Feeding Your Baby – Is It Taking Too Much Time?
|Pregnancy Week (Select):|
Feeding Your Baby – Is It Taking Too Much Time?
It can feel reassuring to have specific instructions about when to feed your baby, especially when everything about caring for a baby is new and uncertain to you. However, when you are expected to time how many minutes you breastfeed, watch the hours between feeds or count how many feeds your baby has in a day, with the ultimate goal being how many hours you can make your baby sleep, you will soon see feeding your baby as a chore. As resentment brews about how much time your baby is taking up, it can seem an attractive option to prop your baby with a bottle in the hope that your life will become more efficient.
Despite claims by various people that a feeding schedule will positively influence your baby’s sleep patterns, in most cases there are risks to be considered: some strict regimes have been associated with breast milk supply failure, poor infant weight gain and failing to thrive infants. Breastfeeding according to a schedule may seem to work at first but many women who use strict feeding schedules in the early weeks find that their milk supply dwindles and their baby may be weaned by about three months. By restricting feeds or repeatedly spacing them out with dummies, you may limit the development of the hormonal process that enhances ongoing milk production. This translates to: early and frequent breastfeeding will promote a continuing milk supply, which means that your baby will get lots of milk so he is less likely to wake up often to be fed.
The amount of breast milk you produce and how much your baby drinks is influenced by other factors including your baby’s stomach size, and the milk storage capacity of your own breasts. At first, your baby’s tummy is only the size of his tiny fist and breast milk is very quickly digested so your baby will need frequent feeds, at least in the early weeks. It is common for a breastfed baby to need feeding from several times in one hour to about every two hours at first. It is also common for babies to need a ‘cluster’ of feeds closer together in the evening.
Ultrasound studies by biochemist Dr Peter Hartmann and colleagues at the University of Western Australia have shown that breast milk storage capacity can vary up to three times as much between individual women (this is not necessarily related to breast size and doesn’t influence milk production ability). This means that while some women who have a large milk storage capacity will be able to feed their babies enough milk to go three or four hours between feeds (providing their baby has a big enough stomach), other women will need to feed their babies more often. For women with a smaller milk storage capacity, a rigid feeding schedule could result in a hungry, unsettled baby and a mother who questions her ability to produce enough milk when really, it is the schedule that is inappropriate, not the mother’s feeding ability.
Milk production and infant intake are also influenced by the fat content of your milk and the degree of breast emptying at any given feeding. According to Dr Hartmann’s research, an empty breast will make milk more quickly while a full breast will make milk more slowly. This means that if your baby sucks vigorously and ‘empties’ your breasts (because you make milk continuously your breasts will never be completely empty), production speeds up and if he doesn’t take much milk from the breast at a feeding, your breasts will get the message to make less milk. If your baby seems to go on a feeding binge at any time, this isn’t an indicator that you are ‘losing your milk’ but that you will need to take it easy and feed your baby more frequently for a few days so your breasts get the message to produce more milk. By responding to your baby’s signals, in a few days’ time, he will space out his feeds again.
Babies regulate the type of milk they need by the way they suck. The first type (foremilk) will quench their thirst, which is why they often have short, frequent feeds on hot days, just as we sip from our water bottles. Hunger will be satisfied by longer sucking periods when baby gets the fatty hind milk which is squeezed down into your ducts by the reflex known as ‘letdown’; this is usually felt as a ‘tingly’ sensation in your breasts and accompanied by leaking from the breast that your baby is not sucking from. Letting your baby decide how long he needs to feed and letting him finish the first breast before switching sides, rather than limiting him to an arbitrary number of minutes each side, will ensure he gets the rich fatty hind milk – and will satisfy him, so he sleeps longer.
There will be times when your baby has a growth spurt and will need to feed more often to match his increasing appetite. Babies who are unwell also often increase their feeding frequency. Researchers now believe that this not only provides comfort, but also increases the baby’s intake of antibodies and immune factors through the mother’s breast milk.
Bottle-feeding, whether you are giving your baby formula or expressed breast milk, can be as time-consuming as breastfeeding, especially if your baby feeds slowly as some very little babies do. The solution to a slow or sleepy feeding baby is not to force him to stay awake by brutal means such as sponging him with wet face washers or by cutting a bigger hole in the teat – this poses a choking risk and most certainly would cause discomfort and distress. Rather, follow your baby’s lead and perhaps offer smaller, more frequent feeds. As he grows stronger, he will find it easier to stay awake and will become a more efficient feeder naturally.
Whether you are bottle or breastfeeding, by trying to see this time as an expression of your love for your baby, you will be able to appreciate the rewards of these intimate moments – breathing in your baby’s delicious smell, stroking his silky skin as his warm little body snuggles against your own, and gazing into his trusting eyes as they meets yours – and you will cherish this precious time long after he has outgrown your lap.
More Great Breastfeeding Information?
Pinky McKay is an international board certified lactation consultant, infant massage instructor, mother of five and the author of Parenting By Heart, 100 Ways To Calm The Crying, Sleeping Like a Baby, Toddler Tactics and her baby massage DVD, ‘Gentle Beginnings’.
More Baby Articles
- “But You’re Doing It All Wrong…”
- 10 Rules For Visiting A New Baby – And Being Asked Back Again!
