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Talking about breastfeeding on demand can be frightening before you have started to breastfeed your baby. The mother-to-be can imagine a baby hanging on to her breast all day and all night! Don't worry, we'll explain what demand feeding is and why it's so good for your baby. If you are told to time your feeds to a fixed time, don't do it and read on.
When a baby is born, it functions by instinct, it knows its needs and will express them to you. He should therefore tell you when he is cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, needs to be changed or cuddled. The most complicated part of giving birth is deciphering your baby's signals to understand the message he wants to send you. This is why it is very important from the beginning to be attentive to his gestures, grunts, cries or other signs that can convey a message. So when we begin our relationship with our newborn, we grope, we try, we make mistakes and we adjust our responses.
A baby doesn't communicate by crying alone, and often when he or she starts crying, it's because he or she has already signalled but you haven't picked up on it (the signs may be minimal). And some babies can be very heavy sleepers right from the start, partly because of the fatigue of the birth (they've used up a lot of energy, or are a bit drowsy because you had an epidural).
During the first few days of baby's life, you can then breastfeed "on c ue" to recognise when baby needs to suckle. Mouth movements, tongue sucking, head or arm movements are all signs that baby may want to suck. Even if your baby has already sucked 20 minutes earlier, perhaps this has made him tired and after a short rest he needs to continue sucking. Take the time to find out what his language is.
It is also advisable not to look at your watch as every woman is different. Small and large breasts can vary greatly in their ability to store milk.
Indeed, inside your breasts are the alveoli of the mammary gland and these are totally variable in size. Your baby can quickly empty a small stock, which will then fill up again, and very shortly afterwards ask for a new feed because the first one was not enough at that time! Or you may have breasts that can store large amounts of milk and your baby, if he empties the breast well at each feed, may wait longer before needing your milk again.
You should also be aware that breast milk takes about 20 minutes to digest, so some breastfed babies may cry more often than bottle-fed babies who will take longer to digest.
It is also important to note that timing a feed is totally unrealistic. Your body is well designed and will produce the milk your baby needs throughout the day and even during the same feed. For example, at the beginning of a feed, your milk is much more hydrating (to quench your thirst) and then becomes more and more fatty as the minutes go by, so that your baby is well supported at the end of the feed. Similarly, during the day, your milk will vary because your baby's needs are not the same at the beginning of the morning as at the end of the day!
Thus, a baby who is "just" thirsty may have a very short feed and a baby who is very hungry may have a longer feed to get as much rich milk as possible to satisfy him.
Breastfeeding on demand does not mean having your baby at your breast all day. He also needs to rest and wake up. Offering the breast can sometimes be an easy solution, even if it is neither thirst nor hunger that your newborn feels. Depending on your energy and desire, cuddling and tenderness can be done through a feed or by any other means that suits you.
So it's good to take your time to find your rhythm, to understand your baby, to get to know each other. Every mother-child dyad is different and trust is probably the key to successful demand feeding.
The mother (except for particular health problems) will always produce enough milk for her baby. Of course, baby's messages must be heard, his demand sufficient and his sucking effective. By trusting each other, by recognising the messages of her baby, breastfeeding will be a success for the duo and the family as a whole.
In conclusion, timing and measuring feeds makes no sense for successful breastfeeding. You may feel that you are feeding your baby more often than if he or she was on formula. However, if you both know each other well, you won't spend all day with your baby at the breast.
And it's so easy to be able to feed your baby as soon as he or she expresses the need because no preparation is required. You can breastfeed anywhere and anytime, so don't hesitate to move around and don't stay cooped up.
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