For many first time Moms, getting accustomed to the countless feeding needs of a newborn is exhausting. You might feel like there is very little time when you don't have an infant on your breast. But these frequent feedings are common for baby and great for a new breastfeeding Mom. Sure it helps build a bond between infant and mother and we've all heard that "breast is best," but let's take a practical approach to why...
Let's first understand milk composition
Milk composition is complex and changes throughout the day. For example, in the morning, lactose and volume are high and fat/protein are low. In the evening, it's just the opposite, fat and protein are high. So when a baby consumes more lactose and volume, they may become ready to feed sooner than if they consumed more fat and protein.
Milk composition also changes depending on your stage of lactation, your diet and your baby. So try to embrace the unpredictable feeding patterns of your baby, knowing this is completely normal. Don’t get so caught up on keeping your baby on a tight schedule. After all, we tend to eat when we’re hungry too.
Understanding baby led feeding
Baby led feeding refers to watching your baby for signs he/she is hungry. Some cues you may notice include open and closing their mouth, sticking their tongue out or sucking on their hands or wrist. This is a great time to start breast feeding. Your baby is telling you he's ready and he's much more likely to have a good feeding when he's nice and calm.
How do frequent feedings affect you and your milk production?
Encouraging baby-led feeding is great for your milk production. When you are breastfeeding, your levels of prolactin, a milk producing hormone, continues to rise. It begins to fall when the feeding stops. The longer the interval between feedings, the more time this hormone has to drop. If more frequent feedings occur, the hormone rises again and will continue to rise throughout the feeding. With greater frequency, the hormone doesn't have the time to drop as low, thus helping build your milk production.
So while it may take some time to understand your baby's cues, keeping baby close and catching awake periods where he/she begins to show signs of tongue movement will benefit both you and your baby. With more time at the breast, your baby will become more efficient in regulating his/her intake and you can feel more confident your body is producing the milk needed to keep up with your growing baby. For more information visit Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition (http://massbreastfeeding.org/parents/milk/) and view their “10 Steps to Make Plenty of Milk.”
And if you ever feel like breastfeeding is overtaking your life - know that every time you sit down and feed you are lowering your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 Diabetes and burning calories. Now if we could only bottle THAT up.