The 6-Month Breastfeeding Crisis

November 22, 2022
This article has been written and endorsed by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina
The 6-month breastfeeding crisis may be influenced by the arrival of complementary feeding. We'll tell you what it's all about.

Breastfeeding is a physiological process that goes through different stages, some of them marked by the baby’s growth spurts. These milestones give rise to the so-called breastfeeding crises, during which the baby shows a negative attitude towards breastfeeding. In the following article, we’ll look specifically at the 6-month breastfeeding crisis.

The biggest problem of these crises is the lack of knowledge about them, as they motivate many mothers to proceed with weaning or to start complementary feeding before the recommended time.

So, what exactly is the 6-month breastfeeding crisis and how can it be identified? Below, we’ll tell you all about it.

What is a breastfeeding crisis?

As we’ve already mentioned, lactation crises are periods of “readjustment” of the breast milk supply to meet the baby’s needs during growth spurts or peaks. The infant’s body needs more substrate to increase in size and therefore increases its demand.

This generates certain dissatisfaction in the infant in regard to the rhythm of their feedings, which leads them to constantly look for food to satisfy their hunger. Therefore, when the mother offers them the breast, they’re a little more restless and irritable than usual. In addition, they tend to prolong feedings, especially at night.

Although the baby seems uncomfortable during these periods, the change of attitude towards breastfeeding is what allows the mammary gland to adjust its milk production. For this wonderful maternal organ has the ability to adapt to each stage of the baby’s growth.

One of the biggest problems with these crises is that the mother may come to think that her milk no longer satisfies her baby, when this isn’t the case at all. She may then start formula feeding or, even worse, wean the baby at an early age.

However, it should be clarified that this uncomfortable situation is momentary and usually lasts about a week. During this period of time, the breasts adapt their production and the baby returns to calm. Therefore, there’s no need to add anything to the little one’s diet. Everything happens as part of the normal process, which seeks to keep a perfect rhythm between the amount of milk produced and the baby’s growth.

A mother breastfeeding her baby at night.
Breastfeeding crises are moments of great physical and emotional fatigue for both mother and baby. Therefore, it’s essential to have good information to anticipate them.

How many breastfeeding crises are there?

The good (and the bad) always come in number and these bumps in the road of breastfeeding are no exception.

In general, breastfeeding crises are usually triggered from time to time, coinciding with the typical growth spurts of the child. For this reason, we estimate some moments in which they may (or may not) appear:

  • Around 3 weeks of life.
  • Between 6 weeks and 2 months of age.
  • At 3 months of age.
  • Around 6 months of age.
  • In some cases, they can also occur around the first birthday.

Although we emphasize that this is a normal phenomenon, we understand that these are quite uncomfortable moments for both the mother and the baby. Overcoming them requires an extra dose of calm, patience, and dedication. But if you prepare yourself to go through them, you’ll avoid weaning before the planned time.

What does the 6-month breastfeeding crisis look like

Not all babies go through crises in the same way. In fact, many mothers hardly notice any changes in feeding attitude at these stages.

A crisis doesn’t strictly occur in all babies at 6 months, which is why many specialists don’t talk about it. Even so, during this month, there’s an important growth step and it’s to be expected that your little one will want to eat more.

At the same time, starting at 6 months of age, many infants start complementary feeding and this offers a kind of relief for some mothers. In this context, the crisis can manifest itself in two possible ways:

  • You may find that your baby gets excited to start tasting other flavors and refuses the breast or only asks for it during the night.
  • On the other hand, they may prefer breast milk over other foods and thus increase their demand for the breast.

What to do when faced with this?

First of all, you must identify that it’s a breastfeeding crisis and, thus, aim to get through the following days with a lot of patience.

Second, but fundamental, remind yourself as a mantra that you’ll always produce the amount of milk your baby needs in order to feed. Even if your breasts make some “adjustments” from time to time.

Here are some useful tips to help you get through the crisis in the best way possible:

  • Don’t despair at the baby’s behavior when offering the breast. It’s normal for them to cry desperately and to be upset while sucking.
  • Offer the breast before complementary feeding. This way, you can stimulate the gland to produce what’s needed.
  • Remember that all babies need breastfeeding during the first year of life. Don’t think that just because you start complementary feeding, your milk is meaningless.
  • Avoid giving your baby formula out of insecurity. Your milk production is regulated by your baby’s demand. So, if you give your baby formula to fill them up, they won’t attach to the breast in the same way and you’ll cancel out the natural stimulation.
  • Don’t force the baby to breastfeed, as this could cause an unwanted and irreversible rejection of the breast.
  • Try to offer the breast when both of you are relaxed, in a pleasant and carefree environment. If the baby has refused the breast during the day, try again when the baby’s asleep or almost asleep. This will help increase milk production.
  • Be careful with biting or vigorous sucking to avoid nipple injury or cracking.

Remember that this crisis is overcome within a few days and that frustration and stress have a negative impact on your milk production.

Mothers dining out with their babies.
Mother’s groups are an excellent strategy for getting through any physiological crisis in infant development. Community support is essential.

If you feel you’re in over your head, ask for help!

It’s common for breastfeeding crises to bring many worries and anxieties to mothers. In these cases, it’s important to count on the accompaniment and advice of health professionals, such as midwives, lactation counselors, and pediatricians.

  • Comité de Lactancia Materna de la Asociación Española de Pediatría (2004). Lactancia Materna: guía para profesionales. Monografías de la A.E.P Nº 5.
  • Landa, L. (2004). Patrón de crecimiento de lactantes amamantados. AEPap ed. Curso de Actualización Pediatría 2004. Madrid: Exlibris Ediciones, 2004: p. 219-223.
  • Ministerio de Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igualdad de España (2017). Guía para las madres que amamantan. Recuperado de: https://www.aeped.es/sites/default/files/gpc_560_lactancia_osteba_paciente.pdf.
  • Organización mundial de la salud (1998). Consejería en Lactancia Materna: Curso de Capacitación. Recuperado de: https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/pdfs/bc_participants_manual_es.pdf.
  • Dalmau J, et al. Lactancia artificial. Pediatr Integral 2015;19(4):251-259. Disponible en: https://www.pediatriaintegral.es/wp-content/uploads/2015/xix04/03/n4-251-259_Jaime%20Dalmau.pdf.