Demand bfeeding...is it really the best thing to do??(24 Posts)
Have had a relatively good couple of months with my DS (3 months). He is ebf and is growing well. He feeds almost every hour that he is awake, fortunately he does sleep well during the day, usually has a nap every 1.5 hours. Sometimes he feeds for up to an hour although usually feeds are around 10-15 minutes. He is a rubbish sleeper at night though and is up every couple of hours.
I never thought about HOW I bf until I recently moved cities, closer to my mum, and she seemed surprised at how often he feeds. I just assumed that this is what we are meant to do feed them whenever they want/need to.This is what I had been told in antenatal classes, in books, on MN etc
Last night my mum and her friend came to visit and the topic of bf came up (probably because I was feeding DS). Mum bf fed myself and my 4 siblings for more than a year. This was in the 70s and 80s and she said that she fed every roughly every 3 hours, although she thought at the time she was demand feeding. Her friend (they met at mothers group) kept a strict 4 hour feeding schedule and also fed her 4 children beyond a year.
Anyway I now have very mixed feelings about the whole demand feeding business. I always thought I would like to bf to at least a year but now I will have to stop earlier as I will be going back to work when he is 7/8 months and if he continues feeding like this the stress of stopping bf at the same time as leaving him for work will be too much. Also I am practically tied to him at all times. He refuses bottle/cup and I l(once) left him with DH for under 2 hours and came back to a hysterical baby who acted like he had been starving for hours (I had made sure I fed him well prior to leaving him).
I feel like if I had started out bf on a rough schedule of 2-3 hours instead of demand feeding him I would be able to carry on bf for much longer and it would not be such all consuming task. I feel a little annoyed that I had been told that this was the best way (I had thought is was the only way!!) to feed as if you do space out feeds you would have supply problems. This is clearly not a problem for everyone however. I just feel like Ive been mis-sold the whole demand feeding business and wish I could go back a couple of months and start again. I couldnt stretch out his feeds now as it would be too traumatising
Also though I would add that they are both very pro-bf, they were just surprised at the frequency of his feeding and concerned about me burning out.
The joys of feeding in the night means checking MN! I dont know the answer but can share what I have done with my DS. He is currently 4.5 months and was fed on demand. During the day I slowly extended the time between feedings by causing a distraction if needed (walking round the garden, singing to him etc) until he was going roughly 3 hours between feedings. Obviously if he kicked up a fuss and was ravenous I would feed him before the time was up. And when I fed him I would carry on offering him by boob for about 40 minutes. He seems to have a good feed, then has a breather and then has another good go. We now have quite a good routine during the day of feeding at 8am, 11.30am, 3pm and then 6.30pm. He then feeds usually twice during the night. Daytime feeds still approx 40 mins unless ge wants more, night time approx 10 mins
At the end of the day this may not be right to some people but it works for us and I love being able to semi plan my days to meet up with friends etc. He seems happy too.
I found a big difference between 3 months and 7/8 months. I am back at work now and I express one feed for Dd for lunch and she is fine the rest of the day. They are on solids by then too so you don't have to give up to go back to work if you don't want to.
I demand fed DS and he fell into feeding every 2-3 hours by 3 months. I kept him in a sling a lot which might have helped - babies feed for comfort and hunger so I figured a sling would give him comfort as well.
I fed every time he did a hungry face (I'd read somewhere that the cue was his tongue sticking out, followed by others then crying - can't remember), which seemed to work. Not the same as feeding every time he cried. In the early weeks though there was a lot of feeding!!
Your supply will be pretty well established by now, so you could always have a go at spacing feeds or introducing a routine if you want. I found my ds moved into quite a predictable 2.5 hourly pattern at around 4-5 months anyway, and then had much more of a routine once on solids.
Loopy discribis why we don't do schedual feeding very well. I'd just like to add that they would feed on a schedual no matter what imagine having a screaming baby for 3hours and wodering what is wrong but not feeding. Some women did mangged to feed dispite this as they had a lot of milk and a baby who was happy to go 3/4hours between feeds. But this tended to be the minority.
Neep - is right a baby at 3months is very different from a baby at 7/8months when you have also introduced solids. So try not to worry about going back to work yet.
