When I was preparing and knew I would be ‘breastfeeding on request’, I found info on WHY to do this quite easily, but I did find it hard to find stories by mums online that explain the minutiae of doing this, the day to day supportive stuff and little things to help keep one’s brain ‘straight’. I have since found ways to help myself manage, have found out how to adapt ideas into my own ways, have found helpful support and resources online and in books. So, I am adding this section to provide another place to read of a mum who feeds in this way, and how I have adapted to it and what it has taught me about my baby.
To guard against such tripe, Kellymom.com has a great read: Handling criticism about Breastfeeding I’m lucky to have only ?? encountered such poor information when going to Baby Clinics, which I now avoid like the plague, how sad. Knowing that breastfeeding is simply normal is important.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association is the place for real help, completely up to date information based on scientific, evidence based research and women’s experiences on all breastfeeding related matters:
They have a great Breastfeeding Helpline for any Mums, Dads, family to call and ask about any breastfeeding questions. The counsellors are really helpful and have up-to-date training and experience with breastfeeding, of course!
Unrestricted breastfeeding, breastfeeding on cue, breastfeeding on request, breastfeeding to need, like a gypsy, on cue, continuously, all terms nicer than ‘demand’ feeding, which sounds negative – plus, baby doesn’t need to ‘demand’ feeds by crying unless their earlier signs are missed. Within a few months we learn their earlier signs – wiggling, rooting with the mouth, the fishy-mouth searching, twisting around, behavioural signs, eye signals – looking for the source! Supporting this instinctive behaviour as much as is possible allows the baby to find their own natural feeding intervals and patterns. In the big picture I have found it the easy road to travel.
Breastfeeding on cue, to baby’s ‘request’ is what a baby biologically expects. Over time they learn through give and take to communicate and wait a few moments for a feed. It is quite natural for a baby to feed several times an hour. The San people of Africa, perhaps the last remnants of early human behaviour, fed every 13 minutes, so several times per hour for short bursts. Because of this their natural child spacing is four years apart, as hormone levels are kept high due to the frequent day and night feeding; natural behaviour for the ‘carrying’ species we are.
I had a baby that fed very frequently and often, and for a long time! I thought this was fine and normal (and it is) until I went to a ‘new mothers class’ and was told to delay feedings and schedule feed him every 3-4 hours. This was a 12 week old baby! NO WAY! That sort of advice is forty years out of date, based on artificially fed babies, not on breastfed babies, who are fed to their needs. Sure, some babies naturallygrow into that sort of feeding pattern, but forcing some mother-baby pairs to do so will adversely effect their supply, and cause a very unhappy baby. An adult will have something in their mouth on average every 90 minutes, a drink, a snack, a meal, why expect a teensie baby to starve for hours? Bizarre. Luckily I had attended Breastfeeding Education classes run by the ABA, so I knew better! I also decided to report this (and other crap advice) to the head office, and re-education was put into place. Turns out that it was NOT what was supposed to be taught. (der!)
I read in an article about breastfeeding that:
“Most other mammals never even see their own milk, and I doubt that any other mammalian mother deliberately “feeds” her young by basing her nursing intervals on what she infers the baby’s hunger level to be. Nursing quiets her young and no doubt feels good. We are the only mammal that consciously uses nursing to transfer calories…and we’re the only mammal that has chronic trouble making that transfer.”
Unrestricted breastfeeding is a natural instinct for baby – I find at those times I can allow it, baby will feed little bits quite frequently. He fed really often in the morning as an itty bitty – basically all morning! Then a sleep and less often in the arvo. Overnight he fed two hourly for 6-7 months, then started 2-3 hourly feeding at night until 11 months, by which time he had some spells of up to seven hours (weird).
Moving interstate then brought back two hourly for a week, then teething and so on would cause a night or three of even hourly feeding! I rolled with it as best I could – napping in the morning or early evening when hubby was home, or during the day with bubs, mostly I found the breastfeeding itself relaxing due to the hormones, so that would be my ‘relaxation’ time. He has always fed frequently during the day – usually every hour or two at home. Sometimes a quick drink, sometimes a long feed. When he was small especially I was astounded that he seemed to be ‘awake’ all day – until I realised that his leisurely feeds were his sleep time – he re-charged sleep-nursing. I made sure to rest!
