-it-out method to get him to sleep better, so I'm not looking for that advise. Thanks for your ideas!

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answers from Seattle on

Actually, while I hate to out and out contradict people...Most babies were born at home until the turn of the century (1900's). Even then, it wasn't until the 1930's that doctors began antiseptic practices (like the simple washing of hands....Doc's LITERALLY used to come upstairs from the morgue without washing their hands. Not all, my own grandfather was a huge proponent of what is today called Standard Precautions). But (I even looked up the numbers at the CDC, so I wouldn't just be remembering it wasn't until the 1940's that the majority of babies were born in hospitals. Prior to the late forties, the GREATEST number of babies born in hospital was 55%....but far more commonly fewer than 30%. And the vast majority of infant deaths within 3 days of birth, were those that were born in hospitals. Until the past few decades it was actually waaaay safer to have a baby at home.

The idea of keeping babies in wards (which has now been discarded for MANY reasons) was developed at approximately that time, and the idea of feeding babies on a schedule was actually a combo of what NURSES were capable of preforming in a ward with dozens of infants, and the fact once they left the hospital...that with a war on, we had Rosy the Riveter Mum's who could only nurse on their cigarette breaks...and then *poof* comes the godsend formula...which meant a) they didn't have to leave their shift, and b) that you had to be reeeeeaally careful about not feeding babies too much or too often because it would make them sick. Sometimes lethally so.

So, really, the whole scheduled feeding thing...around for about 70 years....not hundreds...much less the 60,000 years or so of human development. For the past 60,000 years...we have tons of archeological & historical evidence, in addition to the infant care practices that we can observe in many modern day hunter/gather tribes, as well as in many other more agricultural societies. Mostly it involved having your infant strapped to that you would be able to continue you everyday activities.


Back to your question though:

Normal for a six month old is anywhere from every half hour to five hours. Guaranteed that ALL babies eat more and more frequently just prior to a growth spurt, or after a lot of activity.

Think about it...are you hungrier if you've been doing a lot of exercise all week...or if you've been sitting around? When you were growing a baby were you hungrier that when you weren't in a "growth" spurt. And WE were only growing 7-10 POUNDS. They're doubling their weight every couple of months. Can you imagine doubling your weight in 3 months? Being 10-12 feet tall by next year???? Yowza. Puts things in perspective a bit.

As you may have guessed...I'm a BIG proponent of feeding on demand...not because of history, but because it's what makes SENSE. Eat when you're hungry. Sleep when you're tired. If I can see that a child is hungry, or tired, I see it as my responsibility to feed them, or get them to sleep. Not as their responsibility to NOT be hungry because it isn't "time" yet. They can learn self control a discipline in a few more years (heck, they'll be learning it for the rest of their lives). Teaching them that there is a scarcity of resources (that they can never eat when they want to...or get love & comfort when they need it...just doesn't seem to make any kind of sense.

Babies know what they NEED
Children know what they WANT
Adults have AGENDAS.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

You sound like a wonderful, loving mom. Cole is so young - I'd say this is perfectly normal. They're all so different. My youngest was an almost constant nurser until he was 6 months old. After that he tapered off, ate more and more solids, and amazingly - on his first birthday, he himself decided he didn't want anymore of mama's milk at all! I couldn't believe it! I feel compelled to share this with you: I suffer from depression and anxiety, and I stared school while I was pregnant with my youngest (he's 7 now). He wouldn't take a bottle (we tried four different kinds)or even a binky, so I felt pretty "trapped" those first 5 months. Looking back, I remember feeling resentful toward my baby, trying hard not to show it, then feeling guilty about it; and especially about the times I sighed in frustration and he didn't have a loving face to gaze upon as he nursed. I'd give anything to go back and change that, but I can't. In retrospect, it was such a short, precious time in his life and in mine. I don't know if you are experiencing any of these issues, but if you are, I only hope my sharing helps you to slow down and fall into this short time of being his comfort, sustenance and love. If you have issues with breast soreness, there's a special formula for nursing mothers - it's a little tube (purple, I believe) of purified lanolin that is safe for babies, and it helped so much. I think the herbal tincture calendula is another one, but check with an herbalist for sure. I wish you and your family many blessings.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

