I have been talking to parents and I have heard conflicting views and lack of understanding about demand feeding. Demand feeding is responding to your baby’s cues when she is hungry; sucking fists, crying and rooting. Babies cry for different reasons not just for hunger. It is important to listen and watch for cues sometimes she will cry for cuddles, nappy-change, tiredness or illness a sick babies cry is usually highly pitched. I do not believe in watching the clock to feed a baby, but I do think that many mothers resort to feeding when they are unsure of their baby needs and this can lead to grazing and comfort sucking. By responding to your baby’s cues will gradually lead into a baby led routine. Which will make feeds regular and more predictable this will free up some more time for mum and baby, which in turn should have positive effect on breast-feeding.
With your newborn, you will need to breast-feed frequently and it’s important that you feed as much as possible to establish a good milk supply. Let your baby set the pace in the early days and trust your instincts. In the early days you will feed, your baby most of the time a newborn baby’s tummy is only the size of a walnut so will need filling up regularly. Your baby’s appetite will vary and preceding growth a spurt will increase, look out for growth spurts around 2,3, and 6 months.
As your milk supply becomes established, your baby should slip into a natural routine of feeding every few hours. The aim is to get your baby to take a full feed so she will satisfied for longer you can look for signs that she is getting full; she will start to slowdown, will rest frequently or stop sucking altogether. As you get to grips to breast -feeding you can usually tell when your baby has taken a good feed as oposed to when she starts to suck for comfort or just as a tool to go sleep.
Some people confuse demand feeding with grazing. By grazing, I mean snacking on the breast and having frequent ‘top up’ feeds. Your baby may graze because she is not getting hungry enough between meals so only feeds to ‘top up’. She may fall asleep on the breast before she has taken a full feed; this is likely if she has ‘suck to sleep’ association. Feeding like this can be a continuous cycle and exhausting, for some mothers this is not a problem, but if you think it is, you can gradually ease your baby into a gentle routine.
By breast -feeding to satisfy your baby’s hunger and not for comfort, a natural routine should naturally occur. It may need tweaking occasionally to fit into family life or as your baby grows. When baby sets the routine it is easier to stick too rather than having a rigid routine set by the clock. As she develops she can take more milk at each feed, the gap between feeds will increase. She will sleep for longer at night and her naps during the day will lengthen. Ensure that she has the correct cues for falling asleep, by putting her down sleepy but awake after a feed, this will avoid suck to sleep association. If baby is falling asleep before the end of a feed, change her nappy or positions to wake her up to finish the feed.
Breast- feeding has many benefits for mother and baby. Unfortunately many mothers give up because they find bottle- feeding more predictable and less of a tie. By establishing, a good routine should make breast-feeding easier and more predictable. By feeding your baby regularly and reading your baby’s hunger cues, you should have success and a baby that has feeds at regular times.