Many mothers who breastfeed their baby often find themselves unable to cope and sadly, give up nursing their child. This can be for any number of reasons but it needn’t be so. The trick is to let your baby take the lead.
Humans are mammals. Mammals belong to a species of animals that suckle their young. The word ‘mammal’ is derived from the Latin word ‘mammalis’, from ‘mamma’ meaning breast. So, all mammals suckle their young, however not all mammals suckle their young in the same way. Humans belong to specific group of mammals that carry their young with them and feed them frequently, whereas other mammals leave their young alone in a nest, feeding them less often. Mammals that leave their young for long periods between feeds produce milk that is far more concentrated than human milk. Human milk is best for babies when given frequently. This is the first important point to remember if you’re breastfeeding.
We only have to look back at our ancient past – or hunter-gatherer societies of today – to gain an insight into what is a ‘natural’ way to nurture our own babies. In those societies, mothers carry their babies with them and feed them frequently. But how often should YOU feed your baby? How do YOU decide when your baby’s had enough? The answer to both of these questions is that you don’t; your baby does. Your baby is the one who’s best able to decide how frequently and how much milk you should give. Your baby is in charge of your breasts.
Hunger is one of life’s most urgent needs. When we’re hungry we think only of eating. You baby’s sense of urgent need for nourishment is even more finely tuned and she will let you know when she’s hungry. Some breastfeeding mothers fear that they may overfeed their baby. Don’t worry, you can’t overfeed or ‘spoil’ a breastfed baby by letting her feed whenever she wants to.
Establishing a good feeding rhythm is best achieved by understanding how breast milk is digested and by following your baby’s lead. Breast milk is digested within about 2 hours – formula milk takes double this amount of time – so you can expect your baby to be feeling hungry shortly after she has digested her milk. You should not be too alarmed if the time between feeds fluctuates. Again, follow your baby’s lead. Signs of hunger are; increased activity, mouthing or rooting for your breast. It is also usual for many newborn babies to seek continuous nursing during evenings when they appear to be somewhat fussy or unsettled. This feeding pattern is not only providing food for you baby but also comfort. The milk you produce first thing in the morning – after a good night’s rest – is the richest and most satisfying for your baby. A don’t worry about when your baby’s had enough milk; your baby will let you know. When your baby has had enough she will let go of the nipple; most babies fall asleep straight afterwards.
But will I have enough milk? This question is asked many times by breastfeeding mothers. Indeed, it is understandable as it can be hard to imagine producing enough milk for all those frequent feeds. But frequently feeding your baby is the answer. Frequent feeding – by baby’s demand – stimulates your breasts to produce more milk. Interruption of milk supply is often attributable to when mothers attempt to introduce a feeding timetable. You don’t control your milk supply, your baby does. But, many mother’s still have that nagging doubt as to whether their giving their baby enough milk. Unlike bottle feeding, you can’t see the amount of milk that your baby consumes. However a good way of getting reassurance about the amount going in is to look at the amount going out. A new born should be urinating at least six times during the day. You can also expect to see bowel movements three to four times a day, or even shortly after each feed. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised to learn that urine and pooh of breastfed babies doesn’t have an unpleasant odor.
Successful breastfeeding is frequent feeding that is baby lead. If your baby wants milk then give it. Don’t wait until your baby starts crying but offer your breast as soon as you notice the signs that your baby is hungry. When you breastfeed, your baby really does own your breasts.