I would caution agaist you schedualing his feeds, as you comment that he is a rubbish sleeper. What tends to happen to baby's who wake up during the night for feeds a lot (this is perfectly normal at 3months by the way) if you start restricting there feed's during the day is that they will feed more at night.
If he is feeding that much during the day I would suggest a vist to a drop in group just to get his latch checked. Sometimes just a small ajustment can help them feed a bit more efficently.
You were right to accept the up to date info you had read in your books etc esna. There is absolutely no doubt that responsive feeding is what leads to a good production and happier, well-fed babies. This does not mean what your mother and her friend did was wrong - they were lucky to be able to breastfeed the way they did. Gernerally speaking, spacing feeds leads to less milk and for some women insufficient and no milk.
Your baby will be older when you start work. When you get closer to that time, you will find it is easier to adapt and adjust your feeding (your baby will be on solids, anyway) to fit your needs as well as his.
You have a healthy, happy baby and a great milk supply - why doubt yourself?
I think it's also important to note that at 3 months, babies are rarely that interested in much more than Mummy and boob (IME), but as your LO gets older you will find that they naturally space out their feeds as there is so much to take in around them. My DD honestly spent about 20 hours a day attached to my breast until she was about 4 months old but now at 9 months, I have to actively encourage her to feed as she really is just too busy to bother with lying down for milk.
I am demand bfing and I can see a big difference between 3 and 4 months. At 4 months she is now interested in all sorts of other things (toys, walks, songs) so the breast is not the only way to stop crying (to be honest I am a bit disappointed at that, since the breast is the easiest way to stop crying!!), feeding is a lot faster (gone are the 45 minute feeds as standard now we get done in 5 minutes) and she doesn't feed as often. At night she usually goes 5-6 hours before a feed and although she is not regular during the day there is a lot less feeding in the mornings and afternoons.
I demand fed from the beginning. At 3 months he was pretty much as you describe, and I noticed a big difference when I introduced solids. From then we fell into a very predictable routine with feeds spaced every few hours. He wasn't interested in feeding outside of these times. And now at nearly 12 months, he's not always interested in the middle-of-the-day feed (I feed him 3 times a day).
Don't worry about what the situation might be in several months time. You're doing a great job. The only thing I have done to actively change his feeding habits has been night-weaning/controlled crying at 10 months as I didn't want to feed him several times a night anymore!
Agree that babies, and breastfeeding, is a totally different ballgame at 7/8 months to how it is at 3 months. I'm still demand-feeding my 3 year old, and please let me tell you, if he was still feeding like a 3 month old, I would have gone crazy a long time ago! In fact he only ever wants a short feed at bedtime and sometimes first thing in the morning, too.
It's quite common for mums/MILs etc to be surprised at the frequency of feeding, firstly because there wasn't as much information about breastfeeding known at the time they were doing it, and secondly, because you honestly forget, in a matter of months, what it is like to breastfeed a newborn. Add a decade or three onto those few months, and they come out with all sorts of rubbish that they insist is fact. Ex-MIL told me that XP slept 12 hours every night from the day he was born, and that he never ever cried. Yeah right! I think if my baby did that I'd see a doctor! Also, your mum probably breastfed for over a year, but also would have introduced solids at 3-4 months, and given the occasional bottle of formula as well, all of which would have contributed to gaps between feeds.
When you start work, your baby will have been eating solid food for a month or two, will be able to drink from a cup if he still refuses a bottle, his tummy will be bigger and he will be more efficient at feeding so will be able to go for longer periods between feeds. In fact this should start happening over the next few weeks, though is often disguised by the 4 month growth spurt. (BTW, if you did want to try him with a bottle again, try the brown latex teats - breastfed babies seem to prefer them.)
Some babies go to nursery, just drink water or juice during the day, and keep their dairy intake up with cheese, yoghurts etc, and then make up for the milk they haven't had in the evenings and at weekends. If you want to return to work and carry on breastfeeding, this is absolutely possible. At 7 months your supply is more robust and can cope with the long gap between feeds, though you might have to express at first to ease the transition.
3 months is so tiny, he will not be as all-consuming for long. Feed gaps will stretch out, feeds themselves will get shorter, your supply will adjust perfectly so that you no longer get engorged between feeds (and most women stop leaking). You won't burn out through frequent feeds, on the contrary, think of it as an excellent excuse to sit down and eat cake!
