Important questions regarding breastfeeding on demand
Breastfeeding your baby is not just a wonderful bonding experience, but it also provides him with all the essential nutrients till your child becomes 6 months of age. However, new mothers are often unsure about the nuances of breastfeeding. So, if you are in a dilemma about when and how to breastfeed your baby, here is a set of FAQs that will clear all your doubts:
1. What is demand feeding?
Demand feeding is when you feed your baby whenever he or she gets hungry and asks to be fed by signalling or crying. Some common ways in which your baby can show you that he wants to be fed, are by licking his lips, sticking out the tongue, rooting around, sucking on his hand etc.
2. How long should you breastfeed on demand?
This will depend on your capacity to breastfeed. Most babies feed as long as they feel hungry or till they fall asleep. With time, you will understand your baby’s needs more accurately. You can alternate each breast for about 10 to 20 minutes depending on your comfort level. The time spent on each side will depend on your milk supply. Also newborns may take up to 20 minutes or longer to nurse on one breast however as they grow older they may finish nursing faster.
3. What should be the frequency of feeding?
When you are breastfeeding on demand, the usual frequency should be every 2 to 3 hours. Now, what you need to remember is that, a child’s tummy is as big his fist, so it cannot stay full for long. And thanks to demand feeding, you can feed your child whenever he is hungry, and your breasts will produce as much milk as is needed.
4. Do you need to alternate the breasts?
Yes, alternating between breasts will prevent engorgement of the breast. It will also help relieve nipple pain due to cracked skin. Also, by alternating, the milk flow will be well-established in both the breasts. Some mothers find alternating breasts challenging, when it comes to positioning the baby properly. If that is the case, take the help of a breastfeeding pillow. Keeping track of which breast was fed during the last feed might be a challenge especially for the new mother. It helps to pin a safety pin or tie a ribbon on the bra strap of the breast you last fed.
5. Should you burp your baby during feeds?
Burping is a good practice as it helps avoid spitting or throwing up (regurgitation) especially in the newborns. The best time to burp the baby is when you are changing breasts. You can also burp your baby when he has finished nursing.
6. How to understand whether your baby is getting adequate milk?
As the baby nurses on the breast, mothers always wonder if the baby is getting enough milk as unlike a bottle, it cannot be measured. Demand feeding is a natural way by which the mother regulates the milk production to the demand of the child. So as long as you are eating healthy and drinking plenty of water, you can be rest assured that your child is getting enough milk. However, there are certain indicators that can also help you make sure if your baby is getting enough. You can be rest assured that you are producing enough milk if:
- Your baby is gaining weight
- He or she sleeps well and is not cranky
- The baby has more than 5 dirty diapers in a day
- The baby passes stool without any trouble
- Your baby is healthy and meeting all the physical milestones for his age
7. Are there other benefits apart from nutritional ones when feeding the baby on demand?
Studies have shown that feeding on demand can provide many other non-nutritive benefits compared to when the baby is fed on a schedule. Demand feeding can promote a sense of well – being in both the mother and baby. The physical skin to skin contact can comfort the baby and can help reduce stress levels in both mother and baby. It can also help regulate body temperature in the child. Breastfeeding on demand may also benefit emotional and cognitive development in the child. For the mother, it helps bring the milk production in sync with the baby’s requirements.