- Accidentally In Love
- Amber Teething Necklace – A Natural Teething Alternative
- Artificial Feeding – Nothing To Do With Breastfeeding
- Attachment Parenting – What Is Attachment Parenting?
- Baby Bonus – Eligibility For The Baby Bonus In Australia
- Baby Clothes – What Clothes Do You Need For Your Baby?
- Baby Crying? 15 Tips To Help Soothe Baby Crying
- Baby Cues – What Is My Baby Saying?
- Baby Games – 5 Fun Baby Games To Play With Your Baby
- Baby Hates Being In The Car? Baby Car Seat SOS!
- Baby Hunger Cues – How To Tell If Your Baby Is Hungry
- Baby Led Weaning – What Is Baby Led Weaning?
- Baby Massage – Bonding With Your Baby Through Massage
- Baby Massage – Touch Me and Help Me Grow With Massage
- Baby Names – Popular Baby Names In 2012
- Baby Starting Solids? Solids Advice For Baby
- Baby Wipes – Home Made Baby Wipes Recipes, Better For Baby’s Bum!
- Babymoon – What Is a Babymoon and Why Should You Plan One?
- Babywearing – The Benefits of Carrying Your Baby
- Babywearing Photo Competition – Share Your Babywearing Photos!
- Best Advice, Worst Advice – Mums Tell!
- Best Buys for Baby – 5 Things You Shouldn’t Have a Baby Without!
- Blocked Nose And Colds In Babies – Treatments For A Blocked Nose
- Bonding With Your Formula Fed Baby – 6 Tips
- Breast Refusal – When Your Baby Cries When Trying To Breastfeed
- Bringing Your Second (or Third or More!) Baby Home
- Buying for Baby – What Do You REALLY Need?
- Circumcision – Should Your Son Have A Circumcision?
- Clingy Baby? Meet Velcro Baby!
- Coconut Oil – 5 Great Uses For Coconut Oil For Your Baby
- Colic – What Is Colic?
- Conjunctivitis in Babies – Treatment and Symptoms Of Conjunctivitis
- Constipation In Babies – Symptoms And Treatment For Constipation
- Could Your Baby Be Bored?
- Could Your Baby or Toddler’s Diet Be Keeping You Awake At Night?
- Cradle Cap And Cradle Cap Treatment
- Croup In Babies – Is Croup Contagious?
- Cuddle Me Mum – I Need a Cuddle…
- Cuddles – How They Make Your Baby Smarter, Calmer and More Secure
- Do Amber Teething Necklaces Cause SIDS?
- Do It MY Way! When Daddy Does It Differently…
- Do Your Baby Wipes Contain This Irritating Ingredient?
- Dummies (Pacifiers) For Baby – What You Must Know Before Using A Dummy
- Eczema And Your Baby – Eczema Treatment
- Falling In Love Again With Your First Born
- Family Assistance and Family Allowances in Australia
- Footprint Dough Recipe – Treasure Your Baby’s Or Child’s Footprint
- Gastro in Young Children – Gastro Symptoms and Management
- Getting Started With Baby Formula – 6 Steps
- Gift Ideas For A New Mother – 11 Great Gifts For The New Mother
- How Often Should I Feed My Baby?
- I Know What Baby Wants….
- Lactose Intolerance – Think Your Baby Has Lactose Intolerance?
- Love, Lust and Little Ones: What They Never Tell You
- Loving Two – How Can I Love Another Child As Much?
- Modern Cloth Nappies – Benefits Of Modern Cloth Nappies
- Modern Cloth Nappies – Myths About Modern Cloth Nappies
- Modern Cloth Nappies Vs Disposable Nappies – Which Nappies Are Better?
- Mums Advice: Top 3 Things I Didn’t Need For Baby
- Nappy Rash – Treatments For Nappy Rash In Babies
- Newborn Clothes Size – What Size Should I Buy For A Newborn?
- Parenting Books – 10 Best Parenting Books
- Parenting With Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Reflux in Babies – Dealing With Reflux
- Saving Money With a Baby: Mother’s Tips
- Sexual Abuse – Protecting Your Child Against Sexual Abuse
- SIDS Risks and Your Baby – How To Prevent SIDS
- Smash Cake Ideas – Planning a Smash Cake For Your Baby’s Birthday
- Starting Solids For Baby – When Should I Start Feeding Baby Solids?
- Subsequent Children After SIDS
- Summer Sanity – Keeping Baby Cool in Summer
- Surviving The Arsenic Hour
- Surviving the In-Laws After You Have a Baby
- Teething Symptoms – Signs Your Baby Might Be Teething
- The First Week After The Birth – What To Expect
- The Wonder Weeks – What Are The Wonder Weeks?
- Tongue Tie – Can Tongue Tie Affect Feeding?
- Tummy Time For Baby: How Important Is Tummy Time?
- Umbilical Cord Stump – 5 Tips On Caring For Your Baby’s Cord Stump
- Uncircumcised Boys – Foreskin Care Tips For Parents
- What Your New Baby Expects – From the Birth to Going Home
- When Do Babies Roll Over? Tips For Helping Babies Roll Over
- When Do Babies Start Crawling? Tips To Get Baby Crawling
- When Do Babies Start Talking? Tips To Help Baby Talk
- When Your Baby’s Wellbeing Is Everyone Else’s Business…