I also found that once DS was starting to eat solids, we fell into a rough routine and his naps were more predictable as well. I didn't really time his feeds, but they would have fitted into this pattern somehow. At the moment, I wouldn't stress too much about trying to space out feeds as you have the 4 month growth spurt coming up, but instead start looking forwards to the different methods of weaning and decide what route you are going to take when the time comes.
As everyone else has said, baby at 7/8 months is very different to baby at 3 months. I demand fed and went back to work full time at 4 months, and managed to EBF to weaning, and then a combination of one drink of cows milk and the rest breastmilk until a year old. I think at 8 months DD was on about 3 breastfeeds (one morning, two evening) plus two bottles in the day and whatever she wanted at night.
Thanks for the words of encouragement. Funnily enough he has been sleeping a lot more today and actually has had 2 hours between some feeds.
I think I was just getting frustrated by it all as he is so needy with only me and wont take bottle/cup/dummy at all.
I did phone my mum up to find out more and she basically said that the 3 hour gap was the aim back then but as babies are fussy things it wasnt always achieved and she remembers us getting angry and cried a lot at times because of her trying to distract us. She said that my DS seems happy with our situation so not to push the issue with him, so that made me feel a bit better. Interestingly she did say that remembers it being important to feed babies at night as if you didn't you milk would dry up, so she wasnt so fixated on babies sleeping through the night.
I do think though with my next DC I will try to stretch feeds out from the beginning, all my aunts (including grandmothers) ebf and did so according to schedules back then and didnt have supply issues so I doubt I would have an issue either. I will try gently with my DS but will intro solids as early as possible (which is not that early nowadays anyway!) and hopefully the length between feeds change naturally.
It's good to hear your DS is doing so well and is content and happy.
I'm just curious as to why you would want to make your life more difficult my trying to 'stretch feeds' a bit? Given that all current research and information shows that on cue feeding is best for milk supply and baby's growth and results in a happier more settled baby. And that weaning before 6 months is not only a massive PITA but not recommended.
Why would you want to make your life more difficult?
Trying to distract/entertain a hungry baby is much harder work and more draining than just feeding them and sterilising bowls and making (low calorie) pureéd veg and fruit much more time consuming and demoralising than popping baby on the boob.
I think demand feeding is more important in the early days, as your supply is getting established properly. And many women did find that they ran out of milk because of feeding to a 3-hour schedule (and limiting times of feeds which was other common, now outdated, advice at the time) Plus there are lots of other reasons it is beneficial, other than supply - breastfeeding is more than just food, it gives them comfort, helps regulate their temperature, it's a stress and pain reliever, etc etc. It's more likely to ensure the correct balance of fore and hind milk, because it's the physiological way to feed (ie the way the body has evolved to expect the baby to feed.) It also helps them recognise rather than ignore their own hunger and fullness cues which is thought to reduce the chance of obesity later in life.
FWIW I am not trying to put you off, you must choose what is right for you and your baby, but I think it's worth having the relevant information so that the choice you make is informed. There's nothing worse than finding out too late (as you are now!) extra information which would have led you to make a different choice.
On weaning I won't go into it but strongly suggest you have a look at the weaning section here and just read through at least a few of the threads, and any links you might find on them. You have ages yet until 17 weeks (the earliest age to start) so might as well spend some time gathering as much info on the different options, pros and cons of each approach.
Hmm perhaps the Op would like to stretch feeds to be able to get a haircut/ not be tied to the baby for just a couple of hours. I ebf my 4.5 month DD who now won't take a bottle and she has for the last couple of months fed every 2-3 hours.
I love her to bits but I don't want to be a martyr for her. I need to just have an hpur or so to myself every so often to feel like me again or sleep. I also think it's good for my DH to be the parent in charge for a couple of hours without thinking that every cry automatically requires a hand back to mummy.
