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What Newborn Nursing Personality
is Your Infant?

Newborn nursing is a shared activity in which you and your infant work together for smooth feeding.

Understanding your baby's breastfeeding style and personality will be tremendously helpful in helping you reach the easy rhythms of breast feeding.

Learning about your baby's nursing temperament can help avoid breastfeeding hang-ups that could cause you to prematurely throw in the nursing towel.

A Yale study on infant breastfeeding patterns revealed 5 major newborn nursing personalities: the Barracuda, the Excited-Ineffective, the Procrastinator, the Gourmet, and the Rester. This article will help you determine which type of nurser your infant is and how to solve any breastfeeding issues resulting from that style.

But before we jump in, here are some "big picture" guidelines about assessing newborn nursing types.

Firstly, it is important not to pigeon-hole your infant completely into just one newborn nursing personality. For a while, he may flitter between several. You will need to be flexible in your approaches and continually monitor the feedings for any possible adjustments in your nursing approach.

Secondly, regardless of your baby's style, what your infant needs most from you during these feeding times is attention and social interaction. Your nursing time should be used to promote tenderness and trust with your baby.


Although voracious in appetite, the Barracuda breastfeeding baby can be a major blessing. They can be fed pretty much anywhere successfully. These babies are "in the zone" and not easily distracted away from eating.

  • All business when it comes to breastfeeding
  • Gets right down to it. No dilly-dallying or playing around
  • Sucks eagerly the moment the breast enters his mouth
  • Eats like it's his last meal for 10-20 minutes.
  • Focused and not easily distracted away from feeding

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Potential Problems

The fast-paced desire of the Barracuda can sometimes create breastfeeding challenges. Getting the positioning and latch correct within the first minute of feeding is essential to avoid bruised or cracked nipples later on.

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Solid Solutions

Taking her off and on multiple times will only frustrate her and complicate her ability to calm down enough to eat. Give yourself time to practice latching and new positions so she isn't starving when you're still teaching her how to latch. Most newborns need to eat every 2 - 2.5 hours.

So, in the very beginning, start to latch her on before she's really hungry so you can make any necessary adjustments without causing an uproar.


The Excited Ineffective provides a bundle of breastfeeding emotions in newborn nursing. There will be joy and laughter at his ecstatic face and movements as he becomes aware that it's feeding time. However, there may also be frustration when his own excitement trumps his efforts at a good feeding.
  • Becomes frantic and overly-excited at the sight of a breast
  • Can get so worked up that he can lose his grip on the nipple repeatedly, frustrating him further
  • Very impatient about eating
  • Must be calmed down several times during a feeding session
  • Seems to have a lot of gas after eating
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Potential Problems

As stated above, he could over-work himself into a frenzy of ineffective eating. Since he will slip on and off the breast, you may find yourself with milk spraying everywhere. Also, his frantic gulps can cause him to swallow more air.

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Solid Solutions

The key to breastfeeding this newborn nursing type is to feed early, immediately upon waking, so there is little time of over-agitation. If your breasts are overly full with milk, manually express a few drops to prevent hosing down the room. That will also soften the breast a little, making it easier for him to get most (if not all) of the areola into his mouth.

More frequent burping may be necessary to keep him eating comfortably (and happily). If he seems to be gulping, pull him off (insert your pinky into the corner of his mouth to break the suction first) and re-attach.


Procrastinators may be the most difficult of the newborn nursing types to breastfeed. Their annoyance at not getting real milk (as opposed to colostrum) will send them into bouts of angry tears.
  • Gets irritated with colostrum ~ wants the real deal immediately after birth.
  • Seems to go from not-hungry to ravenous-screaming almost instantly
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Potential Problems

This infant's quick-temper regarding breastfeeding can exhaust and frustrate many mothers. The seemingly-constant cries of frustration at the hospital can push mothers to the bottle in an effort to have peace and quiet.

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Solid Solutions

You must persevere! Resist the temptation to give her a bottle. Put her on the breast frequently in an effort to stimulate your milk to come in as fast as possible. Take any alertness or mouthing movements as a sign that you should put her on the breast.

