Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Demand or Scheduled Feeding and the Line Between

One of the first things I had to decide as a new breastfeeding mom was weather or not to demand feed or schedule feed our Sweetness.
We talked and prayed about it and decided on a medium that has worked well for us all.
Things that played into our decision where the fact that we shared one car. This meant sweetness and I had to get up with the Hubs at 6:30, and take him to work, if we wanted the car for the day. This also meant we had to go get him from work after he was done.
Thankfully my husband is a salary employee so he has a fairly set schedule that flexes a little.

We also wanted to make sure my milk supply was well established and that sweetness could cluster feed through growth spurts.

I also knew from my birth class and from much other reading on the web that babies go through a LOT of growth spurts in the first two months of life.
So we decided to nurse on demand the first two months then switch over to scheduled feeds.

A lot of people hear of scheduled feeding and think it's rigid, and not flexible. They think it means baby cries when hungry and parents ignore till the "correct" time on a clock.

TRUE scheduled feeding is NOTHING like this. The first "rule" of scheduled feeding is to investigate why the baby is crying if you discover baby is hungry you feed them! A LOT of moms simply feed the baby every time it cries. While this is probably comforting it doesn't involve searching for the real reason the baby is upset. For Sweetness she almost always cried in that first two months because she had a wet diaper. She HATED wet diapers. For some reason she didn't complain about poopy ones but wet ones made her very upset. Changed diaper usually meant happy baby.

Anywho my list when checking her was usually:

  1. is she wet or dirty? 
  2. does she seem hot? (she is like her dad and very warm natured. So she doesn't like being hot at all)
  3. Does she seem tired?
  4. Feed 
Simple right? Ok so common sense! Now how do you get a baby form nursing on demand to nursing on a schedule. Well I'll be honest I don't ascribe to the baby-wise method 100%. I did something I felt that was very simple. First I kept a log for 3 days of when she was REALLY hungry (nursed for a long time period) and when she snacked(nursed for a short time period). For each child these times are going to be different. Sweetness's long sessions where about 10-15 minutes at the MOST. Short where less than 5.
I also logged her sleep habits.
By doing this I noticed a pattern. It wasn't exactly the same each day but I was able to shape a schedule to suit her and myself.

So the first thing was establishing a wake up time. I am not a morning person. It isn't easy. If the baby is sleeping everyone tells you not to wake it. But if you want to keep a schedule of ANY sort you have to get up at a certain time. So we picked 7am. (remember sharing a car with the hubs had to be early)
Every morning for a few days I woke her up and nursed her right after she woke up. Got her a clean diaper and got her dressed. Then I got dressed while she sat in the bounce seat and jabbered and we all took daddy to work.

Next step was distracting. If there was more than 30 minutes before her next feed cycle and I knew she'd nursed well I offered her a paci first. Babies need what is called "non nutrative sucking". Basically sucking for comfort. They do this in the womb. Some suck on their fingers, toes or even their umbilical cord. It's normal and natural for babies. After birth some babies suck their hands fingers, or paci, and will even suck a breast or bottle just for comfort.
Sweetness was a baby who if she wasn't hungry and you offered the breast she'd get mad! So this worked well for us. Most of the time that's all she needed. If that didn't work we walked around the house and looked at things, picked up bright toys, stepped outside and looked at plants and birds, etc. Usually I didn't have to distract her long and she was calm again.

If distracting didn't work. She got more frustrated or upset. I nursed her anyway.
After that when it was "time" to feed I'd nurse her again. Usually this meant one of these feeds wasn't great. But the idea is that our tummy's and bodies can learn when to be hungry and when not to be. If you are always fed at 12:00 you will probably be hungry then even if you miss lunch.

It only took a few days but I noticed a different baby. I noticed when she cried it was because she was hungry. I noticed she had specific cries for hungry, tired, hold me, etc.
I felt it helped me bond with my baby and give her stability.

Now we are nearly 11 months into breastfeeding. We've been nursing on a schedule for 9 of those months. And Sweetness is growing and learning and doing so well.

We still have growth spurts and during those times she cluster feeds. We throw the schedule to the wind and nurse till she's full, put her to bed, and nurse when she wakes again. We have nights where when a tooth is trying to cut she will nurse and suck for over and hour and a half. but most of the time we go with the schedule and since she is used to it and she basically created it she sticks to it within 30 minutes of time to do xyz. At this point she is big enough that I don't stress over her waking up 30 minutes early from a nap or whatever and feeding her and getting "off" she usually still sticks to the timing just 30 minutes ahead or behind whatever it was supposed to be.

Now common myths of nursing on a schedule:
  • Nursing on a schedule will cause you to loose your milk supply.
    Not necessarily true. If your supply is well established and you've had no issues breastfeeding then you should be fine. Otherwise I'd suggest going forth with caution. Obviously you have to do what works best for your body and family.
    Nursing is supply and demand based. This is why women can breastfeed their 3-5 year old's once a day or so and still have enough milk to do so! If your body is constantly told to produce milk at a certain time it will! I can attest to missing a feed by a little and feeling my breasts fill up and get uncomfortable even now. (Sweetness is in a dis-tractable stage where she sometimes is too busy to nurse but that's another post for another day.) It's supply and demand. If it's demanded at the same time it will be there. :) And the body only takes a few days to adjust to a new or more spread out schedule so as baby grows your body WILL adjust. 
  • You baby will not thrive or grow as he/she should
    Also untrue. Breastfed babies of ANY type often do not fit common growth charts. This is due to the fact that the charts are made for formula fed children. Formula is wonderful for those who need it. For those who choose to use it, etc. But it does affect growth and a babies body differently than breastmilk. Breastmilk is MADE to be perfect for your individual baby. Or any baby you happen to be nursing regularly. Breastmilk changes through the day and even through your babies life.
    Babies who nurse on a schedule nurse for longer time periods (for the most part) and so get more of the hind milk, and more milk in general in a sitting.

    These are the two most common things I hear all the time and I laugh and sigh at the same time.
    It boils down to bringing your brain to the equation, figuring out what is best for YOU and YOUR BABY, and sticking with it! 

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