A mother leans over and kisses her wiggly baby on the forehead. She kisses each rosy cheek, each tiny hand, and each squirmy foot. She smiles sweetly at her exquisite child, leaving it with a favorite toy, and then moves on to continue her daily activities.
A little while later the baby starts to cry. She goes to see what’s the matter. She changes its diaper, but the baby is still crying. She offers it a pacifier but it spits it out and cries harder. She checks to see if the baby is too hot or too cold, and she checks for anything else that could be causing discomfort, but the baby is beside itself in tears.
Someone suggests she give the baby a snuggle but the mother shakes her head no.
“It’s not time for hugs and kisses. We just did that half an hour ago.”
If this sounds ridiculous, then good. It’s supposed to.
How are kisses and breastfeeding the same you may ask?
“Scheduling nursing, like scheduling kisses, would just make life harder.”
I am currently reading La Leche League’s newest and 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. On page 12 it touches on the practical reasons for breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding helps mothers with mothering by being a cure-all for “hunger, tiredness, overstimulation, fear and pain.” The more we breastfeed, the more milk our breasts produce. The little nursing sessions we have throughout the day keep our milk supply in tip top shape and our baby growing well.
When we schedule breastfeeding in the early days, every two, three or even four hours as I have read that some doctors recommend, something is almost certainly going to fail. Firstly, most likely our babies won’t be able to wait as long as they’re supposed to; however, we also will be in a position of needing to schedule the other parts of our life around our baby’s schedule. In this situation it is doubtful that our babies will be able to gain weight and keep our milk supply in good shape. Like Womanly Art says, ” Setting up a schedule risks an underfed baby and early weaning – and a more complicated life.”
Breastfeeding needs to be about flexibility. Breastfeeding babies have been around much longer than clocks, when life was truly hard. Nursing had to fit into an unpredictable day of finding food, tending animals, and avoiding sudden dangers. Breastfeeding the way nature intended, is meant to happen when a baby gives us cues that he or she wants to nurse.
Breastfeeding is an intimate dance.
The more time we spend holding our babies close to our bodies, next to our skin and clothes, the better we get at reading their cues. The emotional connection that occurs as a result of breastfeeding is a strong one. Not only does it become hard to leave our babies emotionally, but physically, it can make our breasts go crazy! With pain from plugged milk ducts, and leaks produced just by hearing a baby cry. This is the way it’s supposed to be. These instinctive cues remind us that we need to be close to our babies to ensure their very survival because our milk supply is based on supply and demand. The more we nurse, the more milk we will have for our babies.
The best thing a mother can do if her milk supply is low or begins to wane is to nurse her baby frequently. If that means every half an hour, 45 minutes or hour for a little while, that’s okay. Your baby will only drink the amount he or she needs to, and your breasts will start producing more milk. It is okay to offer your child the breast. When I’m feeling unsettled, my husband brings me snacks to help make me feel better. If I really don’t want to eat I decline. But usually l accept. Your baby is the same way.
Moral of the story? Breastfeed based on your baby’s cues. Additionally, offer to breastfeed whenever you feel your baby might want to. And kiss, hug and snuggle your baby frequently to help you learn those cues.
Much of the information provided in this post was taken from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.