Some reluctant nursers benefit by being placed naked on your bare tummy, and allowed to squirm their way up to your breast (yes, they can do that at birth!). If your baby is absolutely resisting, try pumping in between feedings to stimulate your milk flow.

If you are tempted to give up, exhausted from her constant frustrated cries (she wants that milk NOW!) you could purchase a supplemental nurser (here's an example of one at Amazon) that will allow you to put her on the breast, but also gives her a more "meatier" meal by either purchasing breastmilk from a donor or giving formula at the breast. She'll be satisified until your milk comes in, and the constant nursing will provide that stimulation your breasts need to increase your milk production as quickly as possible.


Once your Gourmet eater has started feeding, he'll most likely continue for the rest of the newborn nursing session. It's the starting that's the challenge!

  • Insists on playing with the nipple in his mouth for a while before feeding
  • Takes time to taste the milk, perhaps even smacking his lips a while before digging in
  • Will not be rushed ~ any attempt to prod into faster eating will end in furious screams of protest
  • Easily distracted
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Potential Problems

Since he will most likely take his sweet time before starting to nurse, it will be important to make sure that once he does settle down to begin to feed his latch is correct. Otherwise your nipples will get tender and sore.

Breastfeeding outside the home may be difficult! He'll want to explore every sound he hears and the meal may be cut short before he's actually satisfied.

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Solid Solutions

The best solution here is tolerance. Be patient with his need to play around a little before eating.

He's savoring the moment, and so should you! Loosen your schedule so you don't feel stressed about his insistence on playing with his food.

As for his distractibility, purchase a newborn nursing cover to minimize his stimulation. (These nursing covers by Bebe au Lait are a personal favorite.) Choose to find a quiet spot to feed him. The bench facing into a busy airport or shopping mall is not a good place! Try a quiet corner facing a wall or window.

Resters are laid-back and care-free. They won't tolerate sore cheeks from sucking, so they'll take long breaks in between sucks, resting their cheeks. They don't want to just eat. They want to eat comfortably.
  • Prefer to nurse for a few minutes, rest a few minutes, eat a little, rest a little, etc.
  • Often falls asleep at the breast, and then awakes looking for dessert
  • absolutely will NOT be rushed during a feeding
  • Not normally distracted, just content to hang on indefinitely

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Potential Problems

Attempting to rush her feedings will leave your infant under-fed and cranky. You may also get frustrated that your baby's nursing feedings seem to take forever.

Her tendency to fall asleep my short-change the feeding session, causing it to end before her tummy is full and leaving her hungry almost constantly. Because of this, she may need more frequent weight-checks to ensure she is getting enough food.

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Solid Solutions

Give yourself as much time as possible, especially in the beginning. As your baby grows, she will naturally want to eat a little faster (after all, there's a whole world out there!) Just sit back and be patient. It won't be long before she'll be lingering over the table, so enjoy these breast-meals while they last.

It may be difficult to get her on a nursing schedule, but on the other hand, letting her set her own schedule could leave you feeling like a milk-cow for the next several months. Take tiny steps towards setting up a routine (after 4 - 6 weeks that is).

However, make sure those steps are realistic! This baby will never be finished in 15 minutes. Consider how long she usually takes to eat, and then try to gently encourage her to gradually eat a little faster. Sometimes gently squeezing your breast to fill her mouth with milk can stimulate her into eating again.

Statistically, 90% of your milk is expelled in the first 10 minutes of continual eating. This little tidbit of information should help you gauge your expectations. If she is nursing for 20-25 minutes per side and still seems hungry, check with your pediatrician.

If falling asleep is a temptation for her, work hard to keep her awake until she's finished (unless, of course you're feeding at night). You can undress her down to her diaper, softly stroke her cheek, or even blow gently on her face to keep her awake to finish her newborn nursing session.


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Identifying your baby's newborn nursing type is an effective way in adjusting your techniques and expectations to match his or her budding personality.

Simply knowing why he is behaving a certain way can provide you with an extra ounce of patience and persistence to keep breastfeeding through that first difficult month.

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Photos used on this page were found at www.flickr.com and were used with permission and according to guidelines.

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