After the first 5 or 6 months he’d be quite happily distracted on outings and go 3-4 hours. He went six hours one day – the next I had a blocked duct! By 16 months he was ‘sleeping through’ for five hour blocks for a few weeks, then he got a bug, back to 2-3 hourly for a while, after a 24 hour spewing virus and on-the-boob hydration/immunity swapping every hour. He recovered so fast it was amazing (not really considering the boobs are super magic white-blood makers of liquid- gold living wonder- fluid!) He is now easing back to his four hour pattern at night and all over the place in the day – some times quick feeds hourly, sometimes long gaps. I really don’t notice – hubby asks me how often he feeds, I actually can’t give an answer – I have tried to record it – but never remember to write it down as it happens so naturally I don’t think of it. I read that 20-40 times a day is ‘normal’ in this sort of feeding pattern – he’d easily feed 20 times a day. This gradually ebbed and flowed through his second year of breastfeeding.
Around two it was changing – less feeds overall, stages of “boob marathons” of course thrown in there! He would go all day not feeding when we are out ( a quick feed for a nap perhaps). I realised I wasn’t feeding so often, though I’d simply find him attached it seemed like, breastfeeding is so automatic. At home, he’d do the ‘maintenance feeding’ cycle – quick feeds every hour or two, then off. As usual, with a bug, on all day – then a runny nose the next day would ‘explain’ why he had been glued to the boob!
Breastfeeding my Nappy-Free Baby – Breastfeeding and EC
Frequency of feeding is related to capacity – of baby and boobs! I have boobs with a smaller holding capacity, so I naturally need to feed more often during the day and night.
Baby has a really small belly, from a marble to the size of their clenched fist – breast milk digests easily and quickly, is low in fat for the frequent feeds we are designed for. Babies have no time sense, they don’t remember just having had a feed – if they are hungry, they are simply hungry, and ready for a feed again. Filling that need for the breast I found very empowering to my confidence – trusting the baby, following his needs – he would be happy, so I would feel relaxed and as confident as a new mum can be. Even when it seems imposing and never-ending (I’m sure all I did was breastfeed for 6 months?), accepting it, immersing myself in it moment by moment, was good advice I received – cherish the time – it won’t last.
Very interesting is knowing:
that the breast does not make all of the milk at nursing time, but rather is making milk around the clock. The rate of milk production between feedings varies according to the degree of fullness of the breast; the fuller the breast, the slower the milk production rate, and conversely the emptier the breast, the faster the rate of production for replacement.
Even more fascinating, Dr. Hartmann has also quantified differences in the maximum storage capacity of women’s breasts, identifying at least a 300% difference between the most one woman could store versus the most another could store in his study.
Further, Dr. Hartmann noted that the women who had larger storage capacities often nursed at longer intervals, whereas women with smaller storage capacities nursed naturally at more frequent intervals.
[Comment: breast size appearance is not always a good predictor of production or storage capacity].
Most importantly, it was noted that all of these women had the ability to produce plenty of milk over 24 hours; what varied was the maximum amount that they could deliver at one sitting.
Source: Examining the Evidence for Cue Feeding “Production and storage capacity.” An excellent article about the research into breastmilk being conducted in Australia by Dr Hartmann in Perth.
I recently read an article on Bawling Babies called “Breastfeeding: A Lifelong Investment” I was excited to read Maven’s exact pattern right there – that I had actually managed to support his instinctive behaviour in a Western society so closely:
“The pattern of breastfeeding that results when an infant is never separated from the mother is very different from that we believe to be â€œnormalâ€ in our western culture. Firstly, the pattern is entirely determined by the infant and not the mother, and each infant is unique.
An infant allowed to decide its own feeding pattern from initiation will settle in to ‘maintenance’ feeding, and will feed every hour or two at most, will ingest the full ejection load of a single let down reflex, which just happens to be the comfortable maximum capacity of its stomach, and which happens to contain enough food and calories for one or two hours at most, and it will cycle its state organisation effectively. This is the pattern observed from almost all non-western cultures”
Source: www.bawlingbabies.blogspot.com entry: Monday, August 14, 2006
“He Can’t Be Hungry. He Just Ate!” is a great bit of ‘knowledge is power’ to read and understand about how babies eat.
How many times did you eat or drink something today? Coffee break? Water fountain? Gum? Snack? TV nibblies? Most adults have an urge to eat about every 90 minutes while they’re awake!
Why do you eat or drink? Hunger? Thirst? Comfort? For social reasons? Just because?
Are you trying to gain weight? If you had to double your weight in 6 months, how would you do it? Would you drink water? Chew sugarless gum between meals? Eat large meals at long intervals? Or would you do lots and lots of snacking, day and night?
