Today, I want to write a little about breastfeeding on demand.
A question from Emily promoted this idea for this post:
I would like to ask how you do your nursing with your baby.
Do you feed on demand or take a more scheduled approach? With my first I fed on demand and ended up nursing her all the time. But this time I can’t sit and nurse constantly with a 21 month to take care of too.
Just wondering what works for you.
With my first baby I struggled over trying to do everything right.” I finally came to the conclusion that whatever works best for me and my baby is right.
As for what works for me, I nursed my first two babies on demand and am nursing our baby boy on demand, as well.
The main issue I have with trying to “schedule” feedings, at least in the first few months, is that it is very difficult for a newborn to be on schedule (as we adults define it, anyway). I don’t doubt that there are mothers who find a feeding schedule works wonderfully for their babies!
If a feeding schedule seems to make life easier for you, go for it; but don’t agonize over trying to make it work if your baby needs to nurse more often than every few hours.
One of the things I experienced with my nursing babies is that they tend to want to keep me up at night nursing a lot. This seems to be a rather “normal” happening for a newborn!
Both my girls did this at least once during the first week of life. When our son was born, I paced myself to allow the first few days (and nights!) to be a bit difficult. I wasn’t disappointed.
The first 2 nights after he was born I slept very little and ended up spending most of my time in bed nursing my baby. Once my milk came in he began sleeping better at night- about 4 hours at a time. (Neither of my girls slept this well as newborns. They woke to nurse about every 2 to 3 hours for the first several months.)
A lot of mommies feel like they’re up “nursing all the time” with new babies. I feel the same way sometimes; all I do is nurse a hungry baby! While our baby does well with his night time feedings, he seems continuously hungry during the day. Unless he is sleeping, he nurses every hour. A tiring regiment, to be sure, but that’s what comes with breastfeeding a growing baby!
I currently have 4 1/2 year old Amy, Emily, who just turned 2 last month, and almost 9-week-old Keith; taking care of them all is a challenge to be sure! Here’s what works for me:
- I take herbal supplements to make sure my milk supply keeps up with Keith’s appetite. Blessed thistle and fenugreek herbs or Mega Mam lactation support are all great. I take these in addition to my prenatal vitamin.
- Wearing a baby sling helps tremendously since Keith is less apt to want to nurse just-for- comfort when he’s snuggled up against me. I make sure his tummy is full before I put him in the sling, although you can nurse your baby while he/she is in the sling, as well. Keith will usually nap for a good 2 hours during the afternoon if I’m “wearing” him.
- I do give him a pacifier if I know he is just wanting to suckle and isn’t actually hungry. I know there are a lot of opinions out there regarding giving a baby a pacifier, but I refuse to feel guilty for using one when needed. Amy never took a pacifier; Emily used one when she was a baby and I weaned her off it with out much trouble before she was a year old.
- I nurse my baby to sleep for bedtime and naps. Admittedly, Keith has been my easiest baby to get to sleep so far; I can put him down when he’s drowsy (after a good feeding) and he’ll usually fall right to sleep. Amy and Emily were another story!
- Since I do “sit around nursing” a lot these days, I try to adapt my day to it. I read to the girls a lot during Keith’s feedings, or I take advantage of the down time and read my Bible. I’ve also learned to do things like eat a meal or type one-handed on the computer while I’m nursing. Otherwise, I just sit down and enjoy the break while he eats!
- The older my babies got, the easier it became to establish a better feeding routine. Amy and Emily began to nurse more on a meal-schedule rather than around-the-clock once they were several months old. Don’t expect too much from your baby or yourself during these first few weeks. Things WILL get easier!
Before I close, just one more thing: I don’t know if this is an issue for your baby or not, but my babies both had a habit of falling asleep before they were really “full”; this, of course, resulted in more frequent mini-feedings all day and night!
If your baby won’t stay awake long enough to get her tummy satisfied, try tickling her feet or gently “walking” your fingers up her spine to wake her up. Either (or both) of these techniques have worked very well for me in keeping our baby boy awake to nurse, especially when he was first born and wanted to snooze all the time. (Hats off to my midwife for the tip!)
Right now, at almost 9 weeks old, our baby needs to nurse A LOT.
Babies are born with an amazing need to suckle; partly for nourishment and partly for emotional connection with their mamas. Being the sole source of nutrients and comfort for a tiny human being is a daunting and time consuming task, I know!
Remember: this is just what works for my little ones and me. I certainly don’t set myself up as some sort of example, or think that other mothers should do as we do.
My advice to you, Emily, is just to hang in there, ask God for wisdom, don’t be afraid to do what works best for you and your baby girl, and just enjoy your newborn. She’ll be crawling and wanting “big girl” food before you know it.