What exactly does breastfeeding on demand mean? It’s feeding your baby whenever and wherever as soon as they show signs of hunger like sucking their fists, opening their mouths, and the like. For newborns, it could be every hour or two. The feeding intervals become longer though as babies grow older. Basically, feeding your baby on demand is the opposite of feeding on schedule.
Now, with all the physical changes that a new mom has to deal with–water retention, hormonal imbalance, exhaustion, and swollen everything–how can one survive a 24/7, feed-me-now shift?
Here are a few tips to help you through, mama!
First thing on the list is to fully decide that you will breastfeed your baby on demand. More than just the physical exhaustion, being on-call and always present requires so much mental and emotional strength from a mom that going through it half-heartedly just won’t cut it. Set your intention and come up with a goal–will you feed directly all the time or will you use a breast pump to express milk? Will your current setup allow you to feed your baby on demand or will you need others to help you feed your baby using a bottle? Think all of these through even before you give birth so that once you’re holding your baby in your arms, you’re decided on what to do.
When your baby starts crying and suddenly all hell breaks loose, the only thing you’ll think about is how to expose your breast, pronto! Stock up on breastfeeding-friendly clothes that will help you do just that. When you’re wearing the right outfit for the job, you’ll feel more relaxed and less stressed while you feed on demand.
Feeding on demand is all about watching out for signs of hunger. Crying is usually considered as a late sign of hunger already, so as much as possible you’d want to catch earlier signs. Some hunger cues are baby moving their head side-to-side, sucking their fists, opening their mouth, puckering their lips in a sucking motion, or seeking the breast. You’ll know your baby is full when they unlatch or slow down. They could also turn their head away from the breast if they have had enough. Try to observe your baby and see what hunger cues they show you.
As mentioned, there is no set schedule for feeding on demand. Your baby can show signs of hunger anytime. For working moms, this could be an extra challenge because they would have to juggle meetings and other work duties at the same time. Some working Moms who breastfeed found it helpful to explain their situation to their superiors and colleagues. They would schedule meetings during their baby’s nap time or, if needed, they would feed while attending a video conference with their cameras off (perks of working from home!). Being honest and open about your current situation could make it a bit easier for you to manage your fixed work schedule while feeding on demand.
Breastfeeding can be considered a learned skill. No one is an expert at it right away. It does take a great deal of effort and commitment, and that’s why we applaud moms for persevering! You and your baby will have to settle on a comfortable latching position and a routine that works best for both of you. Don’t fret if it seems like you’re not getting things right, you can always seek help from a lactation consultant or your doctor. With time, you will get used to how often or how frequently your baby feeds.
A strong and stable support system is important throughout your breastfeeding journey. There might be times when you feel like giving up, but having your family motivate you will give you the boost that you need. You can always ask your hubby for help, too, whether that’s getting you a glass of water while you feed, taking shifts looking after the baby so you can sleep, or setting up a comfortable feeding area. It’s always okay to ask for help when you need it.
A happy and healthy mom equals a happy and healthy baby. You can also spend some time to take care of yourself first, too, Mom. Don’t forget to give yourself the love and care that you need to help you give even more loving attention for your little one. We know that feeding on demand is a 24/7 responsibility, but if you are able to find the time, try to rest and recharge even if it’s just for five minutes. Your health and wellbeing matters a lot, too.
Breastfeeding can be a rollercoaster, but the reward of seeing your baby grow so happy and healthy makes all the hard work worth it. If you need more tips, browse our other breastfeeding articles. Remember, you’re already doing a great job, Mom!