I ebf all my three (eldest now 6) and I'd say it was sort of a mix between demand feeding and routine i.e, I wanted to follow an approx 3 hr routine but obviously never felt happy letting them cry, so would try distraction techniques etc to extend feeds and really it did work, bit by bit the routine I wanted was established without any major trauma to any of us. Funnily enough the one that settled most easily and soonest into a routine was no.3. I was so busy with nursery and school runs etc that he just had to do what suited the rest of us regardless and he didn't seem to mind a bit, which made me wonder exactly why it had all seemed so hard first time around! He did spend most of his first year strapped to me in a sling as I rushed around like a headless chicken, he was happy and just where he wanted to be! Your DS is 3 months now, feeding is well established, I'm sure that you could start spacing feeds a bit more without it being too traumatising - 10 minutes of distraction techniques here or there soon adds up and within a week or two you will soon find you are getting much longer gaps between feeds (it spirals - as they get used to slightly longer periods between feeds so they start to take more at each feed, so they can go longer between each feed, etc etc)
Glad you've had a better day, OP.
I agree with MBJ, and I have a DS who is at the more frequent end of the range when it comes to frequency of feeds.
Starting solids is a big hassle and I think wistfully of the days when I didn't need to cart a whole bagful of food out with me every time and could just pop him on the breast.
And after recently spending time in the car when I couldn't feed (I was driving) I can vouch for the fact that it's much easier to feed a baby than to try to distract them (DH was sitting next to DS in the back to offer entertainment). He's 21 m.o. so is much more easily distractible than a young baby too.
I don't know what the genetic component to milk supply is, but unless you've read some good research suggesting that your supply is likely to be very similar to your family's, I'd be cautious about assuming that scheduled feeding wouldn't affect your supply just because it didn't for family members.
A 7-8 month old baby really won't be feeding the same as a 3 month old baby. DD2 is 7.5 months now and generally has a morning feed, a bedtime feed and another couple during the day, plus often one around the time I go to bed. And now she's on solids it's easier to leave her because although she won't take a bottle/cup (I think she would if necessary as DS and DD1 didn't until they started nursery, but then adjusted over the first couple of weeks) she'll generally be happy to fill up on solids instead when I'm not around.
Some mother/baby combinations did just fine on 3-4 hourly feeds; others didn't and were labelled "failure to thrive" or told they "didn't have enough milk". It's genuinely great that your mother and her friend were able to breastfeed for as long as they and their babies wanted to, but the pattern they followed wouldn't have had that result for everyone.
at 3 mo my ds was just likes yours. Now he is 8mo and only feeds three times day and if I didn't offer it I don't think he would be too fussed!! (Night time is a different story but that is another thread!!) There is a massive difference between 3 and 7/8m as others have said. I would say it was probably around the 5m mark that he would reliable go 3 hrs between feeds and it got a bit more "routine" although that word has bad connotations for me!! By feeding on demand you are establishing your supply, don't let others knock you confidence as you are doing a great job. As others have said, so many people from older generations have mentioned how they had to give up bf because they "'t have enough milk" and this might have been down to 3/4 hour feeding schedules.
The Politics of Breastfeedong is good on the origins of feeding by the clock and other related stuff and reading it really galvanized me when I was feeling the same as you 5m ago!!
"This too shall pass"
Agree completely with others that you do not know how your DS will be feeding at 7/8 months old so pointless to worry about it now - you cross that bridge when you come to it and a baby of that age is a very different kettle of fish to the wee toot you have just now. Frequency of feeds can start to drop without you even realising it, you just look back one day and see how much things changed in only a few weeks.
My DD did take bottles at 3 months but started to refuse soon after. Started nursery 3 days a week at 9 months and she never took a blooming drop of EBM while she was there but did fine on solids and water - babies are much more flexible than we often give them credit for.
And although hunger is not always the problem, boobs are always the answer! Babies want to feed because they're tired, teething, windy, etc. (the list is actually endless!). I think (but as I have only ever bf this is a guess)that babies, whether ff or bf, just want their mummies more than anyone else hence the drama when another care giver takes over so even if you switched to ff it wouldn't guarantee less separation anxiety.
If I was demmand feeding, I would of given up by now. DS fed constantly, then would be sick! I keep hearing that routines limit your supply, leading to giving up breastfeeding. I'm the opposite, my DS is 7 weeks and when I was demmand feeding (for the first 5 weeks) it was killing me. Having a few bad days, eeking him out with cuddles and boiled water has saved us and now I have a perfect supply and we're working towards keeping up our 'she who shall not be named' routine.
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