When it comes to food, babies are people, too. They’re people plus, because they are trying to double their weight in about half a year, with a stomach that starts out no bigger than a golf ball. Of course they eat and eat and eat, especially in the early weeks. If your newborn is gaining about half a pound a week, he’s doing well. If not, a breastfeeding specialist can help you find ways to help him nurse more effectively. Remember, if milk doesn’t go in often, pounds can’t go on fast. ” Source: www.wiessinger.baka.com
One term I first learnt about on the ABA Forum related to cue feeding is “Ecological breastfeeding” – is a style of feeding that is known to most strongly support instinctual breastfeeding by the baby, and the fertility-reducing benefits of breastfeeding. Turns out it is what I was doing naturally! It is why traditional natural cultures had 3-4 year spacing between births. There are certain guidelines that are best followed:
Source: breastfeeding and fertility
More information: http://ccli.org/nfp/ebf/summary.php
“This kind of free-wheeling approach of frequent, short, flexible nursings leaves your day free to structure itself around other more interesting activities. When feeding the baby is an incidental activity, like snuggling him, everyone’s day usually runs more smoothly, including the baby’s… and yours.” www.wiessinger.baka.com/bfing/howworks/scheduling.html
Over the months I have slowly learnt “boob language” – the signs baby gives via his feeding style at the boob. It is a funny language, a difficult one to learn and then to remember to listen to! Plus, I get it wrong quite often. It is still something fun to practise though. Whatdoes that particular flutter mean? Ah- a burp.
It is a non-verbal language to be sure, likely individualised to each mother-infant pair to a certain extent, I know some are certainly instinctual. It is interesting to learn, I find it an ongoing challenge to interpret what he is attempting to communicate to me; after all, we practise these â€˜nipple discussionsâ€™ every day and night! (Night is often a good time to focus in and learn, as baby’s behaviour is so instinctive at night.)
Here are some of the ‘phrases’ that I understand bubs is speaking by the way he feeds from me:
Easy suck feeding means “‘m having a quick drink” (while I’m looking around at the same time).
Strong suck feeding means, “I’m hungry foody, may then go to sleep, ahhhh”
Flutter-pause, flutter-pause feeding usually follows ‘stron’ feeding, and means ‘I’m winding down now, but still want more!”
Fluttery Butterfly feeding means “I’m making my next meal” (stimulating supply)
Gentle but continuous Fluttery Butterfly feeding means “I’m fighting a bug” (exchanging antibodies- clear as he’ll not allow this to end before he is ready, on occasions he’ll do it for a couple of HOURS, then I know he’s been exposed to something. I encourage this after he has the jabs, or if one of us is feeling low.)
Popping on and off the breast while feeding means “I need to pee”
Plucking at the boob while feeding means “I need to poo” (or fluff!)
Nibbly feeding means “I need to have a burp, my belly feels yuk” (or a need to fluff!) It is anirritating sign.
Breastfeeding is just so cool; it is the most helpful mumming tool!
Having a ‘highly instinctual’ baby from when he was an itty bitty, I have learnt a number of things over time by offering the comfort of breastfeeding to him whenever he requested it, or I felt he needed it or whenever I had no idea what he wanted!
“As baby grows older, human milk continues to pass on antibodies for all those organisms to which the mother has developed her own immunity. Even more amazing, if a baby contracts an illness that mom has not been exposed to previously, he will transfer this organism through his saliva to the breast, where antibodies are manufactured on site and then sent back to baby via the milk to help him cope. Babies who are sick will often increase their nursing frequency … to increase the baby’s intake of antibodies and immune factors available through mother’s breast. Babies seem to “know” when they have been exposed to a virus or bacteria, and know when they need to breastfeed more frequently to help them fight it off; most importantly, they sense it before parents realize that an illness is developing. There is no system in existence that is as sensitive and accurate as this one, and it is not under parental control.”
Source: Examining the Evidence for Cue Feeding “The immune factor.”
Basically, I have learnt that I don’t need to know anything – I don’t need to know if he is feeding more often due to a brain burst, fighting a virus or bug, increasing his food supply, teething yet again, coping with a stress during the day or perhaps all of these at once! All I need to do is trust him and offer the boob – so easy really!
Australian Breastfeeding Association www.breastfeeding.asn.au
Examining the Evidence for cue feeding of breastfed infants Examining the Evidence for Cue Feeding
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering:The best possible start by Dr Sarah Buckley
Thoughts on Breastfeeding by Kathy Dettwyler
Australian Breastfeeding Association Forum ABA Forum
Extended Nursing Forum Extended Nursing
Baby Web Central www.babywebcentral.com.au
Alternative Baby www.alternativebaby.net (offline)