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The 3-Month Breastfeeding Crisis

As a new mother embarks on the beautiful journey of breastfeeding, there often comes a point around the three-month period that some refer to as the “3-month breastfeeding crisis”. While every mother’s experience is unique, this period can be marked by various challenges that may leave you feeling overwhelmed and questioning your ability to breastfeed. Let’s delve deeper into understanding what the 3-month breastfeeding crisis entails, what changes you can expect, and, as usual, I’ll provide you with my top 6 tips to overcome this lengthy and tiring phase.

What is the 3-Month Breastfeeding Crisis?

As you may have read in my other blog about a baby’s breastfeeding crisis, a breastfeeding crisis, sometimes called a growth spurt, is a common phrase used to describe a phase where mothers may encounter significant breastfeeding challenges, typically related to an increase in milk demand from the baby. These increases occur around the same time for all babies, hence the term “3-months breastfeeding crisis”. This crisis is the most well-known because it is the most challenging for mothers. One reason is that this crisis, unlike others you may experience before, can last up to a month. 

To understand why this crisis is so challenging for a mother, let me share an example: Imagine that you’ve found a perfect balance for feeding your baby, and everything seems to be going well. Suddenly, your baby starts fussing or crying every time you offer the breast. They appear hungry but are on and off your breast and to complicate matters, family and friends may suggest that your milk is no longer nutritious enough, and your supply is dwindling.  

When all these factors converge, many mothers consider quitting breastfeeding. However, understanding what is happening and receiving guidance from an IBCLC qualified lactation consultant can make the situation more manageable and less stressful. 

What Changes Can You Expect?

The 3-month breastfeeding crisis is perhaps the most challenging phase of them all, because it involves changes in both duration and behaviour for both you and your baby. Here are some changes you may experience:

  • Longer duration: This crisis can last longer than others, with some babies taking up to a month to adjust to the new situation.  

  • Softer breasts: Your breast may feel softer, leading some mothers to believe their milk supply is insufficient. This change occurs as before your breast gland was acting as storage, and milk was always available and ready to flow, but now the breast will only start producing milk only when your baby sucks. 

  • Milk delay: Your baby may need to learn to wait a few minutes (around 2min) for milk to flow, leading to frustration and fussiness until they get use to this new situation. This is the reason why it may look like they are fighting with your breast.

  • Short feeds: Babies at this age can extract milk more efficiently, making some feeds last less than five minutes. They may even have enough with one breast per feed. 

  • Distracted while nursing: Your baby may become easily distracted by their surroundings, as their growing brain becomes more curious about the world.  
My Top 6 Tips to Overcome the 3-Month Crisis

1. Be brave and confident: Trust your instincts and don’t let others’ comments undermine your confidence. My best recommendation is to buy a pair of ear plugs to stop listening what other people is saying to you (this is just a joke). Remember, this phase is temporary. 

2. Stay calm: Babies pick up on your energy and mood; the calmer you are, the calmer they’ll be. Being informed and knowing the crisis it’s something temporary, you will face it differently. 

3. Don’t force feedings: Respects your baby’s hunger cues, and avoid forcing them to eat. It’s important to feed your baby when they are hungry, as well as to respect them when they don’t want to eat. 

4. Choose a calm feeding environment: Opt for a quiet, dimly lit room free from distractions to help your baby to not be disturbed and entertained with other noises.

5. Offer the breast promptly: Recognise your baby’s hunger cues and offer the breast before they become too upset. Arriving too late can make things trickier and more complicated.

6. Avoid introducing formula: It’s normal to have doubts about your ability to produce enough milk, especially considering everything we’ve mentioned before. Plus, it’s very easy to give in to temptation and start offering top ups, leading into messing up your milk supply because your body doesn’t understand the amount of milk that it needs to produce.

To conclude, the 3-month breastfeeding crisis is a phase that many mothers navigate successfully with the right resources and mindset. By understanding the challenges, seeking support, and prioritising self-care, you can overcome this hurdle and continue to nourish your baby while nurturing yourself. Embrace the journey, trust your instincts, and remember that you’re not alone. 

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