It's up to you... remember that nursing is also a comfort/security thing. My 2 1/2 year old daughter, whom i breastfed until she was 2, nursed all the time....! once we put her in a big girl bed (at 2) and i stopped breastfeeding she slept through the night, before that she was up a lot. it's a personal choice, i think. what do you want to put up with?



answers from Seattle on

This was my daughter! She would nurse every hour if I would let her. When she was about 6 months I started making her go to a 4 hour feeding schdule. I did this pretty stricly for about 2 weeks. I did not let her cry-it-out but I did let her fuss for a couple of minutes at night to try and let her soothe herself. we were able to get her to sleep in about 4 hour periods during the night and during the day she seemed really happy since most of her time was now playing instead of eating. After the 2 weeks we watched her and if she was really hungry at 3 to 3 1/2 hours I would feed her. I also was doing solids about an hour after nursing since I wanted her main source of food to continue to be breastmilk. OF course now she is sick and going through a growth spurt so we are now back to square one! I hope this helps and if you want any tips for the stalling let me know.. good luck and as long as you stick with your plan you will get the great reward of a little mommy play time instead of just sitting with your shirt up!



answers from Corvallis on

My 2 yr old did this too. Its sounds like if he is wanting to eat more often it is because of a growing spurt, the age sounds about right. Also try feeding him in a quiet room to keep him focused on eating. I had to sit in my bedroom with the door shut with my little one, especially when big sister was home. I also had to try to keep daddy out, she would whip her head as soon as she heard him.
I also fed on demand, and yes nights were a bit difficult, especially during the cluster feeding they go through when growing. it sounds like you are doing great, you just have a hungry boy. Talk to his dr before you introduce foods.
My daughter was about 6 monthis when I started to give her a bottle of formula a day, and I would pump at that feeding. She always took the bottle well being breast milk or formula. I usually gave it to her in the evening before her bedtime feeding.



answers from Eugene on

Of course, we need to balance our needs with baby's, and as his mother, only you know what's best for both of you. Having said that, my first son was a constant nurser (45 minutes!) for almost the first year. But I've read that the more quickly you respond to your baby's signals the more confident and optimistic they will be. This has been proven in studies and my experience bears it out! My son has had a lot of confidence and ridden the many ups and downs in our life very well. He has also never experienced stranger anxiety (mixed blessing) and has a very happy, confident temperament.

So I agree with the previous poster who said that this is a very short period in your child's life, and being so early in their life it is also very formative and helps shape their outlook. Everything in moderation, of course, and it would not help anyone for you to burn out either. Good luck.



answers from Portland on

It would be my advice ( having breastfed 2 so far and about to do it again) that your son is either using you for a pacifire or it is habit for him, either way at 5.5 months he will not starve if you make him wait 30 minutes longer to nurse, however you seem very against allowing your son to cry, so attempting to disract him for as long as possible would be your best bet. Have your hubby help, trust me he knows you got the food, he can smell it, have daddy take him to play elsewhere when you think he might be getting ready to nurse, just for 30 minutes and it doesnt have to be far the other room would work just fine.
As far as starting solid foods I would advise against that until after he is already 6 months old. Your child's stomache is not ready to process food til 6- 8 months, dont rush it. Feeding an infant solids too soon can lead to allergies to foods, and not to mention be really uncomfortable when his tummy is not mature enough to handle it.
Best of luck to you and your son :)


answers from Portland on

Some babies just eat a lot and others nurse for comfort. You really have to figure out your baby's cues for hunger to figure out which he is.
If it's for comfort, then he is old enough to start teaching him to comfort himself in other ways. When you can tell he isn't hungry, try rocking him, cuddling, music, or whatever else you can think of to comfort him.

