In the first floaty days of breastfeeding a baby, everything is intensely new. Moms keep their babies close, feeding them frequently as they try to learn how to respond to this little bundle, and how to decode her grunts, squeaks, and wiggles. This constant putting baby to breast is actually an animal instinct. The skin-to-skin contact does wonders for a new baby, out in the world yet secure in mom’s arms. And the more sucking a baby does, the more milk will arrive. So even though this moment feels like total chaos to dazed new parents, it’s actually a beautifully organized and orchestrated biological experience.
Once breastfeeding starts to feel more comfortable, more normal, some moms choose to enforce nursing schedules, with specific feedings set every few hours. Other moms continue to nurse on demand. Which approach is best for your family will largely depend on what your needs are. Cue feeding is technically what we’re designed to do (those tiny tummies digest milk quickly, plus small and frequent feedings help mom produce more milk), but we live in a modern world! A set nursing schedule is key for moms who are going back to work outside the home. When baby is being given a bottle at home or at daycare, mom will be pumping in her office, both still linked by the same schedule. Scheduled feeds can be useful for stay at home moms, too. Some women who feel stressed out by nursing on demand say having a predictable schedule enables them to commit to breastfeeding.
Our pediatric advisor Dr. Alan Greene doesn’t think breastfeeding has to be an either or scenario. “My general take is that babies should nurse on demand,” says Dr. Greene. “Pay attention to what their pattern is and then help make that become the pattern. The pattern will switch as they grow, set by your demand, baby’s demand, and engorgement.” Having some pattern helps regulate circadian rhythm, which Dr. Greene notes has been linked to lower levels of obesity.
If you’re worried you won’t know if a baby is hungry, trust yourself! You will. All babies are different, but hungry ones tend to root around for a breast, mouth their hands and other objects, fuss, suck on fingers, lick their lips, and wiggle tellingly. Crying is actually a late stage sign a baby wants to eat; you’ll rarely get there unless you’re both stuck in a car in traffic. Another sign is your very own breasts. If they’re feeling full or engorged, chances are your baby is peckish.
The early weeks fly by, and eventually all babies will go long and longer stretches between feedings, and eat more per feeding. Next thing you know you’ll be researching first foods.
Enjoy it while you can.
WRITTEN BY PLUM ORGANICS
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Always consult a pediatrician to understand the individual needs of your child.