I feel like a bit of a zombie. My 2 1/2 month old son has been waking in the wee hours of the morning and not wanting to go back to sleep. This is the 3rd night he’s done it, and the interrupted sleep is definitely getting to me. He will wake and nurse, then just lay there and fuss and wiggle when he’s done, not wanting to go back to sleep. After a little while, he indicates that he is hungry again, so I offer him my breast again. Sometimes, I’ll doze off for a few minutes and wake up to him upset because he’s lost my nipple. This will go on for a couple hours, and then he falls back asleep, generally shortly before my 14 month old wakes for the day. But I know I’m meeting his current needs, so I suppose I just have to let the housework slide for the time being while I trudge through the day.
I believe in breastfeeding on demand. Now that I’ve actually written that statement, it occurs to me how wrong I think it is that I have to have a belief in breastfeeding naturally.
Babies don’t follow schedules. They have no knowledge of time. They don’t know how to read a clock. They don’t know what the moon or sun are and how the earth interacts with them. Babies don’t know have an understanding of years, days, or minutes. So isn’t it absurd to think that a baby should, or even could, be forced to adhere to some arbitrary schedule made up by his parents? But that’s just what happens. Babies are expected to eat and sleep on a strict schedule, sometimes from the very beginning of their life outside the womb. This ends up being a source of stress for most babies, and in turn parents, because it’s simply not natural.
Here is an excerpt from a wonderful article that explains in depth why humans should be feeding their babies on demand:
Human breastfeeding seems designed to operate on an on-demand basis. When babies determine the timing and duration of their feeds, they are more likely to get what they need. Breast milk production increases or decreases in response to the baby’s demand. Breast milk quality may improve.
If breastfeeding evolved as an “on demand” operation, mightn’t babies have evolved the psychology to go with it? It’s speculative, but the evidence is consistent. Feeding reduces pain and stress.
Moreover, a recent study hints that feeding on demand leads to better cognitive outcomes — for breastfed and bottle-fed babies alike.
Although not addressed in this article, I also believe that babies fed on demand are less likely to be overweight later on. Overeating can cause the brain to not recognize the signal that the stomach is full. If a baby is forced to eat at a certain time, whether they’re hungry or not, I think it’s safe to assume that their brain could lose the ability to recognize the “full” signal early on.
Yes, it’s sometimes inconvenient and tiring to breastfeed on demand. But really, being a parent isn’t exactly convenient, and I can guarantee that it doesn’t get much less tiring! 😉