Sometimes its hard to know. My baby girl was a snacker so she would nurse for short periods of time but very often and she didnt sleep through the night until she stopped mursing at 14 months.
My new baby boy is 2 month and he just eats a lot. He nurses for long periods of 45 mins to an hour! BUT then he will sleep for 4 or 5 hours! At night he sleeps for 6 or 7 hours!

Solids won't replace some nursing sessions until baby is well established on them for months.

I know you're probably very busy and you want to get stuff done and you want to sleep..this really doesn't last forever. Maybe get a sling you can nurse in? I have an almost 4 yr old, an almost 2 yr old, and the baby, so I totally get it!

I have to add after reading the other responses..

Please don't start solids until at least 6 months! Its really not good for the tummies!

Babies don't need "binkies" to keep them quiet and pumping and bottlefeeding is just not necessary. This stage goes so fast and its worth it to just slow down and do what your baby needs.

As far as "putting up with" the baby wanting to nurse..oh my. Babies don't try to be naughty..that just makes no sense.



answers from Seattle on

As frustrating as it may be, just stick with feeding on demand. That's the best way to guarantee that your little guy is getting what he needs. At 18 months, my daughter was still eating 8-12 times a day on average even though I was pregnant.



answers from Seattle on

My kids were eating 6 jars of baby food and drinking 32 - 40 oz of fluids a day by that age. I kept them on a 4 hour schedule and used a pacifier so they could get their "suck" time. I did not have time to feed a kid 24/7. Oh and they were eating all of the biter biscuits and toast too. Remember back when babies were born and not in the room with mom the nurses would only bring them in every 4 hours to start them off on that schedule. It is up to you though on if you want to do what has worked for centuries or do the new thing and have a hungry baby and a tired mommy. Oh and you could pump to have some milk on hand that your husband can feed him to give you a break in that area as well like when you are trying to eat.



answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,

You've got a lot of good stuff here!

It just occurred to me, though, could he be tired instead of hungry? An easy and fun read is The Baby Whisperer. It sounds like it could help.

Good luck!!!




answers from Spokane on

My daughter did the same thing. Is he getting up at night or is he a good sleeper? My daugher had frequent daily feedings (hour & a half to hour and 45 minutes between) but started sleeping 12 hours through the night at 3 months. If you start spacing meals more during the day you may lose your restful nights because he won't be getting the calories he needs throughout the day. Also, active babies will eat more and more frequently.

Do what you can to eliminate distractions and nurse when he's hungry...just make sure he is hungry and not just wanting to suck on something.



answers from Seattle on

Hey! just saw your post and thought I would say Hi! I think you are a great mommy, Alyssa and Cole are very lucky. If it makes you feel any better I was up with Cohen 4 times last night and Sawyer was up once. I've decided to stop trying to control the sleeping situation. It just makes me feel frustrated and I really dont want to feel that way about my kid if I can avoid it. We tried to let Cohen fuss through a couple feedings for a few nights but its just agonizing. I've figured out that just feeding him and putting him back to sleep I actually get more rest. I agree with what some of the other moms are saying. Cohen and Cole may be our last children and it goes by so fast, I really just want to try and enjoy every part of it, the good and the bad. This wont last forever. Although I do think Cole is probably just liking to suck on mommy for comfort, it makes it hard for you to get anything done and I imagine spend individual time with Aly. I know we have both felt like the older kids get the short end of the stick some times. Cohen eats every 3 hours during the day and we give him solids in between nursing so not really as a meal replacment yet but more for practice. So giving them solids probably wont help us for awhile anyway. I think you are handling things really well. I dont have any real advice for spacing out his feedings but it always makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only tired mommy out there and that you always have someone to vent to (me!) when you need it. See you next week hopefully

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